The next time you go shopping, make a difference for the planet while making less of a difference in your wallet.
If you feel like more of your friends are trading their Great Value generics for fair trade/organic/slightly-more-dirty products this year, you aren’t going crazy. In 2011, a Reuters study in the United States discovered something that most readers will have noticed for several years: young people are the driving force behind America’s push for more sustainable, greener consumer products and food.
While more than a third of general Americans said they try to buy organic food, a whopping 63 percent of Americans under age 35 said the same thing. Go ahead, it’s okay to pat your back. Now, pat your wallet. Feeling a little light there? The dilemma: while young adults have a greater penchant for sustainable goods, this demographic is also the one that has a higher chance of being a little less sustainable in the bank account. Entering a Recession-tinged job market, fresh from a student loan-funded college experience, the under-35 crowd often doesn’t have the bankroll to fund an excursion down the gleaming aisles of Whole Foods.
But you can have your [whole grain, gluten-free, vegan] cake and eat it, too. By shopping smart and knowing where it’s worth it to splurge, and where it isn’t, your next hippie-friendly shopping trip will leave a few more bucks in your weekend beer fund. (Maybe only enough for cheap MGD, but still…)
NO, don’t splurge on this hippie stuff:
- Bottled water: While bottled water companies are doing a good job of greenwashing their products, there are two big problems: environmentally friendly bottled water simply doesn’t exist, and bottled water carries a significant price premium. Put the Fiji Water back on the shelf and instead grab a water filter and a reusable BPA-free canteen. It’s just as healthy for you and is actually a greener choice in the long run.
- Deodorant: There’s the fancy eco-conscious stuff, like Tom’s of Maine, and there’s the not-so-fancy stuff. Both do their job just as well. For eco-friendly smell-busters, try those generic mineral salt deodorant sticks found hidden away in pretty much every health food store out there. They may not have all the nice packaging as the nicer stuff, but less packaging is yet another environmental win!
- Cleaning products: I love Method, and in terms of hippie-factor they’re pretty hippie. They also cost a pretty penny. Using traditional standbys (that are also natural and safe for you) like vinegar, baking soda, salt and a pinch of elbow grease, you can tackle pretty much every nasty mess that your roommate/sibling/dog/extra-shot-of-tequila might throw at you.
YES, do splurge on this hippie stuff:
- Fruits and veggies: Some vegetables and fruits are inherently higher in pesticides and chemicals due to factors like their fragile nature or their propensity to attract bug pests. But some kinds of produce, such as avocados, eggplant and mushrooms, are hardier and thus lower in pesticides, even in non-organic versions. If you’re watching your budget and your diet, buying organic versions of notoriously high-pesticide fruits strikes a good compromise. These include lettuce, most kinds of berries, spinach, apples and bell peppers.
- Meat: If beef’s what’s for dinner, a side of cancer might be, too. Most meat products are rich in more than just cholesterol and fat, but also hormones, pesticides and other chemicals. Organic meat is a better choice, though it is admittedly pricey. Better yet, make one day a night a meatless night (e.g., meatless Mondays). This saves you big bucks on your overall grocery budget, and is also ridiculously planet-friendly.
- Reusable shopping bags: More and more stores are charging for plastic bags, so you’ll often start saving money right off the bat. Plus, need I say anything more about plastic?