Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Advice for the wealthy

Psssst! Pssst! Hey, wealthy people who want to live green!  I have a solution for you that might not be as sleek as Graham Hill's tricked-out, "sustainable" apartment in New York City, but will save you a lot more money.  I had blogged about his Life Edited project before.

I do not begrudge this man his flash, tricked out apartment.  I do sincerely wish him well.  I am glad he can live in 420 square feet of space with the help of convertible, fold-away things and moveable walls.  That's great.  It's a cute place.  But I am going to snicker at wealthy people who confuse consumption with sustainability, who go on about how much money they're saving when they're spending more than the average person who doesn't live in a compact apartment that manages to have dinner party seating for 10 and other things thanks to a sponsored design competition.  The rest of us have to make choices and live with their consequences.

So, wealthy people, if you want to be green and save a lot of money, here are my tips.  Shorter me: live like the rest of us.  We're not all Hummer-driving, McMansion-dwelling hogs.

Don't buy a tiny place and trick it out this way. Accept the fact that you will have to make some choices and that you can't have it all.  Live like the rest of us.  If you want to live in New York City, accept the fact that you will live in a much smaller place with fewer things if minimalism is how you roll.  If you decide you do need a little more space for your things, then accept the fact that you'll need a car since you'll probably need to live outside of the city to find an affordable bigger place.  It doesn't have to be a new car.  You can get a fuel-efficient, used car.  You can carpool if there are people in your town who work where you work.  And if you work in the city and live in a suburb, you can probably take some form of public transportation.

Buy used or take stuff off of your friends' hands.  You need a coffee table? Check out Goodwill, if you live near one (obviously, this doesn't apply to people who don't have access to places like thrift stores--there are regions where big box stores are the only game in town).  Does the coffee table look ratty?  Sand it and paint it.  Or, just, you know, learn to like what you already have.  Unless it's falling apart, you don't need new furniture, do you?  Keep it clean, paint it if it needs it, but otherwise keep it.

If you are tired of the way something looks, keep it anyway.  I know, that's mean.  It's also what a lot of us do.  It saves things from a landfill and it saves money.  Revolutionary, I know.  You can ask someone for advice on ways to change it or make it more attractive (depending on the item, paint it, dye it, change the accessories, cover it with a cloth, etc.)

If you have the money to use the cloud for your information, music and downloads, that's great.  Please keep in mind that many people would rather not pay--or cannot afford to pay--a monthly fee for that sort of thing.  If you really want to save money and space, you can use the library.  You can borrow books, CD's, and movies. All gratis.  Shocking I know!

Creatively reuse things you already have.  No, you don't have to hoard (I certainly don't) but I will keep pasta or dried beans in unused canning jars or a large empty plastic container that used to hold a lot of dried parsley for example.  It's not as pretty as the perfectly designed green home, but it's more affordable and I'm keeping these things out of the landfill.

Accept the fact that you won't have dinner seating for 10.  You can rent a folding table and chairs and move the furniture in your living room to make room for the seating for such an occasion, or better yet, think of other ways to entertain.  (People have been known to balance plates on their laps and sit on couches and chairs at my place when I've had a lot of folks over.)  You may need to accept the fact that you won't have a lot of dinner parties for ten in general.  Remember: live like the rest of us.

You have a T-shirt that's ripped?  Well, cut it up and use it for rags for when you clean.  I know, you're keeping clutter, rags are useful cleaning tools, and these are free, so they will save you money (and keep this cloth out of the landfill).  After the first or second T-shirt, you can donate the rest to those clothing dumpsters you may see along the road--they will take those rags and make them into rags that painters will buy.

You have jeans that are torn and that you won't wear anymore?  You can either re-purpose them into gardening aprons, a tote bag, or potholders (if you can sew), or you can cut them into strips and braid a rug out of them (if you are crafty).  If you don't have these skills, be neighborly and scout out someone who does these things and ask them if they'd like your old jeans for this purpose.

I dunno, readers?  Your suggestions?


  1. If we had even a few more people think your way, our landfills would be exponentially reduced. Talking to my sister last night, she was telling me that they took a perfectly good TV to the dump. I bit my tongue, because she's family, but inside I was "Oh, *such* a waste!"

    As for libraries, you are on the money: I hardly miss my Netflix account with their DVD selection, and I read more to boot, because I visit them. I *do* wish I could walk there, 'tho.

  2. Oh, Lord, Stephen! My aunt and uncle have one of those circa 1973 color televisions that are basically a piece of furniture, and as my aunt says, "As long as it works, there's no reason to get rid of it." If I was going to get rid of a TV, I'd see if there were thrift stores or nonprofits that would take it.

    I do love the library. It's the old-fashioned way of having a lot and owning nothing.

  3. One of the reasons I choose to be frugal is I don't like waste. It disturbs me to the core.
    I have a jeans cycling plan that I've used for 30 years. I begin with dark denim jeans. They're my dress jeans (with a white shirt and blazer I can go 80% of the places I need to be). I take very good care of them, (wash inside out, hang always, overdye with Rit when they fade, etc). When they're no longer "dress" worthy, they become my babysitting, work around the house jeans. When even this purpose doesn't suit them, I cut off and hem and they become my summer shorts. And when they finally look like they've bit the dust, I scavenge good bits for craft and sewing projects (covered a small notebook for my garden journal with denim from old jeans). Then and only then, they get cut into rag size pieces and used for paint clean-up, auto maintenance, and cleaning outdoor furniture -- then finally tossed.

    1. That's a great system. I'm the same way--when my jeans get ratty, I use them for cleaning/gardening tasks. I haven't used Rit dye, though--do you use that in your washing machine or in your sink? And does it stain your counters or floors?

    2. Pamela, I do the Rit in my washer, and I've never had a problem with staining counters or floors. I do always do an "empty" wash in the washer afterwards, and then the next load of actual laundry I make a dark load.
      And I forgot to say, when my jeans get overdyed, so does everyone else in the house (unless they're wanting the faded look--as my teens often are). Years ago I used Rit in the sink. I would dye white canvas sneakers all kinds of bright, fun colors. And I don't recall any staining issues there.

    3. Also, I like the dry Rit, it's more cost effective, and less wasteful packaging, IMO (just cardboard box and paper packet, compared to liquid in a plastic bottle). And you don't have to use the whole packet at once, or use it right away. I hang on to the leftovers, and use for other projects, even mixing my own colors, as I need.

  4. What a great post, Pamela! I think my top tip for living sustainably would be to get rid of the car. I really wish I could get rid of mine. It's tempting even now, but my parents would never allow me to cycle down the lanes at 5am!

    I'm definitely not taking my car when I live in Bristol though. There's perfectly good public transport available, and I'll take my little bicycle too.

    In answer to your question on my vegan cake post, Mum turned vegan because she has always thought about being, so started reading more and more about it after we turned vegetarian a year ago. Then she went for it on a trial period of three weeks a couple of months ago and never looked back. It's surprisingly easy to adapt to when cooking at home, the problem is that if you ever need to eat out or at a friends, people can find it a bit daunting to cook for!

    1. Yes, if you can swing it, getting rid of the car is a good idea! When I've lived and worked in places with good public transport, I really didn't miss having a car.

      I guess cooking for vegan friends would be a bit daunting, but if a friend of mine was vegan I'd be all CHALLENGE ACCEPTED and browse for scrumptious things to make.