July 6, 2017

8 Ways being Cheap and Lazy “Greened” my Life.

It seems to be fashionable these days to look down on those seeking to implement small changes in their lives for the good of the planet.

Think reusable bags, composting, and minimalism.

Real progress, this line of reasoning goes, will come from policy changes—sweeping environmental reforms. But while these big shifts are of course crucial, I must disagree when it comes to the micro-changes.

Individual action matters. Every change has a ripple effect. No, your decision to switch to oat milk, build a compost pile, or avoid plastic may not stop climate change, but it’s not pointless.

Maybe your choices rub off on 10 people in your immediate circle, or on your children, or your mother. Maybe your local coffee shop switches to compostable to-go cups because so many people start asking for them. You get the idea.


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Change compounds. It builds on itself.

Now, before I knew or cared much at all about climate change, I managed to make quite a few eco-friendly choices just by being my cheap and lazy self. I hope this list will push you to think about the changes you can make that cost you no time, no money, and no effort. Because why not?

Nope, none of this will “change the world,” per se, but if it adds just a few more ripples to the global pool, isn’t that worthwhile?

The point here is that making good choices for the Earth doesn’t have to be expensive, time-consuming, or complicated. In some cases, doing less—and taking, buying, needing less in particular—is the most eco-friendly choice we can make.

Eight ways being cheap and lazy greened my life long before I was an environmentalist:

1. Not having a car.

The maintenance? The cost of petrol? No, thanks—I’ll pass. I survived four years in semi-rural Vermont without a car, so this is not just for the city folk.

2. Skipping the plastic grooming habits.

Makeup, nail polish, disposable everything—that sh*t is expensive, and who has the time? Not me. Oh yeah, and unless you’re buying (actually) natural beauty products, it’s pretty terrible for the planet, too.


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3. Waiting until clothing actually smells or looks bad to do laundry.

Socks and underwear aside, I’ve never understood the wear-and-wash samsara loop so many people seem to be stuck in. Wear it, smell it, wear it again. Repeat until you gross yourself out.

4. Not cooking meat.

It’s common knowledge at this point that mass meat production is poisoning our environment with a potent cocktail of methane, carbon dioxide, and more. While I’m not a vegetarian, I hate the clean-up required after cooking a meaty meal, and so I mostly go veggie when I cook at home. And, I mostly cook at home (cheap, remember?).

5. Drinking from the carton, eating from the pan.

Why make dishes dirty if you just want a sip of juice? There’s 60 seconds of your life you can spend doing something more interesting than washing dishes. Bonus: save on heating and water bills, and pour a little less dish soap into the sewer.

6. Buying used clothing.

Cheaper than fast fashion. More interesting. Oh, and—it’s a kinder, greener, and more ethical choice!

7. Taking shorter showers—and not every day.

I always wondered what other people do in the shower for so long. Rinse: one minute. Soap: one minute. Rinse: one minute. And forget about shampoo. Like laundry, I think so many of us shower every day because that’s simply what people do—not because it’s necessary for good hygiene. Marathon runner? By all means, then stick with the daily shower.

8. Just not buying stuff.

It’s a lot less effort (and money) to just not buy new things. The longer I live out of one bag, the less impulse I feel to possess more, and the more I enjoy having less.

What other cheap and lazy lifestyle choices are good for the Earth? Please share your favorites in the comments.


Author: Toby Israel
Image: @tobyintheworld on Instagram
Editor: Leah Sugerman

Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Sara Kärpänen


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Jo Jan Jul 28, 2018 4:50pm

You are speaking my language girl! I am a big fan of all of the above. I don't have a car, or a tv. Everything I own was sourced secondhand, or even better, curb shopping. Other people's junk has often made it into my kitchen. 10 years ago I moved halfway across the country with only one suitcase and my guitar. I found a cheap little apartment and within two weeks had it fully furnished, from forks to futon, for just under $200. New rule though: since I love secondhand shopping so much, I actually have to limit myself from accumulating too much stuff so I can't bring something in unless something else goes out. I ask myself three questions. Do I need this? Do I already have this? Is this a better version of something I already have?

Toby in the World Jul 10, 2017 9:35am

Ohh great one. I used to have such weird issues with leftovers, and now I eat them for breakfast! :D

Michelle Amanda Jul 7, 2017 7:27am

Here's one I'd add: eat leftovers. https://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/11/were-wasted-but-its-not-what-you-think/

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Toby Israel

Toby Israel is a vagabond and storyteller with a metaphorical closet full of hats. She currently works as a creative facilitator, editor, and writer, and as Chief Storyteller at NuMundo. She is also a full-time lover of movement, food, and words. For the moment, she lives in Costa Rica. (She came for a master’s degree in Media, Peace, and Conflict Studies from the UN-mandated University for Peace—and stayed for the papaya, sunshine, and conscious community.) Share her journey on her website, and on FacebookInstagram and Twitter!