Making the choice to go green is one of the biggest decisions you (and your family) will ever make. When you choose to become Earth-conscious and begin purchasing more sustainable products and being more eco-friendly in your home and community, it impacts you, your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances, and random people you may come across during your daily activities. And yes, it will impact your budget as well!
When we first decided to start purchasing organic foods, we were on the verge of welcoming our 3rd child, we still had quite a bit of debt that made it difficult to jump with both feet in. We started shopping at farmers' markets, Whole Foods and the organic sections of grocery stores. But most of our shopping cart contained processed foods and other non-organic items. We still ate at fast food restaurants, thinking if we just chose healthier (or at least we thought they were healthier) alternatives, then we'd be better off than not doing anything at all. It wasn't until about a couple of weeks before Little Peanut was born that we said, "Let's do it! Let's just dive right in." And we did.
We stopped eating out, or if we did indulge, it was once or twice a month, and it was only at a couple of places that we knew offered organic foods. We shopped exclusively for organic and unprocessed foods. Our first checkout receipt was mind blowing! And we went through the food so much more quickly then before. But, we immediately noticed the difference in how we felt. We felt cleaner, less guilty, and more alive. We don't know if it was a coincidence, but regardless of what "it" really was, we had a decision to make. Should we continue to live this way, paying more for food and cutting out any kind of "extra" we could have for the month, including any extra activities for the kids? Or should we just go back to purchasing less expensive food and products so that we can feel "normal" again and get out of debt faster?
When we decided to become more active in being mindful of our carbon footprint, we also, for the first time, chose to use cloth diapers on our newborn child. With the other two children, we didn't have any information about these products, let alone have any family or friends who could have possibly turned us on to the idea, and we were just sure that we couldn't afford it at all. We were fortunate enough to receive most of our diaper stash now from our baby shower. There was no going back once we made up our minds.
Our decision to continue going the organic route, however, was still up in the air. Luckily, the choice was made for us when we sold our rental condo. What was once supposed to be an investment-for-profit thing quickly turned to a money pit that drained us financially every time my husband had to fix something or pay someone to do it. In the long run, we ended up not making anything from the condo.
But we were free and clear from any further obligations, being certain that we no longer had to have this "cushion" for repair emergencies. Knowing that made it easier to go 100% forward in purchasing Earth-friendly products. In the following months, we slowly started switching out our personal products for sustainable and cruelty-free alternatives. And a few months back, we removed all of our toxic cleaning products and made our own safe solution. We have not purchased any more new items since, and we still have lots of our homemade "stuff" for months to come. I got rid of all of my old makeup and personal items and now use only cruelty-free and vegan products. I've never felt more content and satisfied with what is going on my face and skin. We've bought only Earth-friendly products for the children as well, knowing that these items initially cost more but are in the long run, safer for them and for the environment. We've slowly come to the realization that there is nothing more important than our children's well-being. That means making sure their surroundings and foods are healthy and safe. In turn, we're thinking about their future in the present, same as we are about our planet.
In making the choice to go organic, we spend more up front for whatever we need and want, but a lot of our on-going Earth-conscious decisions save us money to make it possible to live this way. Changing out our light bulbs for CFLs, adjusting our thermostat by a couple of degrees seasonally so that it's not freezing cold in our home during the summer months or sweltering hot in the winter, growing our own herbs that we use daily, cooking our favorite foods and eating in more, making our own smoothies and ice cream, using our car only when it's necessary, using cloth instead paper towels or napkins or disposable baby wipes, all add up to financially living better and helping our environment.
So, if you have been struggling with the thought that you want to be (more) pro-active in keeping our Earth green but do not know if whether or not it will financially benefit you (and others) in the long run, here's a little more info to help you. Keep in mind - as our family is learning and figuring out almost every day - once you make that leap to greener pastures, everything else will follow: becoming debt-free, living simpler and more minimal, choosing different adventures and activities that are fun but also mindful of our planet, and engaging yourself in books or the WWW for further information. There will always be something else you and I could do. It's just a matter of whether or not we're ready to make that first small step in that direction.