Last updated on November 9th, 2023 at 10:48 pm
It makes me feel optimistic that so many people are interested in taking responsibility for our impact on the environment. And wanting to do something about it. My own ideas have evolved, as is inevitable, and apart from wondering things like whether I should use the term “low impact” instead of “zero waste”, I’m also thinking about how to live a low impact life in 2022, and be a more effective champion for the environment in the new year ahead.
New year’s resolutions are always easy to make and hard to keep. But that tendency is part of what we must fight in order to build a better world. This urge for instant gratification, for offsetting future benefits in favor of current pleasure, for closing our minds to the consequences of our actions – we need to consciously suppress that (or give it a more healthy outlet) if we are to make any lasting and significant difference.
I like numbers and lists, so here’s a simple list of what I plan to focus on in 2022.
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5 Steps to Live a Low Impact Life
1 // SORT OUT MY FINANCES
So, I kept the hardest and most important goal for the beginning. Everything else stems from this, actually, so it makes sense to jump right into the money questions.
Money is one of the key ways to control our consumption. It is a basic requirement in this world of ours – and in order to control our impact, it is important to control our finances. I don’t mean this in a “vote with your dollar” way, which gives power away to the corporations and other powerful entities. I mean that I will control my own expenditures, try to earn sufficiently enough to look after my (and my loved ones’) welfare, and save up enough to be materially comfortable in the future.
All of this begins with a very scary step: budgeting. Budgeting is basically a detailed list of all the money that’s coming in and all the money that’s going out. It gives me a clear picture of how much money I have available, what I regularly spend it on, and how much is left over at the end of the budget period (be it monthly or bi-weekly). Then, expanding on this, I’ll write down my requirements and expected spending, my cash at hand, my debt, my savings, and – crucially – my investments. This can lay it all out there for me to get a good picture of where I am, financially speaking.
I’ve tried this before but haven’t been successful at it. This time, I plan to tightly control my monthly expenses for the coming 12 months (at least), and learn to control my finances instead of letting it control me. I don’t know if you have felt the same way, but I’m sick of worrying about money, of making decisions based on the availability (or lack) of money, and of low-key brooding about how my life would change if I suddenly got laid off.
I very recently got laid off from my job. Awesome Christmas gift I got from the shitty leadership. But, fortunately, I had another job offer that I had accepted, and had actually been typing out my resignation letter when HR called me into a room “to have a talk.” Getting laid off by management that doesn’t know how to run a company (hence the layoff, to “cut costs”) is the worst feeling. Getting laid off itself is utter misery. As if it isn’t enough that you’re working for them and are constantly at their mercy, but they aren’t even good at their own job. I mean, if anyone should get laid off, it’s them. But we all know how this works. The most powerless people are kicked out first, then the scapegoats, and the ass-kissers, and it’s only at the final stage that the actual fucking people responsible for the piss-poor company performance get shown out. It’s such a brilliant system guys, it just eats all of us little people from the inside and spits our chewed-up souls out right during Christmastime when the world demands you be cheerful.
I even hate that I have to be grateful to have a job offer. Of course it’s a fantastic thing that I’m not unemployed (and I am grateful), but it’s the same story all over again, isn’t it? When push comes to shove, this new company will have no problem “downsizing” and kicking out people like me who did nothing other than be good employees and work hard. I’m under no illusion that my situation has improved. I mean, it has financially – I got a pay hike – but other than that, it’s like that coffee mug quote: “Same shit, new day.”
Ok, rant over. **deep breath** I’m sorry I did that, but I guess I had to get it out of my system.
Being financially secure is so important, especially so you can hold your own, and not bend to others’ whims and fancies. I mean, it’s almost like it’s tied to your self esteem?;)
To summarize, I plan to earn as much as I can, save as much as possible, and focus on paying off my debts so I can be a free bird again. I also plan on investing more, so I can grow my money.
Focus on your own finances if you’re looking for some solid way to lead a low-impact life. How, you ask? Well, apart from getting financially secure, I plan to…
2 // MINIMIZE MY SPENDING
So, this is where the environment’s welfare directly comes in. The less I buy, the less is my impact on the environment. Because the basic truth is this: Everything we buy, everything we do, affects the environment. So minimizing that impact is the essence of living a frugal and minimalist life, if you ask me. Keep your requirements simple, and your footprint automatically becomes lower. For example, there’s no need for 10 pairs of shoes when three will do. Why have a separate car for each member of your family if the public transport system works fine?
The more you think about how you live your life currently, the more ideas you will get on how to cut down on wasteful spending. Once you get into that frugal mindset of just buying what you need, and making do with what you have, you will begin to get better and better at it.
Most of the destruction we have wreaked on the planet is due to our consumption of resources for various purposes. Some purposes are essential: clothing, shelter, food, medicines, etc. But most are not: shiny new products from the fast fashion and electronics industries, products with built-in obsolescence, products that are manufactured for the supply-side economy, to make people rich and not to meet basic needs.
What was it that Gandhi said? “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” At this point, with nearly 8 billion people, I’m not entirely sure there’s enough for everyone’s need either, but don’t mind me. What’s important is to prioritize need over want, which will help you minimize your spending.
Which brings me to the next point.
3 // BE MINDFUL OF MY CONSUMPTION
I have to buy certain things. I need clothes, I need food, I need shelter and other such basic things. These are not things I can go without. However, I can be mindful of what type of clothes I buy, what type of food I buy, etc.
I can buy fair-trade organic clothing this summer, instead of sweatshop-produced fast fashion pieces. It might cost more, but it’s on fewer, quality pieces, as opposed to bulk buying the entire $2 stock of t-shirts that will leak pesticides into my locality.
Buying in bulk at the local bulk stores, and cut down on my plastic consumption while also saving money.
I can eat more plant-based – not just for my health, but also for the animals and the environment, and buy local and organic food, when possible.
Reducing my electricity consumption as much as I can, and trying to be zero waste as much as possible, in every way possible, are also things I need to focus on.
Quality over quantity, as far as possible, guys. Learn to think things through, be mindful of your impact, and do your best. There’s no one-rule-suits-all concept here. We all have to live our own lives, fortunately or unfortunately, and we all need to make the best decisions for ourselves. Just remember that your decisions have consequences, and that we are not removed from our effect on each other and the environment.
4 // BECOME MORE SELF-SUFFICIENT & PRESENT
Do you know how to sew? How to chop wood? How to – gasp – cook? I don’t mean to sound like a doomsday prepper here, but a lot of our problems will be solved if we could become more self-sufficient. Not only does this save money (i.e. low impact living), but it also makes us more actively involved in our own lives.
This is the part where I get into how the modern world has disconnected us from not just each other, but also nature. We buy frozen food from the supermarket, we plug into the internet and avoid meeting our neighbors, we dump the broken chair and buy a spanking new one online. I sound like a Luddite (I’m not, I promise!:)), but there’s mad power in using our hands, in doing things physically, and experiencing life in the slow lane. Learn to cook a meal from scratch, learn to stitch up the torn curtains, learn to take some cake over to the neighbors and offer to help them with their roof repairs. Start heading outside and just walking around, taking in the mood and also connecting with yourself.
Learn to do things, and thrive in the physical world. I plan to improve on my cooking this year, and learn to grow some of my own vegetables and herbs. There’s such magic in that, and it can be so rewarding in so many ways:)
5 // FOCUS ON MY HEALTH
It’s actually pretty simple to live a healthy life: a nutritious and balanced diet, regular and adequate exercise, fitful sleep, and a low-stress life. It is, however, extremely challenging to actually achieve all of this. It takes conscious, deliberate effort to put all these aspects into place. To make it a habit to meal prep, to get into the daily habit of stretching and going for my morning run, to remember to wind down after 9pm and hit the bed by 10, to take a few deep breaths when I’m becoming stressed and remind myself that ‘this, too, shall pass.’
It all boils down, then, to habit. Setting a routine of daily activities that are optimal for your body and life. Making a habit of all of them, so that you could do it without any extra thought or effort. So that you can then go on to put your efforts into other worthwhile pursuits, knowing that your body (and mind) are being taken care of simply by getting into a routine and following it day in and day out.
It’s very important to have a routine. Nature has a routine. Wild animals and plants have routines. We are meant to do certain things at certain times, and though we have perhaps lost our instinctive feel for a routine, we can always deliberately set it into motion. Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all template here; someone may thrive on six hours’ sleep and a high-stress work life, whereas someone else may not. I certainly will not. I need 7 hours of sleep every night, and I need my specific meals, my favorite activities, etc., if I am to feel healthy, motivated and happy.
We all have our own best-case routine that makes us happiest. And healthiest. Let’s try to capture that and live that life this year. I definitely plan to make it a priority. It’s not something that can be done overnight; habits take time to get set. But it’s important to keep at it and not lose sight of the accumulating benefits of living a healthy life.
So, that’s it! Very simple goals for 2021, ahem;) The thing is, these aren’t just for this year. If they are to be effective, they need to be done forever. But 1 January 2019 is as good a date as any to remind myself of the importance of living a low impact life, and I hope this inspires you to do so as well.
I hope you found this useful. Please share it with your friends – I’d be very grateful:)
THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE DETAILS.