Conscious & mindful consumerism – our plastic addiction needs a cure

If you are like us, you have been working hard so you can become financially independent one day. To reach this key financial milestone, you are frugal, you strive for a high savings rate, and you invest the money saved in appreciating assets like stocks, businesses, real estate, etc. As a result, your net worth grows year over year. This process is repeated over and over each month.

Part of being frugal means purchasing quality items rather than cheap low-quality items. Take two pairs of shoes, one pair costs $100, another pair costs $20. The $100 pair lasts 18 months while the $20 pair lasts 2 months. From a cost per day point of view, it doesn’t make any sense to purchase the $20 pair. If you purchase the $20 pair, although the initial dollar cost is lower, you will need to get another pair of shoes in 2 months, and maybe again later if you purchase another pair of low-quality shoes. Therefore, to be frugal, it is important to always evaluate the long-term cost vs. the overall saving.

After all, $100 saved today can be grown to over $400 in 20 years with 8% annual growth rate. By buying the lowest cost item that doesn’t last, you are robbing yourself in the long run.

During a lunch conversation about consumerism the other day at work, I began to wonder – while the financially independent journey, are we too focused on being frugal and being efficient that we are forgetting to be conscious and mindful consumers? Are we forgetting to look at the big picture holistically?

Being conscious and mindful consumers

A while ago I wrote about how frugality can prevent catastrophic disruption of life on earth. In it, I mentioned some simple and practical methods that we can use to save money while helping to save the environment. Being frugal not only reduces the money you spend each month, but it also reduces your energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission – a win-win!

As mindful consumers, we have been eating less and less red meats in general. We have been substituting turkey and chicken for red meats. We are also purchasing more locally grown items. Without realizing, we are finding that we are eating more vegetables in our meals; quite often, we would have vegetarian meals for a number of days.

It’s not about just saving money so that we can become financially independent in the near future. It’s about being mindful and becoming conscious of our environmental impact as consumers.

But I think it’s more than just eating less meats to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. We can do more than that. We also need to take a look at how food items are being packaged and how this can impact the environment.

A while ago, I came across this video on Facebook, where shoppers are demanding grocery stores to cut plastic packaging.

The video made Mrs. T and I really think about all the plastic packaging from grocery stores like Costco, Superstore, Save-On-Foods, Safeway, Walmart, etc.

Overuse of plastic in grocery stores is a reality in modern society.

For example, oranges, avocados, and onions typically come in mesh plastic bags. What do you do when you get back home and unpack these items? You probably throw the mesh plastic bags in your garbage bin. Did you know that you may be able to recycle these mesh bags? But here’s the problem: although some of these mesh plastic bags can be recycled, not every city will recycle them. If you live in Calgary, you gotta throw out these bags as garbage. Cucumbers, for example, are usually individually wrapped in plastic. Then wrapped together in plastic as a bundle. What’s wrong with not wrapping them in plastic at all? You need to wash cucumbers before eating them anyway, right?

For the most part, items like plastic wraps and plastic bags can be recycled, but they must be dropped off at designated depots. I would guess that most people don’t bother dropping them off at the designated depots.

So many plastic bags and plastic packagings end up going to the landfill as garbage or end up in the ocean, creating the great garbage patches in the ocean.

Even when plastic is recycled, many people don’t realize that plastic materials can only be recycled once or twice. Unlike metals, plastic can’t be recycled infinitely.

After being recycled once or twice, the plastic products eventually make their way to the landfill… or oceans.

Plastic wastes can take up to 1,000 years to decompose!

I’m pretty sure you and I won’t be around by then, but our children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children will be.

Don’t you want to give the future generations a beautiful and serene environment that they can enjoy?

Rather than mindlessly grabbing a plastic bag or throwing out plastic packaging, shouldn’t we be more mindful of our plastic consumption? I think that this is a key part of being mindful consumers and finding a way to reduce our plastic consumption.

After all, being financially independent won’t do you any good if there are plastic wastes everywhere. Can you imagine stepping outside to a pile of plastic waste everywhere? I sure don’t want that to happen.

Reducing our plastic consumption

So, what can we do to reduce our plastic consumption? There are many ways for us to reduce our plastic consumption.

  1. Use a reusable bag when going out shopping rather than using plastic bags.
  2. Purchase food such as cereal, pasta, and rice from bulk bins, and fill a reusable bag or container.
  3. Use glass or metal water bottles and refill water rather than consuming bottled water.
  4. Don’t use plastic bags in the fresh fruits/produce section or at the checkout. Use paper bags instead.
  5. Ask your local grocery stores to take your plastic containers (for berries, tomatoes, etc.) back.
  6. Don’t buy over-packaged items.
  7. Stop using plastic straws.
  8. Buy items that are packaged in paper rather than plastic.
  9. Use cloth diapers rather than disposable diapers.
  10. When buying things, look at an alternative that isn’t wrapped in plastic.

If we can all do a few of these steps listed above, I am convinced that future generations can enjoy a beautiful and serene environment.

Written by Tawcan
Hi I’m Bob from Vancouver Canada, I am working toward joyful life and financial independence through frugal living, dividend investing, passive income generation, life balance, and self-improvement. This blog is my way to chronicle my journey and share my stories and thoughts along the way. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter. Or sign up via Newsletter