3 Life Hacks That Improve My Life, Save Me Money & Are Way Better For The Environment

Sustainable living has an image problem.

Too often it’s viewed as a sacrifice. It’s too expensive, too difficult, too bothersome. There are too many “bumps in the road”, as behavioral economist Dan Ariely calls them, that stand between our status quo and doing the right thing.

This doesn’t need to be the case. In fact, I’m convinced it’s not. Over the years, I’ve made many adjustments that have improved my life, saved me money and are much better for the environment. It’s taken commitment, a bit of creativity and short ramp-up periods as I’ve adjusted to new habits. But it’s possible.

Here are three of the changes I’ve made:

1. Curated Closet

The statistics are shocking. Compared to 15 years ago, the average consumer buys 60% more clothing but keeps each garment half as long, according to a 2016 McKinsey & Co. report. And nearly 3/5 of all clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within one year of being made.

I was a big shopper too. But then I started working in fashion, and I realized how wasteful the industry has become.

Now before I buy anything, I ask myself: would I wear this for longer than three years? Is it versatile? Is it built to last?

Since starting this habit, I’ve been able to build up a curated wardrobe of items that I love, that fit and that I wear often. With a smaller selection, my closet is more organized and I don’t spend nearly as much time getting ready in the morning.

And while individual items might cost a bit more, I now shop so infrequently that I save money when compared to my old habit of twice-a-month bargain hunting sprees. I also consider the cost-per-wear formula = the total cost of the item / the number of days I’ll wear it. All of a sudden that timeless $150 sweater that I’ll wear for 10 years looks like a much better value than that super-trendy $30 blouse that I know will lose its shape after five washes.

2. Beauty Detox

A few years ago, I realized how bloated my beauty routine had become — the cleansers, toners, moisturizers, eye creams, primers, foundations, powders, and serums that I was lathering on in an attempt to get an “all natural” look.

I had been sold a vision of beauty, and I was spending significantly to achieve it.

One book got me thinking differently — Skin Cleanse, by SW Basics founder Adina Grigore. After reading, I started paring down. I replaced my expensive cleanser with a $6 natural charcoal soap bar. I started using rosewater (available at Middle Eastern grocery stores) instead of toner. I swapped my day and night moisturizers for a blend of natural oils I mix myself (my current concoction includes jojoba, argan, moringa, tea tree and lavender). I cut heavy face makeup from my daily routine. I even went 14 months without washing my hair.

The beauty budget is now about 1/5 what it was a few years ago. And with a break from harsh ingredients, my skin and hair have had a chance to rebalance. They now feel healthier and stronger than ever.

3. Real Food

American food journalist Michael Pollan summed up everything he’s learned about food and health in seven words:

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

These words have significantly impacted the way I eat, along with documentaries like Food Inc., Fed Up and Jamie Oliver’s short-lived Food Revolution TV series. Once you realize the extent to which our food systems have been dictated by politics and greed, you’ll never look at your meals the same way again.

So what does this mean in practice? My husband and I cook most of our meals (huge cost savings). We favor seasonal produce (also because it tends to be cheaper). We rarely eat meat and when we do, we try to know its origins. And thankfully, Dave has a special talent for creating wild concoctions out of leftovers and nearly-expired food, so we rarely waste what we buy.

What we put in your body has a huge impact on how we experience the world. It affects our energy, our productivity, even our ability to lead. In college, I used to wonder why I always felt tired, sluggish and frankly like shit. It’s because I subsisted on a steady American processed food diet of sugar, salt, corn and chemicals. Shifting my eating habits has reawakened my appreciation for food. And by eating better, I’m able to live better too.

This might feel like a lot. You might tell yourself,

“Yeah, great that she can make those changes but [insert excuse here].”

I’ve been there. And by no means do I have it all figured out. But I’ve also seen what’s possible when you just start somewhere — with one small behavior change, one 30-day challenge, one pause to consider the personal/financial/environmental impacts of your actions.

Is there one small change you’re ready to make? I’d love to hear it.

BTW, I curate a bi-weekly newsletter for people who believe in the power of business as a force for good. Check it out here.