How to cope with the cost-of-living crisis and still live sustainably

Many of you won’t know what it’s like to live in an inflationary economy.  We have become used to low inflation and low interest rates.  But the annual inflation rate in the UK edged higher to 5.5% in January 2022, the highest reading since March 1992 almost 30 years ago, from 5.4% in December last year. Gas, electricity and fuel have rocketed in price recently and show no signs of slowing soon.  Other signs are empty shelves in the supermarkets, sudden marked up prices and shipping delays – no one is excluded from inflationary effects.

Image Courtesy – Melanie Pongratz

When inflation is higher, essential items absorb more of our income leaving less for luxuries.  Could this be the time to consider a lifestyle change that will be softer on our wallets and kind to the planet?  Owning more things has traditionally been the equated with success and happiness – the larger house, the second car, more gadgets.  But consumerism has always been dominated by corporate interests and maybe it is time to reconsider what really makes us content.

Inflation versus sustainability

The Covid pandemic forced us all to focus on our health but there have been other important reminders – the importance of solidarity and shared experiences.  In the light of this, many of us have chosen to reconfigure our lives and prioritise time over money.  Downsizing can be a very positive experience – whether it’s a smaller house or living without a car. Making more time for community activities, hobbies or the natural world can be transformative.  With this in mind, we can zone in on changes that will be sustainable as well as fulfilling.  With the latest IPCC report confirming that many of the impacts of global warming are now irreversible there is a real need for immediate change.

Where do we start?  Here are some ideas that might help:

  • An acceptance that continued economic growth in the western world is likely to be a thing of the past and an acknowledgement of what this means for us as individuals.
  • That consumerism is an outdated way to measure happiness. There are many mindful alternatives that provide equal contentment to buying more & more.
  • Mutual aid and cooperation can be just as effective as competition. Making real efforts to embrace community support can reap real rewards.
  • Sustainability can be the key to a contented life. It provides meaning and robustness in an uncertain world.
  • The circular economic system is the way to go. Based on three principles – eliminating waste and pollution, – circulating products and materials, – regenerating nature and all underpinned by a transition to renewable energy and materials.

What might this look like in practice?

  • Reduce your impact on the planet and action the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra to minimise the amount of waste you accumulate.
  • Reduce your car ownership and/or invest in an electric vehicle.
  • Eat simply and cook from scratch if you can.
  • Always buy as many certified organic products as you can afford to reduce the toxic load on humans and our environment.

The UK’s performance on food sustainability is disappointing. With the future of food, farming, the environment, animals and our health at stake, there is an urgent need for coherence, not complacency.” Food Ethics Council, 2022.

Image Courtesy – Bernard Hermant & Andre Ouellet

  • Shop locally and join the refill revolution by supporting zero waste stores or setting up zero waste hubs at home for groceries and household products.
  • Support your local farmer’s market.
  • Adopt/rehome an animal or pet and devote time and resources to their wellbeing.
  • Find community garden or allotment and participate regularly.
  • Grow your own salad and herbs at home on the windowsill.
  • Forage for food or wildflowers in plenty.
  • Make your own organic personal care and household products – The Naturewatch Foundation has produced a very helpful pair of booklets https://naturewatch.org/get-involved/shop/.
  • Enjoy donating small amounts to your favourite charities. Whether you are passionate about animal welfare, biodiversity, indigenous cultures or environmental activism there are plenty of opportunities to lend a hand.
  • Exercise empathy whenever you get a chance.

Image Courtesy – NeONBRAND

Greenscents is the non-toxic, sustainable alternative for all your household products

Greenscents organic household products are sold in many zero waste stores.  If you prefer you can purchase on-line at www.greenscents.co.uk and set up a refill hub at home.  All your 5 litre containers can be sent back for free to the Greenscents workshops to be cleaned and refilled.

Further Reading

https://www.foodethicscouncil.org/

https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/overview

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-60525591

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/jan/19/uk-inflation-hits-near-three-decade-high-rising-to-54#:~:text=Britain’s%20cost%20of%20living%20crisis%20worsened%20in%20December%20after%20inflation,of%20clothes%2C%20food%20and%20footwear.

https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/