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How to be sustainable regardless of your budget

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

By Bailey Adams | Originally Published November 16th, 2022

Activities such as clothing shopping and choosing what to eat are necessities in our lives even though they often account for some of our most wasteful habits. Buying in bulk to save money, but having to toss it all away when it goes bad contributes to one of the biggest producers of methane: food waste. Our clothes go in and out of style so quickly that it is easier and more affordable to buy into fast fashion and always have a closet of the latest trends on hand. So, do we actually have a choice to be more sustainable?

As college students, a majority of us are actively trying to watch how much money we spend and stretch our dollars further. Sometimes the items in stores that are marketed as sustainable cost a bit more than what you would traditionally buy, and you have to weigh out where that extra money stems from. Maybe the company is charging more because they use biodegradable materials or they pay fair wages and only use ethical labor practices. But maybe the extra cost comes from “greenwashing,” a term that describes tricking consumers into thinking they are choosing a more sustainable option when the product is really just average.

One way to check the status of a company is to find out if they are B Corporation certified. B Lab is an organization that compiles data from companies in all areas concerning the environment and ethics and gives them a rating for each category. To become a certified B Corporation, a company must “meet high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”

It can feel daunting to do research before purchasing a product, and in some cases if you want to choose a more sustainable product, it may be more expensive in the short term, but last longer as they tend to be reusable products with better quality. A lot of times you can get around this cost by shopping second hand. Local thrift stores have a wide variety of kitchen appliances, decor and even electronics such as televisions in great condition.

Thrifting has proven very trendy in recent years with college students, especially surrounding clothing. When asked about his opinion of thrifting, Andrew Dysart, a senior finance and data analytics major said, “Thrifting is something that I have been doing more when clothing shopping. It’s cheaper and helps the environment. I think more people in general should thrift for clothes.”

Create your own style with thrifted clothes from across the decades, or go on a hunt for discounted designer brands. Whatever you are searching for, it is always fun to find! Maybe you have your eye set on something specific: in that case, try out an online thrifting platform like Depop, Poshmark, or Helpsy. When shopping on Helpsy, be sure to use Rider’s link or type in the code “RIDERHELPSY” at checkout to support our Office of Sustainability!

Sometimes the most sustainable options are even the easiest and cheapest. The most sustainable practice when it comes to consumption is reduction, which means buying less so you waste less. Think about an item before you purchase it and how it will impact your overall sustainability. Do you need it? Is there an option that is better or will last longer? This will also help keep costs low, which makes sustainability the easier choice from a consumer’s standpoint.

Choosing the more sustainable option can feel like more work at times. Xander Praski, a senior actuarial science major, said, “Convenience is often prioritized over sustainability.” Lucky for us, our location at Rider provides some easy and local eco-friendly options. Keeping it local by shopping at farmers markets and picking produce in season are great ways to keep down the gas-guzzling miles of transport associated with your food.

Terhune Orchards is local to Lawrenceville and has implemented several sustainable practices on their farm such as solar energy, crop rotation, and technologies for optimal irrigation. They even have pick-your-own days when you can select your own produce right off the plant! The Trenton Farmers Market has a refillary where you can shop for items such as grains and spices with your own containers and skip the cost of packaging. Not only does this help your pocket, but it also helps keep unnecessary plastic packaging out of the landfills.

What if we continue on our current path of consumerism with little mind for the environment? Mainstream companies and businesses will flourish and maybe individual shoppers could save a little money in the short term, but the real cost will be paid by the earth. Extensive climate research has pointed to the fact that if global temperatures rise beyond 1.5℃ by the year 2100, impacts such as sea level rise, storm frequency and intensity, and biodiversity loss will be exacerbated. With our current actions, the expected global temperature increase by 2100 will exceed 2℃. We need to act fast and take our future into our own hands. Make an investment in the future of your planet by choosing to be a more sustainable consumer with better research and adding fun alternatives like thrifting and local farmers markets into your shopping habits.

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