Episode #3: Little to No Cost Swaps

 Welcome back to Sustainable Existing everyone! This is going to be the first episode where we start diving into things more than just the introduction episodes. So if you listened to the episode where I introduced myself, I am a junior in high school and I am seventeen years old. I do have a job, but overall that just pays for the gas in my car and other little expenses here and there. Overall I don’t have much of a budget to become more sustainable and eco-friendly. Disclaimer: I did know this when starting my project and its one of the reasons why I started this project. Some of you may ask “Lexi, why would you do something this big if you know you don’t have much money?” Well, thank you, theoretical audience member. I started this project to prove that you can make more eco-friendly choices no matter your financial background. I believe that this is a reason that people are so intimidated to start more sustainable choices because if you look and see all the options are out there, some of them are quite expensive. On this podcast and my journey as well as yours, I’m right here with you to tell you that even small choices to better the environment are important and necessary for the betterment of this planet. 

 Today I wanted to go into sustainable swaps you can make right now that are little to no cost. Most of these swaps are items you can already find in your home, items that you can make at home (and I plan to do more instruction on these next week) and also mindsets you can work on developing. Now I don’t want to call anyone out or make anyone feel bad since hopefully all of us are practicing social distancing, this is the easiest time to become lazy and pick up bad habits. On the contrary, it is also a great time to develop good habits in all this free time everyone has. I’m sure some of you already practice some of these. Whether you do all of these, some of these or none of these, I challenge everyone listening to at least hear me out and at least try one new thing that I mention (except for those that already do all of these, then that's great.) 

 The first and one of the easiest swaps is to reduce using plastic water bottles. Plastic bottles take up to 700 years to dissolve and just in America, about 50 billion water bottles are purchased per year. Especially since most of us are stuck at home and have the extra time, it is important to use reusable cups, either glass from your kitchen or a reusable water bottle. You don’t need to have an expensive water bottle, just any container that holds liquids will do. Using reusable water bottles and cups over single-use, plastic ones will save you money since it won’t be necessary to buy cases of bottled water every week or every two weeks. Another easy swap is reusable coffee cups when out on the go. These often don’t cost much and (don’t quote me on this one but) some places offer discounts to those who bring reusable cups. Also avoiding the sleeves that come with hot drinks when possible is a better choice.  

 Similar to plastic water bottles, another easy swap is from plastic cutlery and paper plates to metal silverware and glass plates. In the end, you having to take out the trash more often will take just as much effort to wash the plates off either by hand or putting them in the dishwasher after you are done using it. It may cost you more on the soap but you will save a ton not having to buy so much., not even mentioning that it is better for the environment. Carrying around a set of silverware in a small reusable bag is a good way to avoid the use of single-use plastic ones. Another good swap is plastic straws to metal, bamboo, or glass straws. I got my stainless steel straws at Target for $8 and it came with 8 straws and a cleaning brush. 

 The third budget-friendly swap is to use reusable bags when shopping. This swap isn’t completely free, but most grocery stores around where I live to offer cloth reusable bags for just a few dollars or less. These bags can be left in the back of your car for the next time you are going out shopping and need them. Next week I will also be doing a tutorial on how to make reusable bags and reusable produce bags out of old t-shirts, so if you are interested to make sure to look out for that. This does have a very small cost, and plastic bags can be recycled, recycling uses energy and releases emission so overall, reusable cloth bags are a better option. And while we are talking about plastic bags, another easy swap is using reusable containers to store food instead of ziplock plastic bags. 

 Ditching paper towels is a great swap that will save you money. Whether it is having a fabric towel in your kitchen to use to dry your hands after washing them or using a rag to clean up spills and to use cleaning products, getting rid of paper towels is the better option for the environment. These swaps don’t need to be fancy; an old t-shirt or a scrap from old sheets will work just fine. Switch to using regular plates if you use paper towels as such. 

 Secondhand shopping is not only very affordable, but it is very sustainable as well. There is the saying that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and it sure is. From clothes to books to any tools you may only use a few times, buying second-hand is very eco-friendly since resources, energy, and emissions don’t need to be put into making an entirely new product when it’s already been made available. I’ve personally never been to any, but I’ve read that estate sales are also a good option. Another choice is to borrow from friends and family or to have an item swap with items you are done with or may not have used in a while. Some people may be having doubts since it has been someone else’s item before there own, and being somewhat of a germaphobe myself, it was a hard thing to get over. The only thing I can tell you is to get into a mentality that you can wash these items and you need to trust that people take care of their belongings just as you do. 

 This is only something I’ve started doing recently, but if there aren’t any thrift stores convenient to you there are plenty of apps and websites you can use to buy things second-hand. There are apps like Poshmark and Depop where you buy from specific sellers, or there are more curated sites like Thredup that collect donated clothes and only except and sell specific things. Personally, I’ve only used Poshmark and Depop, and I had good experiences with both, but that's not to say sites like Thredup aren’t good. My boyfriend goes to a different high school than I go to and for prom, I thought it would be more beneficial to try to find a more affordable dress on Depop. Another great thing about resale apps is that some sellers offer bundle deals and I ended up finding a great dress for only $30 (with a bit of an additional cost for shipping.) This is a great option for the items you may only need one or just a few times. Especially with any items you may use only a few or even just one time, you may want to consider either donating it, selling it on a resale app, or handing it down to a family member or a friend. 

 Eating out may be the easier option, but it creates more waste and is usually more expensive than making a meal at home. Although more complicated recipes with many ingredients may produce more waste and possibly cost more, sticking with simple recipes that you eat often while avoiding pre-packaged food as much as possible, is a better, eco-friendly option. Also when going out, taking leftovers in a take-out box is wasteful in having to produce the styrofoam or plastic that goes into making the single-use container. Whenever possible, bring a reusable container, or choose a portion size correct to you by ordering only what food that you know you will eat. Another easy tip is to use your freezer as much as possible to preserve food that otherwise may have gone to waste. Food waste is a major issue and many people don’t realize that to grow food, ship the food, and to store the food in grocery stores and at home takes a lot of energy and resources. If food goes to waste, that many more resources will be needed to grow new food. 

 Something a lot of people don’t think about is switching to a low waste hobby. I’ll admit I’m guilty of retail therapy and I know most of you are as well. This might not be the easiest swap but finding new hobbies that interest you and create less waste is an eco-friendly and enjoyable swap. Maybe try going out for a hike on trails near you. Maybe try growing and working on a garden in your backyard. Maybe try taking time to meditate and do yoga. The possibilities are endless. Everyone is different and this swap won’t be the same for everyone so it’s important to find things you are interested in doing. If you have a hobby that takes up most of your time already, try to find swaps within your hobby that are more eco friendly. I’ve used this example in the past before, but if you love to read, try using the library. Libraries also have movies and tv shows. I haven’t used it much since I’ve been catching up on the books in my “to-read” pile while staying home, but there is an app that I have seen called Libby. Using this app, you can connect your library card and take out books on your device. If you’ve read all the books you are interested in within your library, trying e-books, buying from thrift stores or having book swaps with friends are also great options. 

 Overall, the easiest option is to look for plastic-free alternatives in your everyday life, and if you already have some items that are made of very durable plastic if good if well cared for. I’m not asking you to throw out all your items in your home, but ask that you use them to their fullest potential then replace them with these reusable swaps. You may get easily discouraged along the road but just remember that if everyone thought small changes weren’t worth it, there would be no change at all. There is no need to wake up tomorrow and be the most eco-friendly person in the world because all growth takes time. Everyone grows at different paces so there is no need to look at others and compare your progress to theirs and be discouraged. I as well as most of you are new to this and we are all in this together. If you have any comments, questions, suggestions or feedback, my website is My social media accounts and my email can be found in the footer of my website along with a contact tab on the site as well. I encourage everyone to reach out even if it’s not about sustainability, I’d still love to talk. I want to thank everyone for listening and to tune in next week for some instructions on how to make some of the items mentioned in this video, and some other items you create yourself from items you already have at home. Just a reminder that Wednesday, April 22 is Earth Day. Although every day should be Earth day and you should always care for the planet, I encourage all of you to do something eco-friendly. Thank you and have a great week. 

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