If I wanted to be really, really ecofriendly, what would I do?

What lifestyle modifications would I have to make and how much do you think it would cost?

Is it cheaper to be really ecofriendly?

Short answer

That a really broad question.

Want to be really eco-friendly? Drop out of society and live off the land (or better yet - no offense - die - and completely eliminate your carbon footprint. Or maybe kill a bunch of rich Americans and eliminate their carbon footprints, too! : ))

But seriously,

If you want to live a life similar to your presumably average developed world resident, live close to work so you can walk, bike or take a short transit trip. Try to buy locally-produced foods or, hey, grow your own. Don’t own a car, keep your consumption of consumer goods to a minimum, consider producing your own power (solar panels, small wind turbine, etc). Try to reduce your energy use through energy efficient appliances and lights. Keep your water use to a minimum through good conservation practice and water-efficient toilets and showerheads. When possible, reuse, reduce and recycle household items. Also, try to make your own stuff such as clothes and even basic toiletries.

Anyway, that would be a great start and put you in the top 1% of ‘sustainble citizens’.

It can be cheaper, if you take the approach of consuming less. It can be more expensive, if you take the approach of maintaining your current level of consumption in a way that is less damaging to the planet.

If you want to take the first approach, I recommend the book Living More with Less. There’s an accompanying cookbook, Eating More with Less.

Let your decomposing corpse enrich the earth?

Don’t reproduce.

Become a vegetarian and eat locally-grown produce as much as possible.

We’ve found that the aspects of “cheaper” are sometimes offset by the costs of “eco-friendly”. For example we walk or bike any distance within a 20 mile radius of where we live, which has cut down tremendously on all sorts of costs (you’d really be surprised). But that savings is offset because we pay at least 50% more to buy milk (local, organic) or soy milk. But then some of that extra cost is offset by the savings on our biodegradable “green” laundry soap, because you can bring you own refillable container and buy it in bulk. But then that gets offset by the fact that environmentally friendly soaps cost significantly more. But then that gets offset…

So there’s a perpetual balance to everything we do from a cost perspective.

But the biggest savings is also related to the biggest eco nasties. We very rarely drive anywhere (to the point where it’s a bit stupid that we have a car at all). We use a push mower instead of a gas or electric mower, and there are a lot of small appliances we just don’t have. We buy as much of our groceries as possible with minimal packaging, which does work out to be cheaper most of the time (due to buying from the Bulk Barn etc.) We have travel mugs that we take to the coffee shop and they sometime give us a 5 cent discount. We usually pack a lunch in a lunch box or reusable bag (which is cheaper than buying lunch), and most of our non-office clothing is fun stuff from the thrift shop.

But it’s extremely difficult to live an eco-friendly life in a modern city. The best you can really do is minimize your impact to the best of your ability. We mostly target the waste we create and try to minimize it. Our tenant (one single person) produces one very full garbage bin’s worth of non-recyclable, landfill destined trash every two weeks (it’s the equivalent volume of 4 of this size blue box), whereas we’ve been able to consistently keep our trash down to a volume that would fit in a single plastic grocery bag every two weeks. (Recycling not included in either estimate, but our tenant produces approximately 5 times the volume we do for recycling).

I would say overall, from a cost perspective: not driving and the way we eat (eg/ vegetarian, brown bagging lunch and fresh foods instead of canned or pre-packaged/processed foods) have put us ahead financially despite the higher costs of eco-friendly products. Nothing extravagant about our savings though.

Some cost benefits also are yet to be determined (such as big initial investments in energy efficient appliances that recoup in energy cost savings over time).

Probably the biggest single impact you can make is to become vegan.

The UN report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, analyzed the environmental impact of animal agriculture. It causes more greenhouse gases than any other industry, including all transportation combined. It uses more fresh water than any other industry. It causes more runoff and pollution. It’s also responsible for 70% of rainforest deforestation in the Amazon.

And that’s without getting into negative health effects or animal cruelty issues at all.

You can’t end animal agriculture by yourself, but if you’re choosing what to change in your habits for environmental reasons, animal agriculture is the biggest culprit in most environmental issues.

Population is a huge issue as well, but it’s intertwined with everything else – overpopulation makes the impact of animal agriculture worse.

Shop in thrift/second hand stores. Every time you buy something second hand, it means that someone didn’t throw something away and new materials were not used to buy what you did buy. That alone can save you enough money to make it worth it.

Learn to “clean green.” Baking soda, vinegar, soap, washing soda and borax will clean damn near anything. You are using fewer products and they are cheaper.

And encourage producers of reality TV shows to do the same, ASAP.

Wow. Things aren’t looking so rosy when that’s the advice an M.D. gives you.