How the cost of living crisis is forcing people to rethink sustainability

There’s no hiding from it: we have been, and still are, living through difficult times. Inflation is predicted to hit 10%, and peacetime as we know it is threatened by the current war in Ukraine.

Sustainability might seem like the last thing on anyone’s minds, but what the cost of living crisis is proving is that sometimes the most cost-effective way of living is also the most sustainable one. Here are a few ways the cost of living crisis is making people behave more sustainably – and it might even give you a few ideas about how to save money, too.

5 minutes to read

by Katie Skelton / May 13, 2022

Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels

With fuel prices at an all-time high and this coinciding with the war in Ukraine, it has prompted many news outlets to question our reliance on Russian oil and other fossil fuels, as Russia is the third biggest oil producer in the world. The lack of long-term viability and sustainability of fossil fuels is becoming much more obvious thanks to the rising fuel and energy costs.

21.5% of the UK’s primary energy was obtained from low-carbon sources in 2020. While this figure has increased over the years, it’s not enough to meet the net-zero targets set out by the government. It’s also not enough to counteract the effects of the Ukraine war and sanctions on Russia.

Although moving away from fossil fuels altogether is a job for those in higher power, if the news headlines are anything to go by, we as consumers are beginning to wake up to the reality of fossil fuels. 

If you’re interested in reducing your own reliance on fossil fuels, a quick online search for “renewable energy suppliers” or “green energy providers” should help you discover companies that are not relying so much on fossil fuels to provide energy. And if you’d like to find some ways to conserve the energy you do use, have a read of our articles about saving water or these easy ways to save energy at home.

Buying clothes that last

Now that everything is getting more expensive, buying one better quality second-hand jumper instead of two cheap jumpers from a fast fashion store doesn’t seem as strange of an idea. Buying poor quality clothes and replacing them within a mere few weeks once they lose their shape has become the norm in many parts of Western society. But, as fast fashion will be affected by inflation too, people are starting to turn to more sustainable long-term options.

Boohoo’s profits are down this year, and while they say it is thanks to post-pandemic consumer habits, it’s worth considering that it could be partly due to an increase in awareness about sustainability. According to this research, 82% of consumers are saying that they’re thinking about sustainability more so than they were before the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s no longer cost-efficient to buy poor quality clothes. Charity shops and other second-hand retailers are becoming more attractive as people look for quality items that will last, at a very similar price point to some fast fashion retailers. One report even predicts that the secondhand market is going to overtake fast fashion by 2030, growing much faster than traditional retail.

Growing food

Not everyone has the time or space to grow their own food, but food shortages and increasing food costs in mainstream supermarkets will be a wake-up call for many. It’s revealed how fragile and easily broken our food system is, with a heavy reliance on imported food which can be disrupted as quickly as you could say ‘lockdown.’

The volume of vegetables grown at home increased by 3% in 2020, and home-grown fruit increased by 16%. This is partly due to people having plenty of time at home to dedicate to their new gardening hobbies, but many are now also realising that they can no longer, or don’t want to, rely fully on big supermarkets to feed them. The supermarkets are becoming more expensive by the day, with little sign of slowing down.

Kitchen gardens and growing your own food is nothing new, especially in tougher times. During World War II, and into the 1950s, food production at home was hugely popular and helped people to live a simpler, more frugal life, which helped to save money and preserve resources.

Want a really quick way of starting to grow your own food at home? Check out our post on windowsill gardening. Or if you have access to more space or an allotment, try this guide to allotment gardening for the whole family.

Reusing what you have

One of the easiest, most hassle-free ways we can slice the cost of our expenses is by reusing what we have. We’ve already touched upon fast fashion and secondhand clothes, but inflation is forcing many of us to think in new, creative ways when we need new things. Sewing up old clothes, learning how to fix furniture instead of replacing it, and sending electronics for battery replacement or repair, instead of throwing it out in favour of a new one are all ways to save costs and the environment.

Cooking cheaper veggie/vegan meals

A 500g packet of beef mince varies from £1.80 to £4, and would usually be enough for 3–4 people. While meat replacements are not always cheaper, it’s easy to cut costs by making a black eye bean chilli rather than one with beef mince – 500g of black eye beans costs around £1.50, which would be around 8–10 portions.

We’re not here to pressure anyone into overhauling their diet, particularly if they aren’t able to right now, but making a few swaps per week (meat-free Mondays, anyone?) can do drastic things for the planet and global warming. Apparently, if everyone in New York City chose to eat a veggie burger instead of a 1/4lb beef burger once per week, it would save the equivalent CO2 emissions from charging 2.6 billion smartphones.

You might not be ready to go fully vegan or vegetarian yet – if that’s the case, why not try one of these easy and delicious flexitarian recipes?

Rethink travel and transport options

With the rising cost of living, many people are opting for taking holidays closer to home, as the cost of overseas travel becomes more of a luxury. Opting for trips that don’t require plane travel is an obvious way to reduce our carbon footprint, but reassessing our day-to-day travel is also important.

With fuel prices rising, travelling by car is no longer the cheap, convenient option it used to be. If you’re keen to reduce costs and live more sustainably at the same time, considering whether any of your regular journeys could be done by train (or even by bike or on foot) can really help.

Refurbished tech

Gone are the days when we are all sucked in by clever marketing and desperate to buy the latest model of smartphone, brand new. The reality now for a lot of us is that keeping on-trend and buying the next iPhone whatever-number-they’re-on isn’t within our budgets.

The refurbished tech market is not only an incredibly cost-effective way to upgrade your gadgets, but it’s also much better for the environment. A lot of mining of rare, precious metals is needed to create a smartphone, and developing electronics has a high carbon footprint. While the devices themselves don’t ‘emit’ carbon, a huge amount of energy is required to ship the materials to a factory, and then ship the goods around the world.

How Ailuna can help

Ailuna was created primarily to help you to build long-lasting habits that are good for you and for the planet. A side-effect of many sustainable habits and initiatives is that they can help us all to save money, too.

We don’t want to be seen to be trying to capitalise on hard times – after all, we are experiencing them too. This is why we’re feeling even more passionate about working together to help people save money and make planet-friendly decisions at the same time.

If you’ve not yet discovered our community of people who want to make the world a better place, download the Ailuna app today and accept your first dare. If you’re looking for actions that will help save money and the planet, we suggest the “Save Water, Save Energy” or the “Fight Food Waste” dares.

For more sustainable living tips and advice, give us a follow on Instagram @Ailunacommunity.

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