5 Mental Habits for Cutting Consumption

By Sami Grover, Planet Green

I often hear folks arguing that environmentalism is all about sacrifice—giving up this, banning that. But from eating less meat to requesting smaller portions, often we can cut back on our consumption without giving up our guilty pleasures completely. Heck, it can even be a great way to rediscover and revalue things we have come to take for granted.

And because going green often saves money, a recession is a great time to start reevaluating your consumption patterns. Add to that the mass of clutter and stuff that seems to just accumulate, all on its own, over the holidays, and things can get downright messy. In my own efforts to buy less, save more, and reduce the amount I consume, I’ve found myself developing a few mental habits and strategies for asking myself what I really want, and how badly.

Here are a few to get you started, but I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Mental Habits for Cutting Consumption

1. A Little Less: Cutting portion sizes in the restaurant, buying a regular instead of a large latte, sticking with a smaller TV. These are all ways we can reduce our material consumption. So each time you make a purchase, ask yourself, do you really need to super size?

2. Maybe Tomorrow: I often hear financial advice on the radio advising folks to skip that morning cappu-fracu-mocha-wocha-chino. But what if you look forward to it? How about having one every other day, or once a week? If you get takeout pizza every Friday, why not try getting it every other week? It’s simple, but effective—and there’s no doubt it saves you money. Heck, I’ve even stopped showering every morning to save water.

3. What’s the Alternative? OK, so you love your burger. But what about trying a veggie burger? Or you can’t live without your lunchtime hot dog—what about trying a veggie option? Not only are meat free meals greener, they are often cheaper too. And if you’re not ready to make the swap completely, try alternating between the meat and the veggie, the organic and the regular, or whatever it is you are replacing.

4. Avoid Temptation: Nutritionists often advise weight watchers to never shop when they are hungry, and to always make a shopping list. That way you avoid the impulse purchases, which are often the most unnecessary and unhealthy. I use a similar strategy to cut back on my shopping—if I stick to my list, I’m less tempted to opt for that extra bar of chocolate. I even find that shopping online saves the urge to impulse buy—if I go online when I really need something, I’m less likely to start filling up the cart with other unwanted items. As an added bonus, I save gas, time and I create less demand for yet another huge mega-mall.

5. Put It Off: Waiting before you buy can be a great way to evaluate what you really need, especially for big purchases. Even if you end up making the purchase a month later, your new fridge, ceiling fan, TV or whatever will be a month younger and will last a month longer. This stuff adds up. You can apply the same principle to grocery shopping too—procrastinating before you go shopping (aka The Grocery Pause) is a great way to force yourself to use up what you have before filling up the fridge.

8 Ways to Eat Green by Slashing Your Grocery Bill
Get On Board the Non-Consumption Train
Don’t Buy: Lend, Swap, Share, Borrow!


Carol S.
Carol S5 years ago

Thanks...very small steps here :)

Nicole Andrea
Nicole Andrea5 years ago

This is a great article, thanks. I needed it today, because I was at my wit's end trying to come up with a financial solution. The 'Grocery Pause' is a fantastic idea for me, and so is trying to reduce the frequency of the things I do that I also take for granted, e.g. showering daily, drinking coffee daily, having fastfood pizza every couple of weeks.

Genoveva M.
Genoveva M M5 years ago

Thanks for this article.

Val M.
Val M5 years ago


Janet G.
Janet G5 years ago

With excessive consumption being at the root of climate change, realising how little we really do 'need' helps the Earth. It's win-win :-)

Kirsten Mcculloch

I think switching to the veggie option is a great way to make a small change - try joining a meatless Monday challenge, good for the environment, your wallet, AND your health! And if you already do meatless Monday, Why not add a meatless Thursday?

Another tip is to make use of libraries, and other rotating/lending programs in your area. For instance there are often toy libraries you can join for a minimal fee, which means kids can have access to fresh toys, without your house becoming cluttered with them, AND the kids also learn the value of using but not owning.

Pat P.
Pat P5 years ago

I recycle everything I can, and buy whatever possible second-hand. I have a beautiful wardrobe of expensive clothes, many brand new, that I paid little for. The same with furniture and furnishings. If I am only going to use an item once or twice, I definitely will get it used, if possible. I really conserve on water by taking fewer showers, just use some alcohol under the arms or vinegar/water/witch hazel mix--very hygienic. My showerhead can be adjusted to just drip while lathering. We Americans are ridiculously overwashed! Instead of worrying about how expensive organics can be, spend less on meat and junk foods, and see how much lower your bills can be and much healthier you are. I'm chronically ill and house-bound so I buy most things I absolutely need on line and rarely pay any shipping. I deal with companies where if I order a certain $ amount, free shipping. I only use A/C when it's really steamy, choosing ceiling fans most of the time. It's amazing what you can get use to and not feel you are sacrificing anything. Of course, I occasionally splurge, but most of the time I am pretty frugal, and it's been a good thing. I wouldn't have what I have today, if not for it. Stop buying so much "stuff". One day when you are older, you will wonder why you have so much clutter, and will have a huge headache trying to get rid of most of it!

Carl C.
Carline C5 years ago

Thanks for the article. My only comment would be.. Watch out for the online shopping! Go out your door and shop local!! To help our economy (and neighbours) we should try to buy local as often as possible. I will pay a little more to the butcher down the block then drive to the supermarket. I would suggest we all pay a little more to avoid the giant big box stores. IMO :-)

Sandi O'Donovan
Sandra O'Donovan5 years ago

Yes, I have to do some of the above, mostly due to the recession here in Ireland plus things are so costly here... I always make a grocery list and buy a box of latte's in the supermarket instead of buying a small one, which could cost anything up to 3.75 euro depending on which coffee place you go to...Eating out has been cut out, only for birthday's or a special occasion, have been favouring vegetarian of late instead of meat plus the 'Horse meat' scandal has put me right off Beef! Small step's I always say... Thanks for the other tips too....

Ana Passos
Past Member 6 years ago