For decades we’ve been hearing about the looming climate crisis — watching documentaries and special reports highlighting rising temperatures, overflowing landfills, and increased carbon emissions and their impact on our planet.
It’s easy to think of sustainability only in terms of ecological impacts, but sustainability and money are inextricably woven through everyday decisions like how we chose to travel, the clothing we wear, the energy use in our homes and businesses, and who and what we choose to support financially.
The climate crisis is costing us in more ways than one, and you’d be shocked at just how much. So how can we be more mindful in our day-to-day financial decisions to make sustainability a priority?
To learn more about financial sustainability, I sat down with longtime friend Moji Igun of Blue Daisi Consulting — a sustainability consulting agency supporting businesses in becoming zero waste facilities.
Moji is a TRUE Zero Waste Advisor with a Certificate in Sustainable Business from the University of Washington Tacoma, where she learned the benefits of tackling business challenges with a sustainability mindset. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Zero Waste Washington.
I asked Moji to answer a few questions about her zero waste lifestyle, the true cost of sustainability, and ways we can help create a better and more sustainable world.
1. What are the financial implications of being sustainable vs. being unsustainable?
It’s really difficult to put a firm number on this because there are so many different factors to consider.
Scientists have created many models to predict what the world will look like if we allow climate change to continue at its current rate. A couple of EPA economists found that climate change could cost the U.S. economy $500 billion every year by 2090. The most significant losses are coming from mortality due to extreme heat, loss of labor productivity, and coastal property destroyed by rising sea levels.
According to the World Health Organization, climate change is expected to cause an estimated $2-4 billion in direct damage costs to human health per year by 2030.
2. You’re living a zero waste lifestyle. Can you tell me what that means and how you put it into practice?
Zero waste describes an aspirational future where our society has created systems that allow us to reduce waste and avoid sending any trash to the landfill. To me, living a zero waste lifestyle means doing whatever I can to work towards that future. It has completely shifted the way I interact with the world around me.
The “zero” part of zero waste can overwhelm some people, so if another term works better for you, go with that! Low waste, low impact, frugal, cost-savvy, eco-friendly, green…
As long as it guides you in a direction that helps you practice being kinder to the planet, I encourage it all!
I also see zero waste as a lens through which we can view the world. It encourages us to look at how we can adjust our consumption and production habits through intentional and consistent action. It’s not about perfection. It’s about doing what we can and practicing those habits every day.
Get Started: Manage Your Spending for Greater Impact
3. Do you think it is more expensive to be environmentally friendly in the short run or on a personal level?
It can be! Many sustainable alternatives to everyday products require a more significant investment upfront as compared to conventional products.
I can understand that it can be frustrating to want to choose more sustainable options just to be put off by the cost. We still live within a society that doesn’t allow us to easily prioritize the environment, so it’s important to consider all the tradeoffs beyond just dollars and cents.
Always do what makes the most financial sense for you.
4. What changes have you made in your personal life, and has your work with the Blue Daisi given you insight on this? How much would you estimate this saves/costs you in a year?
I got rid of my car a few years ago. I moved from Madison, WI, where driving was ubiquitous, to Seattle, WA, where public transit is much easier to navigate. That switch saved me over $500 per month in lease payments, insurance, fuel, etc.
I also don’t buy new clothes very often. I buy investment pieces to last me years and rent for special occasions. My clothing budget is only a couple hundred dollars each year. Those are just a couple of examples, but I’m much more intentional about the way I spend my money overall.
Working with my clients has proven to me that small business owners also want to live according to their values. They want to offer more sustainable options but sometimes the costs can be prohibitive.
With the savings I’ve found in areas like transportation and clothing, I’m able to support these types of businesses, so they are more likely to be able to make the sustainable shifts they want to make. Again, I recognize this isn’t feasible for everyone, but this is how I use my privilege to build the world I want to live in.
5. Are there any things that people can do that are both financial and environmental wins?
You can stick to a budget that aligns with your values. I pause before every purchase that falls outside of my basic needs.
Not only do I make sure I’m thoughtful about how I spend my money so I can continue to be financially healthy, but I make sure I’m being intentional about what kind of businesses I’m supporting with my hard-earned dollars.
I prioritize small, local businesses who also value our relationship to the environment. This means my money can fund the things I truly believe in.
6. How can we vote with our dollars to promote sustainability?
There are so many ways to have your money help build a more sustainable and equitable world. If you’re just scraping by, use that money to take care of yourself and the people around you. Sustainability can look like keeping ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy.
Learn More: How to Manage Your Household Budget
If you have some extra disposable income, look for sustainable shifts you can make in your daily life and support local political candidates who support sustainability at the systemic level. And if your money is burning a hole in your pocket, look for ways to put that money to work.
You can help fund investments in renewable energy (or other sustainable infrastructure) and contribute to local community orgs led by people of color that are doing important work for environmental justice.
Reversing the effects of the climate crisis will be a massive group effort of individuals and small businesses alike. People like Moji are leading the charge and showing us that something as simple as changing a few every day habits can really make a difference.
A few key takeaways from my conversation with Moji:
- Something is better than nothing — don’t let the word “zero” hold you back from starting
- Don’t let sticker shock of sustainable alternatives keep you from recognizing their long-term value over cheaper/easier options
- Support local businesses and political candidates that value a relationship to the environment
- Invest in renewable energy and local environmental justice organizations led by people of color
As you make money decisions for sustainability, I recommend scheduling a monthly date with yourself for some good ol’ financial self-care. During this time, you’ll make a note of any mindless purchases and how you can avoid making them in the future. You’ll also spend time canceling unwanted or forgotten subscriptions, looking for fraud, checking your account balances in full, and making sure you are advancing toward your financial goals. By using Personal Capital, I’m able to see all of my accounts in one place, so my money dates go a lot more smoothly. In this way, I’m better able to make the money decisions that align with my values.
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