The overarching theme of the 21st century has become consumption. For every product we purchase, there is packaging to throw away. We use disposable plates, cups, cutlery, and straws because our hectic lives have deemed it too difficult to wash dishes. Even $1000 appliances have become disposable as manufacturers make them more and more difficult and costly to repair.
With this consumption comes garbage. We are creating more trash now than any other point in history. Every time you throw something away, you are throwing away money.
Becoming a producer eliminates a large percentage of that trash. You are eliminating the packaging. You are saving money because you aren’t paying the middle men who are getting your food from the fields to your table. You are reducing your waste because you have a better appreciation for the work and dedication it took to produce that product.
How do we break our addiction to consumerism? Here are 8 steps to you can adopt to become a producer instead of a consumer:
Reduce Energy Usage
The easiest step we can all take to become less of a consumer is to use less energy. Simple steps such as replacing burnt out incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient and longer lasting LED light bulbs will reduce the amount of energy you consume on a daily basis.
You can reduce a lot of energy usage by reducing your usage of high energy appliances like the dishwasher and clothes dryer. Hand wash your dishes after each meal and hang your clothes to dry. A pulley clothesline is easy to install and can reduce or eliminate your dryer usage.
Some other tips for reducing your energy usage:
- Turn off unnecessary lights
- Use natural light
- Use table lamps instead of ceiling lights
- Take shorter showers
- Turn water off when shaving, washing hands, and brushing teeth
- Fix leaky faucets
- Unplug unused electronics and appliances
- Use a programmable thermostat and program it for less usage when you aren’t at home
- Use window coverings to block heat from the sun in the summer
- Use a smaller convection oven for smaller meals that do not require the whole oven – Hint: some microwaves double as convection ovens
- Run full loads of laundry
Cook from Scratch
Cooking from scratch can eliminate a lot of waste and save you money.
Keep it simple if the idea of planning for and cooking daily meals sounds a bit complicated to you. Dinner can be as basic as grilled meat and steamed vegetables. You can also plan themed dinner nights like Taco Tuesday and pizza on Fridays. Keep it simple and focus on meals you know your family will enjoy.
Learn more: 6 Tips to Simplify Dinnertime
If you want to take your cooking skills even further, learn to bake your own bread. Bread from the store uses a lot of packaging and costs approximately three times as much as it takes to make at home. You’ll find that baking your own bread is very rewarding and less difficult than most people think. The best part is practice makes perfect, so your skills are only going to improve as you bake more bread.
Here are four bread recipes everyone should master:
Learn a Skill
Aside from cooking, there are a number of skills you can learn that will in turn reduce what you buy from the store. Learn to sew so you can repair clothes instead of buying new. Learn to knit and crochet so you can make that cute hat you saw in the store. Making your own soap opens up a wide range of possibilities from reducing the chemicals in your home to creating beautiful works of art.
Here are just a few of the skills you can learn to master:
- Soap making
- Wood working
- Sign making
- Seed saving
- Fence installation
The great part about many of these skills is they can double as additional income for your family. Think of skills you currently enjoy that could be improved upon to become extra money for your savings account or to pay off debt. Look at the list above and find a skill you’d like to learn so you can either stop buying products from the store or earn an extra income in the future. What other skills do you enjoy that you don’t see included on this list? Leave a comment below and tell me about it.
Invest in Reusable Products
The more we reuse products, the less we have to purchase and the less waste we create. My journey to self-sufficiency really began when I started cloth diapering my kids. It initially started out of necessity. We had recently become a one-income family and didn’t have the money for disposable diapers. Cloth diapers were a larger investment up front, but they saved us a lot of money in the long run. Plus, I liked the fact we weren’t creating all of that additional garbage. And while we’ve purchased additional cloth diapers over the years, I’m still using some of those original diapers 8 years later.
Another product we have invested in are glass drinking straws. I like that they are clear or opaque, so I can see if they are clean all the way through. They also come in fun colors and designs that my kids enjoy. We have a cloth carrying case we can use to take straws with us when we eat at restaurants, so we are eliminating our plastic straw use everywhere we go. The best part is the straws come with a lifetime warranty, so they are easily replaced if we happen to break one.
Here are more reusable products you can add to your daily life:
- Wool dryer balls
- Reusable food pouches
- Produce bags
- Snack bags
- Menstrual cups
- Unpaper towels
- Silicone lids
- Cloth baby wipes
- Reusable K-cup
- Stainless steal containers
- Glass containers
- Beeswax food wraps
- Reusable water bottles
Regardless of what products you purchase, focus on buying quality items that will last a while and repair those items that break. While a better quality product will cost more initially, it will need to be replaced less often, which will mean less waste and more money saved in the long run.
Grow a Garden
Ultimately, one of the best ways to become a producer instead of a consumer is to grow and produce your own food. While you may be a long way off from producing all of your own food, you can start by growing a few vegetables your family likes to eat. It doesn’t need to mean having a large garden either. Many vegetables can be grown in containers on your porch. Start small and get comfortable with caring for a few vegetables. You can venture into additional varieties and a larger garden as you feel more comfortable.
Learn More: Beginner’s Guide to Growing Tomatoes
Start a Compost Bin
With all of the cooking you’ll be doing, you’ll be producing more kitchen scraps. Don’t throw those scraps in the garbage. Americans throw away an average of a pound of food per person per day. That’s 150,000 tons of food every day. You can reduce that waste by composting most of what would otherwise go in the trash.
Composting can be done on a household level using worms (vermicomposting) or compost tumblers. If you are creating larger quantities of compostable material, you could also pile it in layers with leaf liter and manure to become the gold that will later serve as soil and fertilizer for your garden. However you do it, know that those kitchen scraps are not waste. You can collect them in a countertop compost bucket that is emptied daily into your compost bin outside.
Plant Fruit Trees and Shrubs
Perennial plants like fruit trees and shrubs are a simple way to increase your food production. They are easier to maintain than a vegetable garden and will produce for years if properly established. Many can be incorporated into a suburban landscape, making for an attractive addition as well as a productive one.
Edible perennials to consider:
Learn More: Fruit Tree Care: Planting Fruit Trees
Start a Flock of Chickens or Ducks
Chickens and ducks are both good choices for someone just starting to keep livestock. They don’t require a large barn or fenced in acreage. They don’t eat much. They reproduce easily. They’re fairly entertaining. And they can provide eggs or meat. The only downside is that every predator on the planet likes to eat chicken, so they will require predator protection and a coop built like Fort Knox. Ducks are at even more of a disadvantage because they don’t run fast and most domestic breeds can’t fly.
While many residential areas still have restrictions on keeping poultry, a lot of areas have begun to loosen up on their restrictions. It’s becoming increasingly common for even urban areas to allow up to four hens. Check with your local ordinances before venturing out to the feed store for a few fuzzy little chicks. There is nothing more heartbreaking than watching them grow, then having to get rid of them. If you can’t keep them where you are, talk to your local legislators. Start a petition. Change the laws so your community can be more self-sufficient.
Learn More: Beginner’s Guide to Raising Ducks