I’m on what I like to call a College Budget. In other words, 90% of my money is spent on food and alcohol. The rest of it is either spent on household supplies, trips to the mountains (aka therapy), concert tickets, the rare purchase of new clothing, or–and this almost never happens–saved. So anything beyond that very short list of what I believe to be necessities (yes, I did just call alcohol a “necessity”), I find it difficult to spend money on other stuff.
Unfortunately, sustainable products can be quite expensive. I almost passed out the other day while I was handing over my debit card to purchase $19 organic/natural/whatever mascara. For the cost of a decent bottle of wine (that’s right, I’m back to the alcohol thing), I purchased one solitary tube of makeup. Now I know that plenty of people spend much more on cosmetics. But keep in mind I am cheap and my College Budget doesn’t allow for many luxuries. And this mascara would certainly be considered a luxury, especially when compared with the $6 regular/non-natural/also-whatever mascara I buy from any old drug store. To be fair, this was no impulse purchase. I had been thinking about making the switch for months. I’m a big thinker when it comes to spending money on anything but the things on the aforementioned list. So I did some very light research and decided my eyes could use a little less chemicals around them, then I walked over to my local natural beauty store to spend the big bucks for some ethical makeup. I happen to love the new mascara, but this purchase made me think about the cost of my sustainable values–both long term and short term.
I break down the overall cost of sustainability into three different subcategories: monetary cost, convenience cost, and social cost.
Let me just cut to the chase before I even get into the specifics though. In the end–considering monetary, convenience, and social costs it is all still worth it–but if you want to know why it’s worth it, read on. Otherwise, here’s an adorable thing that happened to me the other day for your viewing pleasure:
This one is pretty straightforward. On mascara alone I paid $13 more on the hippie-dippie kind. This applies across the board if I’m not careful. On the days I choose to shop at my local health food store, Earth Fare, I have to be very meticulous about what I buy. On an average shopping trip to a store like Kroger, I end up spending around $40. I try to keep that budget in mind when I’m at Earth Fare and I generally walk away with a good amount of groceries. The main reason I can accomplish this is because I set the expectations really low and only shop for items on sale or at a reasonable price. This is what I was able to get last time I went to Earth Fare for under $45:
- Italian Bread Bagguette
- Coosa Yogurt (fancy and awesome)
- Dark chocolate covered toasted coconut pieces from the bulk section (best dessert ever)
- Two cans of organic soup
- Two boxes of pasta
- One organic frozen meal
- Fresh goat cheese
- Four boxes of organic mac n cheese (awesome emergency dinner)
- Fresh lemons (for tea, water, etc.)
- Ginger candies (for motion sickness)
- Meal bars for energy
I mean, that’s not bad. I got a lot of groceries and most of those items last a long time (lemons, pasta, mac n cheese). I consider this a pretty good deal. Plus, I get to go on a nice walk to Earth Fare (only 1 mile from my apartment). Oh and I actually look ADORABLE carrying a baguette on a long, patient walk home. Very European and, again, adorable.
I argue with myself and others often: does convenience actually equate to monetary value? Does the fact that I don’t have to grocery shop or cook make my school’s $14/day meal plan worth it? What about the $17/day that they charge over the summer?
And what about the convenience of having a car? I loved having the freedom to get places quickly, be independent, and chauffeur my friends around to do fun things when they visit. But more often than not, having a car was more of an inconvenience. Cars need to be maintained, insured, fed gas, cleaned, and parked in the right spot. It’s a huge burden if you ask me. And the overall convenience of having a car could never beat the overall convenience of not having one. Let me prove my point with a multiple choice question:
Which of the following would you rather do?
a. Pay $150 to tow your car and your pissed off self to your destination because your car broke down.
b. Pay $50 to fill up a tank of gas and then proceed to your destination.
c. Pay $1.50 to have someone else drive you to your destination while you nap, read a book, or catch up with an old friend on the phone.
d. Find money for gas on the street but then drive to your parents house a little bit hungover and a-lot-a-bit tired from a long week of studying (aka partying). You throw up on the way to their house. In a solo cup. While driving.
Did I make my point? I feel like it’s safe to move on.
This is the big one for me right now. I have so many friends and family members who understand me and love me for all my quirks–including all the sustainable actions I have incorporated into my life. These are the friends who lend me their cars or drive me to the grocery store when I need something specific, come to “green” events with me, text me when they recycle, and never complain if I decide not to shower for a few too many days. I could not be luckier and I don’t feel like I’m participating in these sustainable actions–even the most extreme of them–at the cost of my existing relationships. I haven’t lost friends over my lifestyle. But have I lost potential relationships as a result?
I’m at the point in my life where I am starting to think about (and I did say starting… no rush here, people) sharing my life with someone. I want this person to understand me and love me and play in the dirt with me. Oh, and a nice beard, perfect eyes, strong arms, and washboard abs would not be the worst thing in the world. If I become this perfectly sustainable version of myself, will I be too extreme to attract someone who could be a really perfect match for me?
The bottom line is that I may never know the answer to that. And until I go through a lot of trial and error I won’t know whether or not my values and actions are putting up a wall between me and all the good looking, single, Jewish men out there. Speaking of those men, anyone out there? No? Okay, back to the point. This is one cost I’m going to continue to assess. It’s totally worth it for me to spend a little extra money at the grocery store if I am purchasing ethically. It’s definitely worth it for me to spend a little extra time traveling if it means I can do it all with public transportation.
It comes down to the social cost. Is it worth it? Maybe I’ll change my mind one day and assess what habits need to go if I want a man to stay. More to come on this I’m sure. Just perhaps not for a few years. I’m too busy playing with goats and loving my life to care too much about meeting people who don’t immediately love me for me… and all the crazy that comes with me.