How to be Poor and Environmentally Conscious

The following is a guest post from Kyle over at 21andbroke.  Kyle writes about life and advice for the real world. This is a site for current students, recent graduates, and other young people who are in that strange phase of life where everyone expects them to suddenly be adults.  I know the feeling and the group of people that Kyle is trying to reach, because I am one.  Enjoy!

A. H. Allyn Mansion by cliff1066™.
[Image Credit: Cliff1066 on Flickr]
After my newfound friend Jeff and I decided to swap guest posts this week I was left with the classic blogger’s dilemma. An empty, white, and very blank word processor taunting me. What was I going to write that was both sustainable and relevant to poor college students? That’s when it hit me. College and early adulthood can be the most sustainable times of your life. In fact, being frugal often leads to increased sustainability without even trying.
Think for a moment about all the reasons Americans are chastised for not being “Green”. That big SUV driving from the suburbs to the strip mall, endless rows of McMansions costing thousands just to heat, massive boats, and the list goes on. Students don’t normally have these things because they can’t afford them. Many students don’t drive at all, choosing instead to walk to class or work. And you might knock it for the comfort, but few things are as efficient as cramming 20 students down a dorm room hallway. That meal of ramen they had earlier this week? It didn’t put out nearly as much CO2 as that five-course steak dinner being served for the business executives downtown.
I’m not trying to say that the key to sustainable living is eating noodles every night. There’s no need to “rough it”. After all, I wouldn’t want to spend my whole life living in a dorm. But if more people thought like starving students the world could be better off. Okay, maybe not thinking like the students who have the front yard-turned-landfill every Sunday morning. I’m talking about these hypothetical smart and sustainable students. Thinking like one of these students can save the planet and your pocketbook.
Think of all the ways you can be frugal and sustainable. Pretend you don’t have a car and take the bus. You’ll save on gas. Stop buying paper plates and do some dishes. You’ll save that cost too. Use those thin plastic bags, buy only the living space you truly need, cut back on the Coke and drink a little more water. That last one could even help your health. It just keeps getting better. By cutting life back to the essentials the most important things become abundantly clear.
If you’re a student right now, try to avoid the lifestyle creep that so often comes with that first job after graduation. So often people’s expenses will raise evenly with their income but this doesn’t have to always be the case. There’s no need to go out and buy a new car right away or upgrade to a fancy apartment. Treat yourself, then take that extra income and save it. Put it towards retirement. Pay off that student debt early. Buy some stocks. Live well within your means and you won’t regret. A few years of living life on the cheap now can pay off huge dividends down the line.
While your friends are paying off their credit card debt, their boats, their giant homes, and just beginning to worry about retirement you’ll be well on your way to financial freedom. All this because you took a little time to think like a student.
For more ways to “save like a student” be sure to visit 21andBroke.
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