Cultivating a Conservation Mindset

There’s a lot of great advice available these days for people who want to run a frugal, low-footprint home or workplace. The Journey to Zero-Waste group and the Riot for Austerity group (both linked in the sidebar) are my main go-to’s for crowdsourced wisdom.

But how are you supposed to remember all the great tips so you’ll have them available when you need them? Well, you could write them down. Start a mini “filing cabinet” of your favorites. Use one of those old-school recipe boxes that hold index cards; or use the notepad app on your phone; or start a file on your computer.

But my personal favorite approach is simpler: Cultivate a “conservation mindset.” Your version of “conservation focus” could be saving money, saving fossil fuels, or (maybe my favorite of all) eliminating unnecessary labor.

So, for example, take mopping the floor. When I have guests or housemates, I inevitably spend more time mopping up spills. Recently I have been optimizing the level of water, and amount of soap (or vinegar, essential oil, etc.), to put in the mop bucket, so there is just enough water to get the mopping done, and no water left over in the bucket.

Now, with my water-optimization approach, I may be saving, what, a quart or two of water? In money terms, maybe a penny or two’s worth of water, a nickel’s worth of cleaner? Not much in money terms or water-conservation terms (unless you happen to live in the desert, which I don’t — yet). I do love saving water and resources though.

But the real savings is in labor and brain-energy: Not having a bunch of dirty soapy water to dispose of. Sure, I can dump it on the mulch pile (which I have been known to do). And if the water is not filthy, I can use the leftover soapy water to clean the toilet, which comes in handy. It’s nice to have the choice though! Having no leftover water saves me a step in my cleaning.

By cultivating a conservation mindset, you turn your brain into an endless fountain of creativity, positively gushing with useful tips that are custom-made for your life. It’s simple to cultivate a conservation mindset: Just reflect on how much you enjoy saving money, resources, time, labor, or all of the above. Enjoy!