Live a Slower, Less Expensive, and More Purposeful Life: a Teen’s 10 Tips for Recycling and Reuse

By contributing writer Susan Sachs Lipman.  Suz is the author of the new book Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving Worldwhich contains a foreword written by her daughter Anna.

Photo:  Susan Sachs Lipman

Many of us are trying to do our part to help the planet. In our family we’ve seen that thoughtful consumption, use and reuse can also help us lead slower, less expensive, more purposeful, and more family-centered lives.

The biggest influence on my relatively green habits has been my daughter, Anna. From a young age, she showed great concern about our environment and the world she would inhabit.

Plastic waste in the oceans and in our landfills upset her so much that she embarked on a lifestyle of extremely limited consumption of plastic, oil, paper, water and other non-local or non-sustainable goods, which she has followed for about the last eight of her 17 years. She bikes to school and errands.

She buys little and often reuses or upcycles clothing and other items, by embellishing them or piecing them together to create new items.  She uses reusable bags, water and food containers, and water-bottle holsters, like these:

Photo:  Susan Sachs Lipman

Dovetailing with Anna’s desire to use less is a desire to spend less. She sees these two practices as intertwined. Saving resources results in financial savings, and vice versa. Both also result in time savings, and the ability to spend precious time engaged in fun hobbies and with friends, rather than shopping and consuming.

Through Anna I’ve learned that, as conscious as many of us try to be, there is much work to be done, if we really want to change our habits and be thoughtful consumers and good stewards of the Earth. She recently sat down with me to offer her top ten suggestions for reuse, using less, and ultimately saving money, while conserving natural resources.

1. Bring your own shopping bag, instead of using plastic.

Only buy as much as you can carry.

2. Bring your own utensils.

Camping sets are very inexpensive at army surplus stores.

3. Turn off faucets and lights when they’re not in use.

4. Don’t spend money just because you can.

You will end up wasting money. Focus on what you really need. Put yourself on a budget. Sometimes you have to decide whether you want one large thing or multiple smaller things.

5. Try to go to local stores and buy local goods.

This eliminates imports and the transportation they require.

6. Bike or walk instead of driving.

7. Get out in nature.

This will immediately make you want to recycle and help our environment because you’ll appreciate where you are.

8. Use your local library.

9. Buy second-hand clothes and upcycle them.

10. Stop buying plastic bottles.

Photo: Poor Planet

Americans purchase 29 billion plastic bottles of water each year. This takes 17 million barrels of crude oil to make, enough fuel to keep one million vehicles on the road for a year. The energy used to pump, process, transport and refrigerate bottled water takes an additional 50 million barrels of oil each year.

The creation and transportation of plastic causes much of the world’s pollution. Bottles in the landfill take centuries to decompose and many end up on our beautiful shores and in our oceans. It’s easy to see why limiting plastic consumption figured in three of Anna’s ten recommendations.

It’s been humbling and refreshing to be enlightened by my own daughter and to watch her grow into a thoughtful and resourceful young person. I’m delighted to think that there are many more like Anna who are conscientious consumers and educators. Her tips can easily be put into practice by anyone who wants to make small changes that will have large ripple effects on their lives and the life of the planet.

Susan Sachs Lipman (Suz)Susan Sachs Lipman (Suz) is the author of Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which grew out of her award-winning blog, Slow Family Online. She has written for the New York Times Motherlode blog and the Christian Science Monitor’s Modern Parenthood blog and is the Social Media Director for the international Children & Nature Network.  A longtime Girl Scout leader, Suz enjoys gardening, hiking, soap crafting and food canning. She lives with her husband and daughter in Mill Valley, California.

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  • Wall Quotes May 13, 2013, 2:18 pm

    Cleaning up the environment is a great way to get exercise too! Keep fit and help the earth – great combo!

  • Suz @ Slow Family April 17, 2013, 2:37 pm

    Thank you all so much for your lovely comments! I really appreciate them and will pass them on to Anna. Michelle, I’m thrilled that you’re sharing with Girl Scouts. That’s where we learned a lot about recycling and participated in fun projects to help our local environment. Leah, we have also made shampoo bars to cut down on waste. Because we already make soap, we have reusable soap molds, into which go a mix of: a bar of Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap, shaved; about 1/4 tsp. of almond or a similar oil; and a few drops of fragrance or essential oils. They’re economical and fun to make and use!

  • Shari April 8, 2013, 8:36 pm

    Thank you so much for this list and for your blog. I was on another website that linked to some of your free downloadables and became immediately hooked!

    I have been tossing around many ideas of my own for a similar blog for my home community. I’m a devout believer of living within your means (but also enjoying life) and the means of the planet (and enjoying the planet). You have some terrific articles and ideas here!

    • Amy April 9, 2013, 6:14 am

      Hi Shari,

      Thank you so much for stopping by. I’m so glad to hear you are on the same page.


  • Dwight E. April 5, 2013, 5:04 pm

    Me and my wife are trying to spend more times outside, so I love how all of these tips have a go out and enjoy nature to them. Thanks for sharing!

  • Michelle March 26, 2013, 10:59 pm

    Way to go, Anna! I’m going to share this post with my Girl Scouts. She’s a great role model for them.

  • Jeffrey Willius March 26, 2013, 1:13 pm

    This is great, Suz. Anna gives me hope for hers and coming generations!

  • Leah March 26, 2013, 12:12 pm

    Nice list, Suz! I have been trying to buy less plastic – one of the things I discovered is handmade shampoo bars (I get them on This is one way to get rid of buying plastic containers for bathroom supplies.