This spring, we’re dedicating our blog to the idea of consuming less, a good way to explore how much is enough for today. That doesn’t mean that you need to give up everything you own and go live in a tree (though that’s great if you do, and many of us feel like we’d love to do that about once a day!). This month, however, we’re dedicating our time to giving you ideas on how you can consume less in reasonable ways in things that you do every day. Today’s topic? How to consume less at the movies.

Whether you’re headed out to the Cineplex or staying in for a movie night at home, it’s not that hard for an evening of enjoyment to become an evening of consumption. We don’t want anybody to give up enjoying the thrill of a good movie, but it’s not that hard to make small changes that will result in a big impact when it comes to the planet, your wallet and even your health. Here are our favorite seven tips for consuming less when you’re enjoying a movie.

Tip Number One: Eat Before You Go to the Movies

Large popcorns, over-sized boxes of candy and enormous beverages are all staples of any movie theater and, for many people, movie theater visits. In addition to all of the waste that they generate (think about how many times you’ve left a movie theater popcorn order or gallon of soda half-full at the end of a movie), they’re bad for your health. It’s an uphill battle to avoid them though. Not only are our minds conditioned to associate these types of food with a night at the movies but our wallets are conditioned to get the most for the least money. Almost all movie theaters price popcorn and soda so that it’s exponentially cheaper (by volume) to buy the larger size. A great way to avoid generating waste (as well as eating something you’ll regret later) is to be sure that you’ve eaten before you go to the theater. If you’re less hungry, you’ll be less tempted to order enormous snacks and beverages.

Tip Number Two: Bring Your Own Beverage

Yes, a lot of this list will be about food and beverages, but there’s so much waste and consumption generated by the absurd sizes of snacks at movie theaters that it’s hard to avoid the topic! If you can possibly manage it given the rules at most movie theaters, put a reusable water bottle full of your favorite (healthy) beverage in your bag before you go into a movie. That will not only avoid your purchasing a gallon of soda, but it will also mean that one less single-use bottle, cup, straw or plastic lid is used. Movies are long and it’s difficult to get through them without being thirsty, but it’s not always difficult to be responsible about what you drink and what kind of container it’s in.

Tip Number Three: Make Wise Decisions About What Movies You Support

Many of us love a good action thriller movie. There’s nothing wrong with spending your money to see any type of movie, but you should be aware of what you’re supporting when you do. Do your homework about the actual cost and waste of an average blockbuster movie. What you find out may leave you scratching your head. While it may not make you want to skip the next visual-effect driven master movie, it’s important that when we support high-consumption industries we do so with the knowledge of what it is that we’re supporting.

Tip Number Four: Loving a Movie Doesn’t Mean That You Need to Buy Merchandise

These days, making a movie isn’t just about making a movie and then making money from the ticket sales. Merchandising movies has become a huge part of the business model. That’s true of all films, but especially of children’s movies. Loving a movie, however, doesn’t mean that you (or your child) needs to own every piece of merchandise associated with it. In fact, heavily merchandised children’s movies are often a great opportunity to teach your child about setting limits with “stuff.” That’s not to say that you should deny your child a toy associated with a beloved movie or movie character. What you can do, however, is be clear with your child that he or she can have one toy associated with a movie and should choose wisely and think it through. Remember, it’s one thing to love a movie or a character, it’s another thing to think that the only way to express that love is by purchasing “stuff.”

Tip Number Five: Look for the Recycling Bins

Most movie theaters make it easy to throw your trash out. The garbage bins (HUGE ones) are right outside of the door when you exit the movie so that you can dump the remainders of your huge movie theater snacks into them. But often times, the few and limited recycling bins are pushed to the side and near the actual concession stand. In short, they’re nowhere near where you’d be when you came out of the movie with your recyclable containers! You just sat for close to (if not more than) two hours. It’s good for you to take the slight extra walk to the recycling bin, and it’s good for the planet to make sure that your recyclable items are put into the recycling bin.

Tip Number Six: Have a Movie Night In

Sometimes, not only does it reduce consumption to spend a night in but it also reduces stress level (and spend). We’re not advocating that you never leave your home, and we certainly understand that some movies are best experienced on the largest screen possible. But when you spend a movie night in, you reduce the consumption from traveling to the movie theater, the excessive energy of running a movie theater, the snacks, the paper tickets and many other small wastes that add up. As an added benefit, you get to stay in your sweatpants and you also can choose healthier and more sustainable food to eat while enjoying your movie night in. Also, an often overlooked benefit of home movie nights instead of going out to the movies is that you avoid the stress caused by traffic, parking and rude movie theater patrons. Stress reduction is one of the keys to finding the satisfaction of enough for today. You don’t need to forget attending a movie again, but occasionally opt for a more environmentally-friendly, cost-friendly and low stress movie night in.

Tip Number Seven: Support Local Businesses

No matter how you look at it, there’s consumption of resources needed to run a movie theater. However, when you support local, independent theaters instead of big box theaters you’re by default supporting more eco-friendly practices. Buying local is important in everything that you do – and that includes in your choice of where you see movies.

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