Monday, December 15, 2014

Green Living and Frugal Living: Friends or Foes?

The Climate Crusader is contemplating how green living and frugal living go hand-in-hand...and how they don't.

Last week I got one of those phone calls that is never a whole lot of fun - I was laid off from my part-time job as an editor. I was planning to leave the position late this summer, because I'm going back to school full-time in September to earn my teaching credentials. I am very lucky in that losing my job now is not the end of the world for me, and simply hastens the inevitable. However, it does mean that I'm losing seven months of income I was counting on. 2015 is going to be a very frugal year for me.

As I was thinking about how I could save money, I was struck by the many ways that frugal living is also green living. I was also struck by the many ways that it's not.

Green Living and Frugal Living are Friends

Here are five ways that living on the cheap also means taking care of the earth.
  1. Thrift Store Shopping - Buying clothes, toys, household items, books and so on second hand saves you money and reduces your carbon footprint. You're reusing something that might otherwise go into the landfill, and saving the earth the strain of having to make something new.
  2. Buying Less - Reducing your consumption trims your budget and your environmental impact. If you don't really need something, then not buying it means that you're conserving the resources that would have gone into making it.
  3. Gardening - Growing food from seed is cheap. It also reduces your food miles, which is good for the planet. Plus, by choosing sustainable gardening practices you're helping to protect the whole ecosystem.
  4. Eating Less Meat - Eating less meat will reduce your food bill. It will also cut down your carbon footprint, because growing an animal for food has a much higher environmental impact than growing vegetables.
  5. Turn Down the Heat - Turning down the thermostat in the winter will save you money on your monthly energy bill. It will also reduce your carbon footprint. Just find a second-hand sweater and you're set.

Green Living and Frugal Living are Enemies

Here are four ways that green living conflicts with frugal living - and suggestions for how to overcome the conflict.

  1. Buying Organic - Opting for organic food is a green choice. However, organic food is more expensive than its conventional counterpart. You can reduce the expense by opting to buy organic where it matters most - look up the dirty dozen - as well as by reducing your food waste and preserving food in season.
  2. Buying Green Cleaning Products - Cleaning your house with toxic substances is not good for the earth or for you. Once again, though, green products are much more expensive. You can reduce the expense by making your own cleaners, or cleaning with inexpensive, non-toxic substances like baking soda and vinegar.
  3. Buying Reusables - In the long run, investing in reusable containers for food, reusable water bottles and reusable bags can save you money. In the short term, though, the price tag can be stiff. I've found that buying a few items when I can afford them, and taking care of them well, has helped to mitigate the expense.
  4. Eco-Expensive Gear - There are some really expensive green products out there - think Tesla cars, fancy kitchen appliances, sustainably-produced high fashion, and so on. It's easy to have eco envy when you see people with very cool and expensive gear. Luckily, most of these products are not really necessary, and there are many more affordable options.
How do you go green and save green at the same time?


Betsy Escandon said...

So true - some green steps save money, some cost money. I've always tried to balance the two: make a cost-saving change while making a cost-reducing one (i.e., buy organic wheat and make my own bread!). However, in terms of the long view (health, durability of goods), I think the green view is always more frugal. And in terms of the world view long-term, being green is definitely the way to preserve the livability of our planet : )

Green Bean said...

Interesting juxtaposition. I know sometimes people try to be frugal by using coupons for food that is less than healthy or by shop at Walmart for deals. The reality is that those strategies, while short term frugal, are not frugal in the long term. Communities lose jobs when everyone shops for cheap goods at Walgreens. Food stuffed with HCFS will cause long term health problems.


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