Image credit: Cosmic Kitty, used under Creative Commons license.
Not too long ago, I wrote about the green benefits of learning to budget. It's an idea I stand by. After all, getting a better understanding, and ultimately control, of your consumption habits is absolutely central to both reducing your environmental impact and saving money. But would-be thrifty environmentalists need to beware—because there are dangers of false economies for the environment, as well as your wallet. Buying Green Can Be Expensive
In my original post about saving money, some commenters noted the increased cost of more sustainable products, and in many ways they were right. From cleaning products to organic foods, there is no doubt that many greener options are also more expensive options. Whether or not they are worth the extra money will depend very much on the environmental, economic and lifestyle priorities of each individual household's budget. But if you are on a sustainably-minded budgeting kick, it is worth keeping in mind that many of the cheaper options will have external costs—be they direct impacts on your health, or broader societal costs on the environment—somebody somewhere usually ends up paying.
Do It Yourself Can Help
Of course there are plenty of ways to economize by doing-it-yourself, from homebrewing to growing veggies. These options will often not only be the cheapest out there, but DIY solutions offer their own green benefits above and beyond any cost implications.
Economical is Not the Same as Cheap
Where the biggest environmental (and actually economical) risks lie in getting overly money conscious is if we focus solely on price. It's all too easy to get penny wise and pound foolish if you are trying to trim the budget. Not only can this lead to poor quality purchases made with dubious materials or labor practices, but it can also harm your budget as you throw out last year's purchases in favor of this year's new bargain.
I may have annoyed a few people by asking about the carbon footprint of antiques, but there's no doubt that from a budget-focused green perspective that purchasing a well-made, reasonably priced antique will end up saving you money and give you pleasure for years to come. A 200 year-old farmhouse table not only looks better, lasts longer, and uses up less natural resources, it also doesn't depreciate in value like a flat-pack dining table from Ikea. Materialism can be green if it means you truly learn to love and respect your stuff.
The fact is that living green can offer very tangible economic benefits and, vice versa, being aware of how much you spend and what you spend it on can be a great way to help the environment. But whichever is your primary focus, the devil is in the details. Being cheap is not the same as being frugal. And being frugal is only as green as you make it.
More on Sustainability, Economics and Money
Are Antiques Green? Not a Simple Answer
66 Ways to Save Money on Gasoline
Frugal Green Living: Save $1000 Using These Six Tips
What's So Green About Saving Money? Mindfulness & Prioritization