Frugality Is Environmentalism

This story is part of Treehugger's news archive. Learn more about our news archiving process or read our latest news.
CC BY 2.0. Investment Zen

Saving oneself a load of cash is somehow less daunting than striving for environmental virtuousness, but the end result is the same.

Frugality is a popular topic on TreeHugger, not only because our readers like to save money, but also because it connects well to the eco-friendly lifestyle we encourage. Frugality is all about buying less, buying better, and standing up to mindless consumption. Shopping becomes a rare and strategic event, not a hobby. While frugality stems from a desire to conserve money, it has the enormous added benefit of helping the planet.

In an article called, “You Can’t Buy Your Way to Green,” financial independence blogger Mrs. Frugalwoods explains how her family’s journey toward frugality has made her a more environmentally conscious person. She writes: “I’ve always respected natural resources, been a fan of Mother Nature, and loved the outdoors, but it wasn’t until I became a frugal weirdo that I began living a holistically environmental life.”

She goes on to explain in detail the many ways in which trying to save money has translated directly into a decreased carbon footprint and less waste. For example, in an effort to slash electricity and water bills, she and her husband have cut their utility usage significantly. They dry laundry on a clothes rack year-round and buy efficient appliances, but only when they need to be replaced:

“We test the energy consumption of our appliances with an energy use monitor. The beauty of this gadget is that it averages energy usage over time and thus isn’t merely measuring what the appliance utilizes in a given moment... The monitor translates this usage into cold, hard cash –you type in how much you pay per kilowatt hour and it displays how many dollars per month, kilowatt hours, and pounds of CO2 the device in question consumes/emits.”

The Frugalwoods family sticks to a tight food budget, which means that very little gets wasted and they try to grow as much as possible. Cooking from scratch helps. Clothing and furniture are repaired whenever possible, and purchased second-hand if needed. Mrs. Frugalwoods has crossed the “final frontier of frugality” by letting her husband cut her hair, and she has stopped dyeing it, painting her nails, and wearing makeup on a regular basis – cost-saving efforts that result in fewer chemicals in her body and the waste stream.

I appreciated her discussion of home heating and cooling. Similar to the Frugalwoods family, my husband and I do not use air conditioning, preferring to open windows in the early morning and evening, then close them to keep the coolness inside. In winter the thermostat stays at 63 F during the day; it goes down to 53 F at night. Visitors are often cool, which sometimes takes me a while to notice because I’m so used to wearing a sweater, warm socks, and slippers around the house.

No doubt all of these actions will sound familiar to TreeHugger readers, but it’s intriguing to look at them through the lens of saving money. Somehow frugality makes these household practices easier to implement. When the focus shifts away from environmental virtuousness toward saving oneself a load of cash, it becomes less daunting to do them.

“Frugality is an environmental statement that’s far more powerful than empty words or bumper stickers. Ultimately, environmentalism stems from acts of doing less: less consumption, less commuting, less carbon emissions, less wastefulness, less carelessness.”

I would add that embracing frugality also protects oneself from being duped by the notion that buying 'green' products somehow makes it OK to continue consuming at the same rate. As climate scientist Peter Kalmus writes in his soon-to-be-published book, Being the Change:

"Buying green stuff promotes the status quo consumer mindset. Green allows us to feel like we're responding to our predicament without needing to change. Green precludes meaningful action, and in this way does more harm than good."

Read the full article here.