Frugality and the environment

I am frugal.  My purpose in blogging is to share my own financial journey and to encourage others. I don’t consciously identify as being part of the green movement.  But being frugal can also be good for the environment.

A picture of weeds

Marshmallows in my garden – as in edible weeds rather than the sweet sugary treat

Through my writing journey I have met several talented writers who are passionate about the environment, including Nicole (who has just been announced a runner-up for the 2016 Tasmanian Wildcare Nature Writing Prize) and Pip from Sustainability Soapbox. I must say that I worried initially that they might think I was fickle or greedy for focusing on a wealth agenda.  I mean, there are so many bad stereotypes about the mega wealthy and over consumption.

But the more I talk to my environmentally conscious friends about my lifestyle, the more I realise that there are similarities.  I grow my own herbs, for example, because it is cheaper and more convenient to do so: it is also more environmental to reduce what you buy in supermarkets. I eat weeds and go in for urban foraging because they are nutritious super foods and they are free; it is also in line with sustainable principles. I love supporting op shops, church fetes and my local Buy Nothing Project group; this also helps to reduce waste and encourages recycling. Where possible I try to walk so that I get exercise squeezed into my busy lifestyle while saving money on petrol; this also reduces carbon emissions.  Well, okay so I do drive to and from the burbs in my mum-mobile more than I would like, but I am hoping to move inner city next year so that I can simplify my life a bit and cycle more.

The link between my frugality and the environment was bought into stark contrast for me – in a good way – this week as I signed up my son to the ACT’s Carbon Challenge.  His school is actively encouraging participation. I felt I had to do the right thing, but secretly I was dreading having to do another chore. I mean, like I have more spare time to devote to saving the environment single highhandedly while juggling my roles as single mother, full-time career woman, blogger, writer and post baby confinement cook extraordinaire?

I think there is generally a feeling (OK, I sometimes feel this way) that individuals are helpless to prevent climate change, and that you would need to pour a fortune into high-tech, expensive, sustainable products and designs to make any impact or be credible.  Or to invest in a time consuming permaculture garden.  And as a consequence, people switch off. It is all too hard.  What can one person do?

With the Carbon Challenge I am finding it is easy for my kids and I to participate in the challenge as many of the things I am already implementing because they are also frugal.  As I read through the challenges, I am saying ‘I can do that, I already do that – tick’.  Some examples from the challenges:

  • Setting the ducted heater to below 20C – tick
  • Pegging out washing – tick (I don’t even own a dryer)
  • Meatless Monday – tick (plenty of $5 Friday ideas to draw on there)
  • Using the local library – tick
  • Using a drink bottle – tick
  • Reducing packaging in school lunches – tick
  • Acquiring second hand things rather than new – tick
  • Creating a vegie patch – tick.

What is interesting, though, is that when it is framed as a challenge in a nice colourful website with teams competing – my kids are interested.  Suddenly, Big A wants to help me peg out laundry.  He insists on using his water bottle, and has told Little A that he has to do the same thing. They are both nagging me to make a vegie patch.  And asking me every night to turn the ducted heater down one degree. We had a small blip last week when Big A nearly forgot his sandwich as it was in a new container.  But after going hungry I am sure he won’t make the same mistake again.

And the other good thing about the challenge is the way that you can see how the savings in carbon emissions add up.  Just like saving money where every single dollar counts, with the environment every single thing you do to reduce carbon emissions adds up.  And many of the dollar saving initiatives are also environmental saving ones, too.  So I have every right to feel virtuous as a frugalita. I am helping myself achieve my financial goals, and also helping to save the planet.  Pretty cool, huh?

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