You Can’t Buy Your Way To Green: How Frugality Is Environmentalism
One of the many reasons I love frugality–beyond, you know, the money it saves me and the financial independence it brought me–is the fact that its application in my life has made me a more environmentally conscious person.
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.
I’ll say right now that I know there’s more I could do in the arena of environmentalism–deeper changes I could make and countless ways I could further reduce my carbon footprint. But it’s my hope, and my experience, that by applying the lens of frugality to my life, I’ll continue to uncover avenues for stewarding our planet in my daily life. The side benefit of environmentalism is just one more way that frugality helps me craft the type of life I want to live.
How Frugality Is Environmentalism
Here’s a list of all the ways in which our frugality increases our environmental consciousness.
1) We use less electricity and water.
The easiest way to save money on your utilities? Utilize them less. Our electricity bill is usually quite low since we’re cognizant of how much we use on a daily basis. It’s not some formal, regulated system within our home, but rather an overarching awareness that we apply to how we live.
We turn lights off when we leave a room and we don’t turn lights on unless we truly need them. Additionally, our lightbulbs are highly efficient LED bulbs. Sidenote: many states offer discounts on such bulbs, but only for local purchases (not online orders) since power companies subsidize these discounts.
Here on the homestead we have a well, which means we don’t pay for water per se, but we did pay for it back in the city and so water conservation is incorporated into our routine.
2) Our laundry dries on a drying rack.
I hang our laundry up to dry on clothes drying racks in order to avoid using the dryer too often since it’s a huge energy (aka money) drain. In the spring and summer, I hang the laundry out on the porch and in the wintertime, I put the drying racks in our kitchen.
I’m pleased to report that both systems work quite well! The clothes dry more quickly outside, but they don’t take too long indoors–especially if you can position your racks near a sunny window.
There’s a triple advantage to line-drying clothes:
- The clothes last longer–a dryer is harsh on clothing and by hanging them up to dry, our clothes endure for years. Case in point: the only clothing item I’ve purchasing in over three years is a pair of boots.
- It’s less expensive since dryers gulp tons of electricity, even high efficiency dryers like the one we have.
- Line-drying uses less energy, or rather, it uses free solar and wind energy ;).
More on this: Clothing Care For People Who Don’t Buy Clothes and Why I Broke My Three Year Clothes Buying Ban
3) We buy efficient appliances.
We don’t buy appliances often, but when we do, we buy efficient. The most recent example of this is our chest freezer, which we purchased about a year and a half ago. We could’ve found a cheaper freezer used, but after calculating energy usage, we determined it would be more efficient–and less expensive–in the long run to purchase a new, Energy Star certified freezer.
Investigating the energy usage of major appliances is an excellent way to reduce your home’s consumption and your electricity bill. I’m not saying you should rush out and replace perfectly serviceable appliances, but when they break and the time comes to replace them, the cheapest option is not always the wisest proposition for the longterm.
We test the energy consumption of our appliances with this 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. This averaging capability is crucial for things like refrigerators since they naturally cycle through higher and lower periods of energy consumption. And, the monitor translates this usage into cold, hard cash–you type in how much you pay per kilowatt hour (printed on your electricity bill) and it displays how many dollars per month, kilowatt hours, and pounds of C02 the device in question consumes/emits. So handy!
More on this concept: Why Buying A Chest Freezer Is Saving Us Serious Money
4) We drive less and we drive efficient.
When we lived in cities (NYC, DC, Cambridge), we walked or took public transit just about everywhere and Mr. FW biked to work everyday–even in Boston winters. One element of our decision to live in cities is that it meant we were close to our offices and thus didn’t have long commutes.
Now that we live rurally and work from home, we don’t have daily commutes, but we also don’t have access to public transit. Thus, we drive a hybrid Toyota Prius that gets a whopping 51 miles per gallon in the city and 48 on the highway. We also have an all-wheel drive Subaru, but we honestly don’t drive it all that often since the Prius gets such excellent gas mileage and handles rural dirt roads a lot more capably than we expected.
Considering commuting options not only saves money and reduces carbon emissions, it also saves time and can make you a happier person. No one wants to sit in grinding, relentless traffic for hours every single day, yet many folks do. Consider orchestrating your life so that your commute is either short or via public transit or biking. Taking public transit is fabulous because you can read a book or catch up on work while you commute.
Biking or walking provides the chance to exercise in fresh air while getting your commute taken care of. Mr. FW reports that bike commuting was: faster (he’d often pass hundreds of cars in traffic), relaxing as opposed to the stressful fight of rush hour traffic, invigorating exercise, and on the way home, it was a great way to decompress from a day’s work. Not to mention how much less expensive it is to maintain and ride a bike versus a car!
More on this concept: The Ultimate Bike Commuter’s Guide to Winter Cycling and Our Frugal Solution To The All-Wheel Drive Conundrum and Why We Buy Used Cars And You Should Too
5) We conserve wintertime warmth.
In the wintertime, we make sure our house is sealed up tight. Our Cambridge home (now our rental property), being 120+ years old, was a prime candidate for letting air sneak in through various cracks and crevices. To combat these pernicious drafts, we went around with Moretite caulking cord to seal up errant spots, which reduced the amount of escaping heat. When the ancient storm door on that house bit the dust, we purchased not-the-cheapest replacement in order to further insulate the front door.
When we had the upstairs ceilings refinished in that home, we had loads of insulation put in the attic in order to keep the house warmer. Adding insulation is a superb way to ensure you’re retaining as much heat as possible during the colder months. Anytime you do a renovation that entails removal of drywall or exterior cladding, see if you can cram in some insulation!
Our heating situation is vastly different here on the homestead for two reasons: 1) Our homestead was built in the early 1990s and even more insulation was added by the previous owners, thus the house doesn’t suffer much heat escape; 2) We heat via woodstove with wood Mr. FW harvests from our land.
Our woodstove is a newer model that’s super efficient and was able to heat our entire home all winter long. We do have oil heat as a back-up, but we set our thermostat low and it rarely turned on this winter except for the deepest, darkest, coldest nights.
Wintertime is also sweater time! Not only can you insulate your home, you can insulate yourself! In the cold months, we layer up on cozy clothes so that we’re comfortable keeping the heat down. For bedtime, Mr. FW and I have an electric blanket and down comforter on our bed, Babywoods is toasty in fleece PJs and a fleece sleepsack, and Frugal Hound snoozes atop this hound warmer on her dog bed (which is the equivalent of a heated mattress pad for dogs… don’t laugh, it totally works!). By ensuring that all Frugalwoods family members are snug and warm in their beds, we can turn the heat down to circa 58 at night.
We also live by the philosophy of zone heating. We close off any rooms that we’re not using and don’t turn the heat on in those parts of the house. Here on the homestead, we cluster around the woodstove on the coldest days. As long as the pipes don’t freeze in your walls, a house can maintain a pretty low temperature and be just fine. I can tell you all about that one time we messed up and a pipe did freeze… which is how Mr. FW taught himself how to be a plumber at 10pm one winter night: Extreme Frugal Insourcing: Repairing a Frozen and Burst Pipe with PEX. Yep.
More on this: 11 Frugal Hacks to Stay Warm and Save Money This Winter
6) We don’t have air conditioning.
While winter is all about sealing up tight, summertime is all about flinging our house wide open (with screens). Here in Vermont, not many folks have air conditioning–us included–because it just doesn’t get all that hot here. If you live in a similarly temperate summer climate, consider if you can make it sans the almighty AC.
Mr. FW recently switched all of our storm doors over from their glass exterior enclosures (to retain heat in wintertime) to their screen equivalents, which allow lush breezes to blow through all summer long. On the hottest days, we open up all the windows and doors at the coolest times each day–early morning and night–and close them in the height of midday heat. When it’s comfortable outside all day long, we leave everything open all day. But the morning and night technique works incredibly well if you’re not home during the day–that’s what we did in Cambridge and it allowed us to turn our AC on for only a few weeks every summer.
Often, in this culture, we turn on our AC (or our heat or our overhead lights) without first considering if we truly need it. On a 75 degree day, do you really need to cool your house down to 70 degrees? Probably not. Totally different story on a 110 degree day, but acknowledging the difference in those “needs” is a vital element of strategic frugality. I’m not suggesting anyone bake away in their home or be too hot to sleep, merely that you make a conscious decision about turning on your AC. It’s not free–for you or for the environment–so only deploy it when you’re in dire need.
Another way to combat interior heat is to carefully consider what you cook in the summertime. Firing up the oven (or stove or crock pot) to bake delectable meals is fabulous in the wintertime–it adds wonderful auxiliary heat to your home. But the inverse is true in the summer. During the warmest weeks, we alter our diet and try to avoid cooking indoors.
Our chef-in-residence, Mr. FW, turns to either no cook meals (such as homemade hummus and veggies) or, more often, he’ll grill out. A favorite summertime meal plan for us is to grill a bunch of protein and veggies once a week and then eat them cold as leftovers all week long–either atop salads or alone. There’s nothing better on a hot August night than cold grilled chicken resting on a bed of arugula and kale with a homemade lemon and olive oil dressing accompanied by a glass of chilled white wine (from a box, naturally). Yum!
More on this: The Surprising Benefits Of Not Turning On Your Air Conditioning
7) Food waste is banished from our home.
Wasting food is a major environmental sin. According to The Atlantic (which is my favorite magazine, by the way, and the only one I read cover-to-cover), “Wasted food is… the single biggest occupant in American landfills.” That’s disturbing and deeply depressing. Bloomberg reports: “… food that ends up in landfills contributes to the release of methane, a major contributor to global warming.”
If those stats don’t convince you, consider that food waste is also expensive. The Atlantic notes that, “For an American family of four, the average value of discarded produce is nearly $1,600 annually.” That’s not an insignificant amount of money, folks.
I rail against food waste every year at Thanksgiving, but it deserves a mini-rant here. In sum: do not waste food. Do not buy more food than your family can eat. Consume (or freeze) all of your leftovers. Do not cook meals you don’t want to eat in their entirety (or freeze). Give kiddos small amounts of food at a time–and always offer more–so that they don’t have heaping plates of uneaten food (and if they do, pop it into a glass container and serve it for their next meal).
If you’re going out of town and have a fridge full of food, freeze what you can and give the rest away to friends and neighbors. And, if you’re able to (which just about everyone is), start composting either in a pile if you have a lot of land, or in a handy dandy bin if you’re in a cramped urban locale.
More on this: How I Fight Food Waste At Thanksgiving And Beyond and Thanksgiving Is The Gateway Drug To A Leftover Loving Life and Are You Going To Eat That? Never Waste Food Again!
8) We buy less, need less, want less, spend less, and waste less.
There’s a myth that in order to be “green” you need to rush out and purchase reams of environmental goods. That you must replace your wardrobe with all organic cotton, that you must replace all of your children’s toys with solid wooden construction, that you must buy all new Energy Star certified appliances, that you must purchase exclusively organic foods and cleaning supplies.
And yes, there are elements of this approach that are helpful as I outlined with regard to home appliances. And yes, I choose to purchase primarily organic produce and fair trade coffee. But there’s also a very real, very insidious “green” marketing strategy aimed at conning us tree huggers into spending what amounts to very sizable chunks of cash in service of becoming greener.
The best way to steward our earth is to stop consuming. You can’t buy your way to green. You can make wise decisions when you legitimately do need to buy stuff, but consuming new goods presents a heavy burden to our earth.
A core tenet of extreme frugality is to change your mentality around consumerism. By saying that I have enough in my life–enough clothing, enough furniture, enough toys for my child–I’ve been able to find peace and happiness with how my life is, not some ephemeral idea of how my life might be if I were to buy the latest and greatest/greenest gadgets on the market.
The carousel of consumerism is strong in our culture and every single day we’re inundated with products that promise to make our lives better. But we all know the falsehood of buying your way to happiness (or greenness). We all know that inner peace isn’t found on a store shelf (or on Amazon… ). So take this as your release, as your permission to stop mindlessly consuming, to simply say that you have enough in your life, and to acknowledge that you can achieve your goal of environmentalism without buying more stuff.
More on this: The Joy That Comes When Less Is Enough and The Sweet Synergy Between Simple Living And Saving Money
9) When we do buy, we buy used.
The environmental impact of buying new is profound. There are embodied environmental costs to manufacturing, transportation, packaging, and more. By circumventing this cycle–and instead sourcing products used–you’re reducing the environmental footprint of new, saving something from a landfill, and spending far less cash.
When you re-home a used couch, for example, that’s a major amount of product kept out of the dump. Nearly everything I own is used–from Babywoods’ hand-me-down nursery furniture, to our clothing, to our cars. There’s rarely a need to incur the profound costs–both financial and environmental–of new stuff.
More on this: How To Find Anything and Everything Used: A Compendium Of Frugal Treasure Hunting and The Myth Of The Gross Used Things and Fighting Back Against The Baby Industrial Complex
10) If we can’t buy used, we buy durable instead of disposable.
Mr. FW and I usually don’t buy the dirt cheapest thing on the market when we must buy new. Instead, we aim for the middle ground in an effort to purchase things that we won’t have to replace frequently. Buying cheap junk that’s likely to break and then be thrown out isn’t strategically frugal and it’s also not environmentally friendly.
The muck boots I purchased this winter are an excellent example. They were fairly expensive, but my hope is that I’ll be able to wear them for decades as opposed to a cheap pair that I’d need to replace every few years.
More on this: Strategic Frugality and The Tale of Stormzilla
11) We clean green.
I make my own cleaning solution from a remarkably complex, ludicrously expensive recipe of–get ready for it–half white vinegar and half water. Since I buy a 4 gallon jug of white vinegar from BJ’s for $3.99, and have reusable spray bottles, my cleaning solutions probably cost me about 0.04 cents per batch. Womp womp.
No need to spend $20 or whatever outrageous sum is charged for those certified green and earth-friendly boutique cleaning products that smell like someone squeezed an entire lemon over a bed of lavender. I can almost guarantee you vinegar and water works just as well (if not better… ). I am what is known as a neat freak and this is no weak sauce cleaning solution.
I clean with reusable rags that are an assemblage of old t-shirts I’ve cut into squares, ancient dishtowels, and retired bath towels. I wash them every week and then use them all over again. I sweep the house on a regular basis since a broom doesn’t require electricity and then about once a month I’ll bust out the vacuum for a deeper clean. I try not to vacuum on extra hot days since I find it heats up the house (not to mention the vacuumer).
More on this: The Zen Of Vacuuming
12) We fix it, we don’t toss it.
The old adage of reusing is a powerful friend to both frugality and environmentalism. Hone your DIY skills to learn how to repair and rejuvenate your old things. I’ve done everything from refinish furniture to repair baby toys to sew holes in clothes to glue shoes back together. Fixing isn’t always a complex task, sometimes it’s as simple as being mindful that you can use a bit of tape in order to bring something back into functional shape.
Buying less stuff and owning less stuff means less waste all around. If our homes are crammed with material possessions, we’re more likely to throw things out, take them for granted, and consider our lives disposable. I take the opposite approach. Each material object we choose to bring into our lives becomes our responsibility: we need to care for it, clean it, repair it, and eventually recycle it or pass it on to someone else.
The disposable mindset that the fashion, tech, and other industries perpetuate is nothing more than a sinister tactic to keep us buying, buying, buying and, as a result, wasting, wasting, wasting. The less you own, the more apt you are to take care of what you do have and make it last for decades. The less you own, the less waste you generate as a household. The less you own, the more money you’re likely to have. And the best part? The less you own, the less you’re owned by your stuff.
More on this: Do You Really Need That? Don’t Be Owned By Your Stuff! and My Quest For A Clutter-Free Life
13) We cook from scratch.
I’ve long heralded the economic boon that is cooking from scratch, but did you know it’s also better for the environment? Buying bulk, raw ingredients is cheaper and involves less disposable packaging.
The added bonus is that cooking from scratch is often healthier since it entails less sugar, less salt, and no preservatives. Before you buy your next loaf of bread or tub of hummus, consider making it on your own.
More on this: Our Complete Guide To Frugal, Healthy Eating
14) I take my own waterbottle, coffee thermos, and grocery bags.
I have a waterbottle and coffee thermos on my person nearly everywhere I go. Far cheaper and far less wasteful than buying paper cups of coffee or plastic bottles of water. I try to extend this philosophy to as many things as I can, for example we take our own reusable grocery bags to the store every week. OK, turns out I didn’t have much to say on this one… but I think it stands alone (and reveals that I drink a lot of fluid in a day… ).
15) Our frugality fosters a deep respect for nature.
The best frugal hobbies are free hobbies and some of the best free hobbies involve the outdoors. Walking, hiking, biking, snowshoeing–these are all inexpensive/free outdoor pursuits that foster an appreciation for the natural world. And when we have a deep connection with nature, and a reverence for its beauty, we’re more likely to treat it as the sacred resource it truly is.
More on this: Hike More, Spend Less: Our Tricks for Frugal Hiking and How We Recreate In Winter: The Gear, The Mindset, and The Baby Sled
16) I’ve reduced my use of beauty-related chemicals.
Letting go of wearing makeup and perfume on a regular basis and not painting my nails and not coloring/treating/hair spraying my hair did three things for me: 1) it made me more confident about and happier with my appearance; 2) it saves me a ton of money (not to mention time); 3) it’s good for the environment because it means I’m putting fewer chemicals into the waste stream. Plus, my at-home haircuts by Mr. FW involve nothing more complex/chemically enhanced than a pair of scissors. The end.
More on this: Less Makeup, More Confidence: My Frugal Beauty Manifesto and Final Frontier Of Frugality: My Husband Gave Me A Haircut
17) We (try to) grow our own food and/or eat local.
I put this last because it’s still very much a work in progress for the Fugalwoods fam. Our longterm goal is to grow epic amounts of veggies on our land in order to can and preserve them for year-round consumption. We want to make hard cider and apple cider vinegar from our apples, grow our own hazelnuts, and one day raise chickens for meat and eggs. In our first year of homesteading, we’ve made progress towards this permaculture goal, but it’s still largely aspirational for us. In the meantime, we’re enjoying the asparagus, rhubarb, arugula, and berries that do seem to be flourishing under our novice ministrations.
If you don’t have enough land for a garden (although you actually don’t need that much space), consider joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) or finding other hyper-local sources for your food from farmer’s markets or other outlets. Another goal I’m working on!!
More on this: This Month On The Homestead series
The benefits of everything on this list are equal parts fiscal and environmental. You will save money doing each of these acts and you will also reduce your impact on our earth. It’s a true win-win scenario that I think could be of use to help a resistant-to-frugality partner or spouse hop on board.
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. Frugality finds the same root in the pursuit of less and in the joy and peace that stems from a life of simplified pleasures. The interwoven nature of frugality and environmentalism serves as a testament to their shared values.
How has frugality encouraged environmentalism in your life?
Never Miss A Story
Sign up to get new Frugalwoods stories in your email inbox.
My wife and I are on a huge kick to be more green.
We try to go dumpster diving to repurpose items when we can and walk to the grocery store as much as possible. Funny story, my wife walking back from the grocery store, which is a little over a mile away, when a neighbor called out to her and asked her if her car broke down and if she needed a ride.
Clearly walking to the store doesn’t cross people’s minds.
Ha! This happened to me all the time when I lived a few blocks from the grocery store. I know they were trying to be nice but is walking by choice such a foreign concept? lol
The grocery store in my neighborhood is really expensive, so I only go there out of desperation….lol. I try to go to Aldi, when I am driving by in the area…
I once lived in a very, very small town that managed to have an hourly bus system that went up and down every street in the town. I used to take the bus every day but one nice day I decided to walk the two miles home. The bus driver actually stopped the bus next to me and told me if I had forgotten my money I could ride the bus and pay him tomorrow. When I said I wanted to walk, he said, “Why?”
I moved from South Africa (where you have to own a car), to Norway about 7 years ago. The town i live in is small (200k residents… 3rd largest town in Norway) and the public transport good, so I dont own a car. Only when moving here did i realize how stressful driving can be, getting stuck in traffic, always looking for parking, not to mention the danger of mistakes behind the wheel.
So i am deliberately car free, which has had a profound impact both financially and in the general peacefulness of life.
At the Frugal Asian Finance household, we try not to use electricity if we don’t need to, to walk as much as we can, and to conserve water at all time. I’m usually better at this than Mr. FAF, but he is improving.
I’m also a huge fan of recycling. I recycle even a small piece of paper or a tiny plastic wrap. Everything counts!
I’m envious of your lovely vegetable gardens! We are city people and have to mow a typical city lawn. On the homestead, how often do you mow and how do you eliminate mowing? Do you have portions you allow to go wild? (I’m on the hunt for lawn alternatives.)
I also adore your painted red furniture.
Turn your lawn into a lovely food garden of raised beds, you could easily grow greens etc. Check you city ordinance though to make sure you can!
There is a book called Food Not Lawns I cannot remember the authors name. But it gives good ideas for urban food growing.
We have never worked to be “green” but a lot of our habits support the environment. We try to combine trips if we use the car, we’ve installed new shower heads and toilets to reduce water usage, and we buy energy efficient appliances too. What I have noticed is that now that I am working full-time (for only 25 more days!!!) – our focus is “off” though. Our being “busy” all the time really has a dramatic effect on our effect on the environment. I can tell by the amount of trash and recycling we are generating and by more frequent trips to the store. We’re in a good place though! In the midst of a big downsize, selling off some properties and buying back our time – early retirement is in the very near future. Environmentalism will become a big focus for us too!
My grandparents were quite green, but never called it that. Saw this a while back. You are just using common sense and saving money rather than being wasteful. I still remember seeing my mom rinse out milk bottles to be returned for the deposit, now everything is plastic throwaway.
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.
The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”
The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”She was right — our generation didn’t have the ‘green thing’ in our day.Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.
So they really were recycled.But we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.But too bad we didn’t do the “green thing” back then.We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.But she was right. We didn’t have the “green thing” in our day.
Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.
Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana.
In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.But she’s right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.But we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the “green thing.” We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the “green thing” back then?
Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart young person…
We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off…especially from a tattooed, multiple pierced know it all who can’t make change without the cash register telling them how much.
Well said, Carolyn.
I agree 100 percent! Well said!
I feel that highlighting a generational divide over issues of conservation is counterproductive. Rather than pointing fingers at those who are your elders or those who are your juniors, we should all be working together for the greater good. If the ‘old’ ways can be read discovered and shared via the ‘green’ movement, everybody wins. I think the issue is less ‘who had the idea first’ and more ‘how can we expose more people to these ideas?’ Being ‘green’ (or any iteration of attempting to be so), should be a positive, joyful, and even life-changing experience, as Mrs. Frugalwoods points out, and needn’t involve anger or generational squabbles. We are all in this together!
Correction: Rediscovered* (not ‘read discovered’) …
I LOVE this. You are so right.
Wow Carolyn! I was with you all the way until the last paragraph! Hope you are not still feeling pissed off! Best wishes from a tattooed, multiple pierced, still learning something new everyday , happy to be green and frugal … old woman!
Carolyn shared a post that has been going around Facebook for years. I don’t think she is personally upset 🙂
100% agree with your point. However, the main problem is that, as society changed, elders changed too but did not understand the new system. For instance, they were re-using the brown paper bags that were given at grocery stores, but when plastic bags appeared, they started to throw them away. This is surely not the case for 100% of the population but it is for some. The point is that, as everything was more biodegradable at that time, people were more keen to throw in the nature, and as almost every corporation started to use plastic, they continued to throw, quite a shame.
I grew up in Oregon, which thought of itself as a ‘green’ state, whick was good prep for living in Germany, where recycling is a national obsession. For our school and village fests, they hire a Spülmobil –dishwashing on wheels- and use REAL plates and silverware. I have been in PTA meetings where you can tell the participants are *thinking* about using paper plates for the convenience– but the suggestion is voiced as a joke. It would be looked down upon to be so enviromentally unfriendly. I hear that American school are getting dish sets to use for classroom parties, too. I think that is great behavior to model for kids!
Yes! My mom is German and I was raised with this mindset, which has made frugality and environmentalism second nature to me. I remember going to school in Germany and eating yoghurt out of small glass jars – the other kids totally looked down on those using plastic yoghurt cups. “Dirtying the environment” was very much a point of shame. Honestly, we could use more of that attitude here, and less of an emphasis on convenience above all else.
Another awesome article! Thank you so much for the thought and depth that goes into your articles. Unlike most of the FI articles out there, you really provide actionable suggestions for living a healthy frugal lifestyle.
Thanks for this!
I am 100% with you. Ethical consumerism is pretty much a dumb idea. What is it? Like capitalism but nice? The like corporations are nice to the environments and give workers…like…healthcare? Yeah right. Better to just avoid buying new things and using electricity and other fuels. Have you heard the Jonathan Richman song, “When we refuse to suffer?” (here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5taGgJ2RJSU)
“when we refuse to suffer
when we refuse to feel
we suffer more
It’s like air conditionin’ when we should out in the summertime
well we’re gonna cheat the feelin
and think that’s allright
but mother nature’s gonna school us”
This is a topic Jonathan Richman really goes on about and also writes about in the bitter herb, which was my song of the day a few days ago:
You would probably like Jonathan Richman!
We live in an appartment with only a small balcony, but that didn’t stop us from trying to grow our own vegetables. And once we did, we realised that growing produce is a slow process and it made me reconsider how we treat our food. It’s just too easy to pick up stuff in the store and throw it away when the food has perished. So no we waste a lot less.
I was a vegetarian for more than a decade, which decreased my Carbon footprint drastically.
I wish everyone was as concerned about our impact on the environment as the Frugalwoodsnation is!
As always, great information! Living sustainably has been a passion of mine since I was little, which is probably why I grew up as a frugal weirdo! I also see sustainability and frugality going hand in hand. Last year I ended up writing about the green consumption myth because it was so common for people to want to buy their way into being green. This isn’t to say that we can’t buy greener things, but like you point out, we need to stop and really think about what it is we are buying and whether there is an alternative (i.e., reuse, repurpose, refill, etc.). When we stop thinking like consumers and instead start becoming more creative producers we often create simpler, more meaningful lives that are naturally frugal and sustainable. It’s also a lot of fun and can help us strengthen our relationships (especially when we are first learning new things).
These are wonderful! We’ve started doing many of these things as well!
Some high points:
1. We bought a house last fall, which allowed us to start composting. Any uneaten food scraps go into the compost. 🙂
2. We started a garden and are starting to harvest! It’s hot in Texas, so things grow almost year-round. We’re currently harvesting tomatoes, squash, and peppers. In a few weeks we’ll have quite a lot of purple-hull peas, too. The first year with the garden will still be a financial loss, but it’ll pay for itself as we get it more established. 🙂
3. I mend clothes with my hand-me-down sewing machine instead of throwing clothes away.
4. We severely limit our pre-packaged food purchases now that we cook from scratch. There’s significantly less waste, I get to have fun, and I know where my food came from. 🙂
We are relatively green, but some things we just can not due. For example due to allergies opening windows or hanging clothes outside to dry is generally a bad idea. Still we do much of the other things on your list and they are both environment and wallet friendly.
Hanging clothes to dry inside works well too. I hang all our clothes to dry inside (townhouse, no place for them outside), and a full load of laundry will dry in 24 hours or less in all but the most humid summer weather. When the humidity is low, they’re practically dry as soon as you hang them up!
Yep, drying clothes inside works great! That’s what I did when we lived in the city and it’s what I do all winter long here.
The thing about all the things you’ve outlined in this post, is they’re all so easily achievable! Nothing is hard. I think people just become programmed into consuming so much of everything and it becomes habit to just consume voraciously in all aspects of life.
We’ve always been environmentally conscious but since starting our own journey to financial independence, we’ve embraced minimalism as well as becoming more environmentally aware of the way we live our lives to reduce our impact. They’re not hard or consuming changes either- for instance, one change we made was to purchase a set of mesh bags to take grocery shopping for our fruits and veggies so we’re not using those horrible plastic bags anymore.
Hi from Australia. The concept of a electric dryers for all round use is just insane here – we’re known for the Hills Hoist rotary clothesline. Another great Aussie thing is a new investigative program on our public broadcaster called “War on Waste” truly eye opening. Love your words xo
Vinegar and water for the win!
If you google “uses for white vinegar” the results are amazing. So many things you can do with it (killing weeds and using as fabric softener are two of my favorites). Add some dish soap if needed or baking soda. All cheap, green things. Why would I “clean” my house with chemicals?
I don’t like the smell of vinegar, so I let mine sit in a jar with some citrus peels for a few weeks before using it. It smells great, and is SO much better than buying cleaning supplies from the store!
Vinegar is diluted acetic acid. It is a chemical too.
Great article, thanks for sharing your insights. I’m switching my energy provider of 12 years to another competitor that offers wind power energy. When I was doing my frugal price comparison the wind power plan actually came down cheaper than what I have currently (will see how much my electricity bill differs once I’m officially on the plan). I’ve also signed up for their “degrees of difference” program where you get an alert during high electricity usage hours. You could get some credit for not running the washer/dryer/dish washer, and turn up/down your thermostat by a tad bit to decrease power usage during the high times.
Your talk about line drying clothes actually hit a chord. It’s very common seeing people line dry their clothes in Asia (Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, etc). When I was a kid growing up in Taiwan, my mom never used a dryer. However after living in the U.S. for 20+ years, dryers become the norm. When I travelled to Tokyo last year and was doing laundry at an airbnb apartment, my host said I’m more than welcome to use the dryer but they rarely do so as they line dry their clothes in the terrace. I followed suit and felt a sense of appreciation being able to conserve energy. I should start doing that at home and line dry my clothes in the bathroom (I live in a townhome with no balcony or backyard). Thanks for the reminder. 🙂
I wanted to pop in and post a ‘thank you’ comment. We needed to purchase a car recently, and because of what I’ve learned from your site, we did some research and came up with three frugal used-car options. We ended up taking the car we liked most to our mechanic, who also had a car for sale. Instead of going with our first choice, which ended up having some issues and would have left us with 3 years of car payments – low ones, but still, payments – we wound up paying cash for a great car with low mileage, which has been in the care of our trusted mechanic for the last year. We are thrilled at having a new-to-us car, with no payments. It’s not as fancy or roomy as our first choice, but it will absolutely transport us safely and is better on gas than the one we originally wanted. I am absolutely new to the “used cars are great” line of thinking, and it’s because of your influence! Thank you for sharing your wisdom 🙂
That’s fantastic, Jill! Thank you for sharing and I’m so glad I was able to help :).
We are often happiest when our actions line up with our values. I’ve found that frugality and a more minimalist lifestyle creates the side effect of being better for the environment. In this way I can be more environmentally responsible without it having to think about it too hard. By creating these alignments it is an easier strategy to adhere to. Great article.
I love that in addition to saving money, frugality can bring you so much more… especially when it comes to the environment. I often find that frugality and environmentalism go together so well – reducing your carbon footprint, reducing waste, re-using stuff (clothes, furniture, toys), and recycling and composting. I love being able to save money, but it makes me feel better knowing that I’m helping the world and it’s natural resources too.
Living in Phoenix, Arizona, one thing I can’t give up is the AC, although I am definitely more conscious about how much it’s used. Great ideas for anyone looking to save money AND help the environment!
Something about your writing style and content is inexplicably comforting and interesting. I’m really enjoying digging through the archives.
Thank you so much, Ann! I really appreciate that 🙂
I agree with Ann! You are a great writer!
The Dreamers have a beehive this year, you should give this a try with all the land you have! It is a really interesting hobby as well as the benefits to your garden and trees.
I didn’t want everything to smell like vinegar after I clean, so my cleaning solution is made of vinegar that sat in a jar with citrus peels for a few weeks beforehand, which makes it come out smelling great! You don’t even need that much citrus fruit to keep you stocked in cleaning product; we buy a bag of oranges every few months, or recover lemon and lime rinds from making guacamole or mixed drinks. And after they improve the vinegar, we compost the rinds!
Our clothes dry on a rack on the highest floor of our house, which is warm enough in any season to dry them pretty promptly. All you really need is an out-of-the-way spot and something to hang them on. Way better than running the dryer for hours!
In order to combat the vinegar smell, I rinse with water after I clean, which seems to eliminate it. But your citrus idea also sounds lovely!
Can you use the vinegar and water solution on everything? For instance hardwood floors, painted baseboards, things like that? I use vinegar to clean kitchen and bathrooms, but hadn’t thought of using it all over the house. Thanks for helping me think outside the box!
We are moving to a rural home with all hard surface floors. What do you use to tackle the daily dust and footprints? I have a steam mop, but want something I can just grab and not plug in, and don’t want to have to buy disposable cloths like a swiffer.
The professional cleaners I see clip a damp rag onto a broom or just use the broom to push around the damp rag.
Melissa, I bought a mop with washable mopping pads and dusting pads that stick on with permanent hook and loop stick. These came from Don Aslett’s online store, but I think O’Cedar might be making some like that. I might have my brands mixed up. I’ve been using them for years now.
I just use the broom–it seems to work well enough and then I spot clean the hardwood with a damp rag as needed. For cleaning underneath furniture, I attached an old fleece sock to my swiffer, which works perfectly well to collect dust–no need to buy reusable wipes! Also, no shoes are allowed inside our house–everyone who enters takes their shoes off in our front hall mud room: an ironclad Vermont rule :). Everyone seems to follow the no-shoes-in-house rule in Vermont and so many of our visitors come with a pair of house slippers to change into!
Melissa, we have laminate floors in our house, and use rags to wipe them down when they get dirty. We’re in rural Nova Scotia, and we don’t allow outside footwear inside (slippers for everyone!). This helps keep the snow, mud, dirt, rain, grass, etc., from being tracked all over the house.
I put microfiber cloths onto a swiffer. Then throw them into the wash.
The rubbermaid reveal mop is pretty good too- you can make your own solution if you don’t want to buy theirs.
We don’t wear shoes in the house, but even wiping off the dogs paws, they still get footprints everywhere.
I have hardwood floors, and I will use a floor cleaning spray with a reusable and washable microfiber towel on a broom.
I think this post is a great example of how we can be mindful of our consumption and waste no metter where we live. We also have done city (DC) and country living and each has frugal, enviromentally friendly options. I think frugality brings out the mindfulness and creativity in us!
Ah, my favorite subject! The kids at my work think I’m a bit of a nutcase when I chatter on about this stuff, but if a few heed just a bit of advice, it’s worth it.
The key here is that in most cases nobody is truly suffering or being inconvenienced by these frugal/green approaches, they ultimately enhance your life in many ways. For example:
Few have the time to make it fully by hand. If so, yum, if not, buy a bread machine off of Craigslist from someone who put it on their wedding registry and never used it.
If you take the time to read the ingredients on most commercial breads they are pretty nasty. You can avoid those ingredients buy paying extra for organic. You could also spend ten minutes assembling the ingredients that you choose into the bread machine and make a delicious loaf of homemade bread for about a quarter of the price. Once it is part of your practice to make it, you will be loathe to eat supermarket bread.
You have saved money, a plastic bag and twist tie, a trip to the store just for bread (where you could potentially make other impulse purchases) and gained a skill, a bit of independence and most of all, yummy bread. Also, when a giant storm is coming you won’t have to battle the masses at the supermarket, just make an extra loaf in the comfort of you own home!
You can apply this to any homemade food: better, cheaper, sense of pride. Yes, it takes a bit more time, but so do trips to the supermarket, and so does making the extra money it takes to pay for “conveniences”.
Some other thoughts:
It makes such a difference if a store clerk asks if you need a bag rather that just automatically giving one, especially for small purchases, most of the time you can find a way to carry it even if you forgot your reusable.
Individually wrapped and portioned products are extremely taxing on our wallets and our environment. It really isn’t that hard to cut up fruit or cheese and put it in a container rather than buying string cheese or those packets of fruit purees that kids suck out of a pouch (they make me want to stab my own eye out). The couple of minutes of extra work yields a better product that is cheaper and less wasteful.
Keeping up with trends is a waste of money, time and emotional energy. Classic good looks, whether it be in your home or on your person are a much easier and cheaper to manage, plus there will not be any horrid pictures of you from twenty years ago in a ridiculous outfit for people to blackmail you with. I am working toward a Mark Zuckerberg “uniform”.
It brings me joy that so many people do care about our world. The current news cycle is extremely hard to digest, so a big thank you to Mrs. Frugalwoods and all of you commenters for your great ideas and positive thoughts!
A great post again, and I’m of the same mind — buying banana hangers and plastic bag drying racks may feel good for the environment, but it’s still consuming when the need is not really there.
And to Carolyn: I grew up that way, too — I’m in my early 60’s — and sometimes I wonder how we got to the disposable society we are in today. I can remember when my mother first bought paper towels, and oh, how she loved them! While I don’t want to go back to wearing thick glasses instead of my contacts, or having my husband inject himself with a glass syringe that we have to sterilize, instead of wearing a plastic insulin pump with disposable cannula and reservoir, I do feel like some of the old ways could be revived to make us better. Even in the 1980’s, I cloth diapered my kids (and was the ONLY one I knew at the time who didn’t use disposable diapers), I re-used paper bags and newspapers, used an old, manual de-frost refrigerator until it died, we had one phone, one ancient given-to-us TV on an antenna, and we wore hand-me-downs and used clothes. We were poor; it never occurred to us that we were “green” as well. This post is a good lesson to me to look at my lifestyle now and check; how am I really living? Am I as frugal and green as I want to be? Do I realize the things I’m doing, and do I know for sure I’m making the best choices?
I already bring my thermos, water bottle & lunch to work with me. My current focus for summer is gathering with friends around a theme which is free. No cafes, eateries, etc. Last Sunday a friend & I walked the grounds of a small historical site & enjoyed lunch at a picnic table in a sunny field. I’m happy I have a good friend with similar values!
I’m always trying to get better. Zero Waste Home is a great source for environmentally friendly ideas. Many of them are a bit hard (and of course, some war with frugality – like a 10 lb bag of beans that comes in plastic is cheaper per pound than buying bulk and reusing your container).
But I strive to get better all the time.
We live in a suburb of Boston, as if we’re in a rural area. We can walk/bike to everything (including dr. and dentist and work for me. We have 27 solar panels, havent paid for electricity in 4 years. We’re careful with water and supplemental efficient gas hear. We have a veg. garden and a compost heap. And, of course, we don’t use the dryer.
You nailed it on the Cooking From Scratch. It’s healthier, tastes better (most of the time), and is fun. Now that I am a stay at home dad, I find cooking is a great new way to provide for the family.
Great post. I think that washing all those rags from cleaning with vinegar and water, is also helping to keep the washer clean of mineral spots and soap residue. win-win. you mentioned composting, but have you started composting on your land to use in your garden? food waste drives me batty, even though I am guilty of veggies going bad. However, I have tried to reduce it by buying less, blanching/freezing and cooking meals around what needs to be used up.
Yes, we have a pretty big compost pile going that we started the day we moved in :)! I love that our fruit and veggie scraps have a home!
I know it is not the popular option, but eating less (or no) factory farmed meat and animal products is frugal and environmentally friendly.
Great piece on how living a simple life helps the environment. The funny thing is that back in the late 50’s and early 60’s that is how we lived. We did not have air conditioners or dryers. Clothes were always hung outside or inside on wooden racks. We had one TV, one car and glass bottles were cashed in for either 2 cents or 5 cents depending on the size of the bottle. Kids played outside all summer long (no TV, Internet Nintendo etc)..We used or imagination. We ate out rarely and all leftovers were made into the next night’s meal. I wore my sisters outgrown clothing . We had used bikes and used roller skates…..and never felt deprived……or even knew we were living “green”…..
We’re pretty good with recycling at home, but the other day I realized just how opposite I am at work. So I’m doing a personal waste free challenge! I keep my own utensils in my desk drawer for lunches as well as a cloth handkerchief (I was going thru so much Kleenex due to allergies) and a cloth napkin. My lunches are packed in glass containers. Instead of tossing out used tea bags like I used to, I’m placing them in a little jar to bring home at the end of the week for our compost,, same with orange peels etc. I’m 3 weeks waste free at work so far! This probably makes me a frugal weirdo! haha
That is wonderful! What a great idea!
A friend recently bought me a hanky-book. It is organic cotton sewn together in a book. So after you blow your nose, you go to a new page. It washes the same as a hanky, but seems a bit less gross to me. I keep one on my desk and one in my car.
I think you could easily make one out of some old t-shirts rather than buying.
What about the deer fences?
We have noticed just about every point that you have listed here. We started our journey with a frugal focus, this ended up making us way more ‘green’. Now that a lot of the frugal aspects are on auto pilot, we are now starting to re-fine and focus on more ‘green’. The bottom line, as you say is ‘consume less’. It’s not that fun, and most people do want to buy their way to ‘green’ with fancy stuff, but it just doesn’t work that way. Simplify, consume less.
(I may have run into one issue with this. We bought a .8 gallon flush toilet. The actual toilet is flushing great! They did a good job designing it. However, twice in the month since I installed it, we have had a backup, in the pipes past the toilet. We have not had a backup like this in the previous 11 years we have lived here. I am wondering if the toilet is not pushing it’s load with enough water, and eventually this causes our problem. Time will tell, but it has NOT been fun!)
I have heard of this problem with low flow toilets, so it is very likely that it is causing the backup 🙁
We installed two and have had the same problems!
For a while I’ve been genuinely wondering if living in the countryside adds significantly to your footprint. I seem to remember a podcast from freaknomics where they showcased a study explaining that the most efficient way to help the environment is to live in cities (versus suburbs or countryside).
My question (but I have no data to answer it) is if the fact that you live on a farmstead counteracts all the other efforts you are making to be environmental friendly.
Doesn’t the fact that you live in the countryside mean that whenever you need to fetch something, you have to take a car, or somebody has to bring it to you with a truck or something?
Don’t get me wrong, all the points you make are valid and I’d love for my household to go in that direction as much as possible as well, but as a city dwellers here are my thoughts on living in a condo:
1) We use much less space per person than people living in the countryside. Surely, your backyard has a cost to mother Earth, whom I’m sure would love to have more than 5 oxygen-producing trees on this large area.
2) Public transportation is very efficient in terms of gaz use per person. Biking is also a strong option in cities (as you know and have done in the past)
3) I have to assume that heat use in condos is very efficient as well. The heat we lose is probably partially used by the condos surrounding us
4) Everything in general is more efficient: for grocery shopping, assuming people don’t stupidly take their cars for a 200m distance (which sadly, many do), it only takes one truck to ship the food to your grocery store to feed thousands of people, not one truck per house.
I hope this is not seen as an attack: again, everything you do is something I think everyone should do, and I agree that frugality leads to more environment friendly habits. I’m just wondering how much your efforts are counterbalanced by the fact that you don’t live in the city anymore. I’d love to see data on that, if only because at some point I’d love to move to the countryside, but I am worried about the environment impact of doing such a thing. Wouldn’t it be sad if we learned that someone who doesn’t do any of the things you mention above, is still more earth-friendly than you are, simply as a side effect of living in a condo in the city?
There’s a lot of data available online that indicates cities/urban areas are more “green”. A quick Google gave me many articles from a variety of sources.
Thanks for this post, this is such an important concept that many people don’t seem to have thought of! Even though we live in relatively temperate Southern California, this past winter we noticed it got pretty chilly in our little 100-year old house. Often it was colder inside our house than it was outside! This post reminded me that adding more insulation in the attic should definitely go on the list of summer projects.
It’s really amazing how much push-back you can get for going the “fix it, don’t buy a new one” route. I was fixing my horseback riding gloves the other day on my lunch break and when I told my coworkers what I was doing, they looked at me like I had 5 heads. But fixing your own things is so empowering! I now know how to assemble an entire bike, sew, do basic carpentry, and on and on.
Now we just have to get on our cooking from scratch game 😉
Great article! I have always believed that personal finance and environmentalism go hand-in-hand since the greenest way to live is to consume as little as possible. I especially liked your comments on heating and cooling since utility usage is a major component of many people’s carbon footprint, but I wanted to encourage you not to let people in hotter climates off the hook. I live in Tucson, Arizona, and the very same techniques can be used here to avoid excessive AC use. We open the house up all night with fans blowing (in and out to encourage cross ventilation) and we close the house up as soon as the outside temperature exceeds the inside one — this time of year around 7 am. During the day, the house stays closed and windows with lots of sun exposure have shades drawn. In addition, we have learned to tolerate warmer temperatures inside. We set our AC to 82 in the peak of the summer. Eighty-two in the shade of the house is quite manageable (especially if you follow your other recommendation that no cooking happen indoors in the summer — we move our electric toaster oven to the porch for the summer months for anything that has to bake). In fact, the higher you keep your indoor temps, the easier it is for your body to adjust to time outdoors (going from 70 to 110 is quite a shock on the system). This system has allowed my family to keep the AC off so far this summer and we have already had a week of 100+ weather with a few days above 105. Eventually (probably by mid-June when temps reliably exceed 110) we will turn the AC on and keep it at 82, but I know people in Tucson who do not use AC at all (or swamp coolers, for those in the SW who know what those are). They rely entirely on the strategies outlined in your article of opening the house at night, closing it during the day and having strategic shade on the S, E, and West sides of their home to reduce summertime sun. People have a tendency to let everyone in the southern parts of the country off the hook when it comes to AC use (and I do understand that a Vermonter would have a hard time telling an Arizonan not to use AC) but in fact, people lived all over the SW and SE without AC forever. Today it has become “normal” in southern places to turn the AC on in April (or March) and leave it set at 72 (or 68!) for the next six months. This is crazy and should be called out for the wasteful practice that it is. There may be some people who have health conditions that require cooler inside temps, but for most people, it’s a matter of adopting a mindset that warmer temps are a part of summer.
These are all such great points. Truly, reusing and buying less stuff are key in zero waste and frugality, which have a ton of crossover (don’t buy a lot of stuff, but when you do, buy high-quality stuff that will last. Don’t waste food. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need). I love your point about not wasting food! We are guilty as charged, but we throw every food scrap in our compost except for meat, which we’re eating less and less of. Good luck with your garden this year! We haven’t even started ours. I think this is the weekend it’s got to happen! 🙂
I am far from a perfect (or even a very good) frugal person or environmentalist yet but reading through your list and the comments, I was surprised how many of these items I do because I want to do them.
I have two clotheslines in my backyard and I hang a lot of my clothes outside spring – fall and on racks in the basement in the winter. I stopped putting my knits and sweaters in the dryer years ago because I was tired of them shrinking and fading. They last so much longer and look nicer longer (even black clothes don’t fade as fast). I do still dry unmentionables (not bras) and jeans but, since I’m drying much smaller loads and using a dryer that stops when it senses that the clothes are dry, I run the dryer for a much shorter period of time. I’m also the only person in my neighborhood that hangs clothes outside.
I make my own bread, either using a bread machine I bought off Craigs List or using a no-knead method, because it’s really good and I can control what’s in it.
I have really sensitive skin and curly hair so I’ve been experimenting with making my own hair and skin products. I use natural oils on my skin and I recently made a hair mask. I just bought flax seeds to make a hair gel because the one I’ve been using is really expensive. Most drugstore brands aren’t good for my skin and hair so I spend a lot on special products or make my own natural alternatives.
I’ve been taking public transportation to work for almost 20 years. I even met my ex-husband on the bus, although I don’t hold it against the bus. I don’t get free parking at work and I’ve always taken the bus to avoid paying to park but it’s great for the environment too.
I thought soaking citrus peels in vinegar to make cleaners was my secret. I not only use it myself but I gave a pretty bottle of it along with small dishcloths I crocheted to both my mother and sister for Mother’s Day.
I don’t buy bottled water and I use a Brita filter at home. I carry around my own water bottle for when I’m out.
My big addition to this list this year is that I’m creating a raised bed in my backyard to grow tomatoes and herbs. I plan to dry or freeze anything that we can’t eat.
HVAC is your home’s #1 energy hog, followed by dryer, stove, washer, and anything else that has >20 amp circuit (go look at your electrical box to see how they rank at your house).
Refrigerators use a ton of energy and are usually #2 on the hog list. Electric hot water heaters use a lot, too.
I am a vegetarian with strong leaning to veganism, though the odd bit of dairy sneaks into my diet once in a while. I was surprised Ms. FW didn’t explore that idea as well since I understand the FW diet to include little meat. Reducing or eliminating meat and animal products has a huge environmental impact. If you prefer meat, sourcing it hyperlocal where possible also helps since factory farming isn’t particularly friendly to the environment. When I ate chicken I purchased it from a local, organic, free-range, old-order Mennonite farmer.
You have a great point. Sourcing meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy locally can be very beneficial for the environment. I used to be strictly vegan for most of my adult life, mainly because of my concerns about CAFO’s. Now we obtain eggs and poultry from a farmer who only raises free-range birds that forage for all their nutritional needs. I’m really only interested in the bone broth and give the raw meat to my dog. There is a bison farmer a few miles away that has free-range bison, goats, cattle, and pigs. They are very popular in the local area.
Totally agree! I’m very much the same and have watched so many documentaries about the environmental impact of factory farming. Even reducing meat consumption can make a huge difference
Hi Mrs. FW. Loving your blog. Todays article about green living? Thumbs up! (As usual!)
Thing about your clothes drying? Well, it’s an aesthetic thing. Of course sun/air drying is the way to go, but I would recommend erecting a line outside. Aesthetically speaking, nothing ruins the look of a place – and you have such a beautiful homestead – as clothes hanging from the roof. Just ask anybody who has ever lived in China, if you doubt my insight…. A clothes line full of clothes, on the other hand, why its just improves the landscape.
On the other hand, my sister in Holland does like all the Dutch and hangs her washing in the attic on lines specially hung from rafter to rafter. It dries very well there and doesn’t clutter up the house.
I agree with the use of a clothes rack/clothes horse – even on your porch it isn’t obtrusive.
Winter clothes drying is a kettle of differently coloured fish. Best thing for you to do is put the clothes on the clothes rack and leave them in front of your stove overnight. In the morning you will come to dry warm clothes. If your clothes rack is not big enough to hold all your wet clothes, here’s a trick. Screw a cup hook to one corner of the room – maybe into the moulding round a door, for example. Secure another cup hook at the other end of the room. Get yourself a string or cord that doesn’t stretch and attach some type of catch to both ends of that. In fact you could just tie a cup hook on to each end. Now when you are proposing to dry clothes overnight, just whip our your special cord from its resting place, attach to the two stationary cup hooks, and hang up your clothes on it. Same result – toasty dry in the morning.
Much tidier overall, proving that the Green thing need not be any less beautiful than the Waste Electricity Laundry System.
Spend Nothing!!! That’s my motto. I’m deep into the Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle concept of the Zero-Waste movement. But there is an insidious message is permeating that discussion, to induce one to buy more stuff to join the Zero-Waste movement. Things like lightweight produce bags to use at the grocery story for replacing the plastic bags in the produce department. You can make those yourself. There is a list of things like that. I “Refuse” to buy anything special. I am very good at refusing condiments, because I make my own, from catsup, to mustard, to mayo, to naturally fermented pickles of all kinds. There’s not much I buy at the grocery store anymore, between my own garden, sprouting veggies in my kitchen year-round, and visiting farmer’s markets. I take a basket when I go. If I need rice, quinoa, or amaranth in bulk, I buy them online in sufficient quantities that the container are reusable–perhaps as rain catchers or fermenting buckets. Still, it’s hard to avoid packaging, though I’ve completely eliminated “tin cans” by doing my own vegetable and tomato canning from my garden. The glass jars are reusable, as well as the Tattle lids and rubber rings I invested in. It’s all a journey, but I’m on the right path.
Numbers 8, 9, and 13 are my personal favorites. I’m working to cook a lot more from scratch-in fact this morning we all had an amazing batch of banana bread muffins for breakfast! Avoiding food waste and cooking from scratch all in one go. 🙂 I remember reading about the concept of frugality and environmentalism going hand in hand back in my copy of The Tightwad Gazzette. The author described how using less, buying used, and just not buying helped the environment much more than buying a bunch of “environmentally friendly” things. Love this!
Really nice. Couple of months ago we moved from an apartment to a duplex with a tiny-tiny backyard. And guess what, we’ve planted tomatoes, greens, cucumbers, mint and flowers. Can’t wait to start eating our own vegetables
We recently bought 2 acres of land in the hill country of Texas and found ourselves in need a riding lawn mower. My dad’s neighbor was giving his away for free because he didn’t want to take the time to repair it. In one hour my husband had it cleaned up and working perfectly. The only problem was a loose switch on the motor! I’m thankful to have such a handy husband and the desire to try and fix things instead of always replacing!
We are 5 weeks in with our first flock of chickens and I have been so surprised by how easy they are. We waited until our kids were more independent (3 and 5) because I didn’t know if we could handle any more little creatures depending on us, but they are surprisingly self-sufficient. And as a bonus, they eat almost all of our food scraps and turn them into fertilizer much faster than the compost pile! So far they are not quite frugal because of coop building expenses, but we want to make sure we build it to last so future flocks will be super *cheep.*
That’s great to hear! Yeah, I’m definitely in the boat of wanting to wait until Babywoods is a tad older and can handle some chicken coop chores :).
Frugality meaning has got its beauty with this environmentalism. The way you made your life frugal seems so Eco-friendly. Seeing your life, I just was excited to share my dream goal. “I want to have a little big place enough to cultivate the required food items and those should only be used for myself and also to grow the beautiful flower plants surrounded by trees. And finally the house should be the trees and not with concrete or wooden walls with no life. “
Saving money + FI + saving the environment = TRIPLE WHAMMY!
Mother nature is one of the underrated forms of entertainment these days, so many natural wonders and peaceful scenery.
Thank you for sharing !
One tip on the vinegar – we keep a large jar under the sink with peeks from oranges & lemons that we use/eat and vinegar. We let it sit for a few weeks ( or until we need more in our spray bottle) and it gives a nice scent to the vinegar for free.
I make our laundry soap now and it is safe for our septic system and the environment.
I can share the recipe, it is really easy.
I live in a rural and beautiful space with lots of water fowl and animals. I want to be sure I am contributing to their healthy environment.
Great post! I totally agree that the best way to be environmentally conscious is by limiting consumption.
In an effort to save as much as possible, I’ve stopped buying clothes. In fact, I’ve been going through my closet to get rid of a lot of stuff. Most of these things I’m selling or donating, but the really ratty things are being used as rags. I’m finding the less stuff I buy, the less I want to buy. It’s good for my wallet and the earth!
I never really thought of frugality as being “green”, but I guess you’ve got a pretty good point. Maybe my family is more green that we thought!
Hello from New Zealand. When we built our house we purposely designed it with a deck for drying clothes that is under cover. This means that I can hang out washing in just about any weather. I occasionally finish clothes off in the drier or hang shirts on a rack inside, but mostly clothes dry in the fresh air.
Our three children are now adults. When they were babies they I only used cloth nappies, even when we were camping, and they were all breastfed. Both of these choices saved a lot of money and resulted in much less of an environmental impact than the alternatives.
I really enjoy reading this blog, it is great to read about considered choices that provide information and inspiration.
This is a fantastic list of the ways that frugal living means green living. I love it! If you’re interested in kicking up your cleaning solution a bit, soak some lemon, lime, or orange peels in the vinegar mixture ahead of time. Works like a charm on hard to clean messes! I’ll have to try adding water to mine to make it stretch out longer, too. Thanks!
Our library has the energy monitors for checkout, just like a book! A frugal way to monitor your electricity since you only need it periodically. Ours are shared among our library system so your’s might have the same.
Essential oils are also nice for the cleaning solution – just check if they might hurt your finishes.
Our CSA grows vegetables more environmentally that we can – they can water a large patch versus me watering my tiny area. Plus I’m a terrible gardener. They reuse all of their packaging and collect back all of the paper boxes from the veggies each week.
I’ve been reading your blog for a long time. You make excellent points in a compelling way. You’re passionate without being preachy. Keep up the good work.
Thank you so much, Marcy! I really appreciate that 🙂
Love this! We’re very environmentally aware. This also means we don’t eat meat which is SUPER expensive compared to lentils! There are endless benefits to living a frugal lifestyle. Just out of interest, what do you clean your oven with? This is a job I struggle to do, ‘au naturel’
Uh, I should be cleaning my oven ;)? Do you mean running it on the clean cycle? The exterior I just wipe down with water or with my vinegar solution.
You obviously have a much fancier oven than I do! In England, alongside tumble driers, self cleaning ovens are quite rare!
Nope, my oven is not self-cleaning… I just never clean it ;)!
I agree with you 100% about making smart financial decisions that are not wasting your money, poisoning yourself or turning your home into a toxic waste dump. Processed foods that are insanely expensive when you look at the cost per ounce, are loaded with toxic chemicals, single ingredient cooking is the way to go and even better if you are able to get the ingredients out of your own garden. Can those fresh fruits and vegetables and eat healthy all year. I too ditched the salon to have my husband be my stylist. Best decision I ever made with my beauty routine. He always does a great job, doesn’t decide to get artsy and hack my hair off in an ugly “trendy” style like the salons did, he does as I ask and I save hundreds a year, he does my color with henna so I am not putting toxic chemicals on my head. And I get compliments, other ladies want to know where I get my hair done. Mostly nice comments when I tell them at home from my personal stylist.
Great list! We try to do these things too. All of our furniture is handed down or saved from the dumpster, and we make life work with one car. Who wants to pay double insurance and car maintenance? Another thing we do is try to cut down on meat and alcohol. They are both more expensive and have much healthier alternatives. Babywoods is going to have so much fun working in the garden and she will know where her food comes from!
So true, Mrs. Frugalwoods. Unfortunately the master marketers are keeping the majority of the population in full consume mode. We’d live on a more ecologically sound planet if the marketers starting pushing your line: “The best way to steward our earth is to stop consuming. You can’t buy your way to green.” Regrettably, many environmental groups are not even trumpeting this message, yet!
What a fantastic post! We do many of these things too. We could be better on avoiding the stove/oven in the summer. This year that’s something I will try to be more cognizant of. It does add a lot of heat into the home which then needs to be taken out by the air conditioner. That double work is a huge waste. Any recommendations for no-cook meals?
This is an amazing post! We’re also very frugal people and I also believe it helps the environment!
We can’t grow our own food, which is something I’ve always wanted. When we’ll become home owners though, I plan on planting all sorts of vegetables! For now, growing spices is the best we can do.
As for the rest of the things you mentioned, I also cook from scratch (every day), I don’t wear makeup or use beauty products to feel good about myself, I absolutely hate food waste so do my best to avoid it, we actually do a lot of the things you mentioned to save our money and at least try to protect the environment while we’re at it.
One of the most environmentally friendly (and relatively cheap) choices you can make is to eat vegan. Animal agriculture (especially that involving cows and pigs) causes deforestation (to the land can be planted for grain to feed animals) and generates massive quantities of waste and methane gas. Eating plants (instead of animals, who are fed plants) is healthier, more efficient, environmentally friendly – and compassionate.
Also, I realize that this blog is about frugality, but please, please, I beg you, please fully research the issue of animal cruelty before deciding to raise chickens. Even backyard chickens suffer (especially egg-laying hens). Check out United Poultry Concerns’ website for information: http://www.upc-online.org/
Wow, you guys are so awesome! We love hearing about your frugality and how environmentally conscious you are, keep up the great work! 🙂
Absolutely love this article. The best part is none of this seems out of the realm of possibility for most people. Sure sometimes it’s difficult to go against the norm.
It’s amazing the impact minimalism and frugality can have on the environment, even the small ones. I often wonder how many plastic disposable cups we go through at my company since we have drinking machines. I have a knock-off Yeti that I carry around most of the time at work and out. I bet most people use a new cup every time I went to fill up my water (4-5 times per day). On top of that I know that I save $0.10 each time I get a refill at a coffee shop or elsewhere.
I wish others would adopt more simple changes.
Loved this article. No food waste and growing your food is my own personal love language. 🙂 We have very little outdoor space in our city dwelling but still manage to grow a good bit of produce and also have a (not stinky!) compost tumbler. We’re militant about getting through food/freezing it/not buying more than we need.
I know this might come as a shock (because it was for me) but organic food actually has a higher carbon footprint than conventional. It’s a big reason I try so hard to grow as much as I can, and then buy local, seasonal produce from sustainable farms to supplement.
Really inspiring – would love to grow my own produce and live a simpler and more frugal life!
I really love passing things on for free just to keep them out of landfills. Recently we replaced our 12 year old Simmons Beautyrest Kimble luxury firm king size mattress. We bought it in Florida as an irregular with no warranty (ha) because of a small tear and some dirt smudges around the edge. This damage suggested a fall from a truck. I don’t remember the price but it was likely in the $200-300 range. The sleeping surface is still clean and unblemished, though it has developed two shallow impressions and we just were not sleeping as well as we used to. We had a baby right after we bought it (who admittedly spent more of her time sleeping there than we should have allowed), so for most of its years it had a waterproof pad protecting it.
Couldn’t find any acquaintances to take it so moved to the local Facebook sale sites and found a nice lady ISO just what we had who will probably get another 10 plus years out of it. Our new mattress is from Aldi – a bed in a box made by Soft Tex which also makes foam mattresses for the likes of Macy’s (apparently sold under the SensorGel store brand). It was marked down to $175. You don’t want to know what Macy’s charges for their 10 inch king foam mattress in a box. Oh, you do? Well today it’s on sale for $627. They claim suckers pay $1600 for it at full retail.
New mattress for us for dirt cheap. No disposal fee for old mattress. No garbage in the landfill. Happy people sleeping on new/new to them beds. Maybe we could have gotten $50 for our old mattress but frankly it feels a lot better to pass it on to a good home.
I was raised pretty frugal and use various selective money saving techniques, but I know when I’m outclassed.
I live in Germany and we have a group of “food savers”, who have worked out an agreement with all of our local grocery stores, including the bakeries and organic market, to collect the expired foods as well as the produce, less than fresh bread, etc. that would otherwise be discarded to trash. These people collect the food on a food run twice a week and then bring it to a garage, in my case the neighbors, and organize it into bins and shelves. My neighbor donated her garage and the savers dialed it out with donated shelves, bins and a refrigerator. Every Monday and Thursday, our saver sends a group message out on WhatsApp to let us know the pick up time. We are a group of 40+ people and most of us come most of the time. My freezer is full of artisan, German bread that would have otherwise landed in the trash. Additionally, there is always an abundance of produce needing to be consumed quickly. Not to mention the packaged, canned food. I have yet to have taken something that was inedible due to expiration, including meat. The food industry is a racket in this way; producing ever more and throwing it away in bulk. Growl.
We have farmers that come and claim the leftovers and bring it to their animals.
We have one guy who collects the bread left and uses it to brew his own craft beers.
Another lady gets food and cooks a weekly meal for refugees at her house.
Our saver spends about 12 hours per week and has been able to feed her entire extended family with no extra spending for the two years she has been doing this. She has been able to save roughly 800 Euro a month in groceries. She also has a collection pig for donations to cover gas etc. I suspect she takes in 200Euro a mo. From this alone. Her children are always with her and they play out on the yard.
All in all it is an idea for the US and a wonderful community builder gathering. Often times we hang out, eat a piece of donated cake and chat. Free food and fun. Doesn’t get any better than that.