Save money, save the Earth
Frugality can reduce your carbon footprint -- and increase control of your life. But a greener lifestyle doesn't have to happen overnight; small changes help, too.
Others may feel vaguely guilty about their oversized carbon footprints, yet they are convinced they have neither the time nor the talents to take the greener path in life.
But it's not an all-or-nothing approach, says author Deborah Niemann. You don't have to give up all creature comforts in favor of outhouses and butter churns, or turn your front yard into the back 40.
What you do have to do, though, is quit thinking you're incapable of change.
"Start questioning things that you have always assumed to be true," says Niemann, the author of "Eco Thrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life."
What kinds of things? So glad you asked.
- "Maybe your time is not too valuable to cook dinner."
- "Do you really always need to buy new clothes rather than used?"
- "Does your child really need the latest plastic gadget from China?"
- "Maybe you wouldn't mind drying a few things on a clothesline rather than in a dryer."
- "Could better time management help you save money by avoiding impulse purchases when you are in a hurry?"
"As long as you let Madison Avenue tell you how to spend your money and your time, you're a pawn in the marketing game, making others richer," Nieman says. "The good news is that you can stop playing that game whenever you are ready."
Change can be gradual
That doesn't mean leaving the playing field abruptly, mind you. If it's easy to burn out on ordinary frugality, imagine how tough an overnight transition to a supergreen lifestyle could be. To go from shopping once a week to having to make your own baby food, toiletries, cleaning products and all meals from scratch would be overwhelming -- even to the best-intentioned eco-warrior wannabe.
Niemann hopes you'll also rethink transportation, health care, shopping, birthday parties, child-rearing, gardening, heating and cooling, exercise, housing and hobbies. But not all at once. Instead, she suggests you start by picking three tips from the book: one that can be done that day, one that week and one that would require some planning.
I'm with her. Even a few basic changes can be the first steps toward that happier, healthier life. As I noted in "Frugal' doesn't mean 'deprived',” being careful with your money causes you to think about your finances differently. Being greener in even a few choices will change your focus, too.
For example, each time you cook dinner you'll save more than money: You save one bag of fast-food wrappers from the landfill. Mindfulness about the way you choose to live in the world can make you feel profoundly grateful for the fact that you have choices.
And if a few basic changes are all you can make? Doing even a little is better than doing nothing.
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WHAT IS FRUGAL NATION?
Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
ABOUT DONNA FREEDMAN
Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
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