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You can be green AND frugal

New guide provides tips for saving money while saving the environment.

By Teresa Mears Apr 22, 2010 1:24PM

Just in time for Earth Day, Coupon Sherpa has published a new guide on living a frugal eco-friendly life. And it’s free. (You can read it online or download a .pdf file, but “don’t you dare print it!” the site admonishes).


Coupon Sherpa’s “Eco Frugal Life Guide,” by Ashley Grimaldo and Luke Knowles, provides suggestions for living a frugal, green life in a variety of categories, from food to home to travel. They write:

It's a popular misconception that "going green" -- certainly a nice idea in theory -- is a lifestyle far too expensive for most regular folks to afford. Sure, if you want to install solar panels or geothermal heating in your house, you're going to have to spend some cash. But the core values of environmentally conscious living -- reusing, renewing, conserving, sustaining -- are as frugal as can be! Eco-frugal living isn't just a fad, it's a growing necessity for millions of people worldwide. Saving the green in your wallet, and the green outside your window really can, and should, go hand in hand.

Some environmentally friendly practices, such as using rags instead of paper towels, and reusing Ziploc bags (we just reuse the ones that don’t have to be washed), can help you save money. Buying quality used furniture instead of cheaply made new pieces also is good for both the environment and your wallet.

Here are some of our favorite suggestions from the guide:

  • Food: Use smart storage to cut food waste (and use fewer plastic bags). 
  • Home: Some small fixes can provide big energy savings. Some of those include adding attic insulation, repairing duct work and caulking around leaky windows and doors.
  • Travel: Hostels are no longer just for youth. If you’re willing to share a bathroom, you may be pleasantly surprised at the level of accommodations. (I stayed at some fabulous hostels in New Zealand, and there is an excellent affordable hostel/hotel in Miami’s South Beach.) And, while theme parks may seem the antithesis of frugal, if you want to visit one, there are ways to save money.
  • Household: Aluminum foil can be reused in 12 different ways, including as a pot scrubber and scissor sharpener.

In the introduction to the guide, the authors write about the difference between “cheap” and “frugal”:

When we evaluate every dollar spent with a bottom line anchored to it, our goal becomes "spend as little as possible, at all costs." This means you cut the tip short for your waiter. You mooch off leftovers from a group lunch. Cheap corporations are willing to take the least expensive route, regardless (and sometimes at the expense of) precious natural resources. Giving to charity becomes a burden as it won't save you any money nor provide big benefits (in most tax brackets at least). This way of life, my friends, is not thrifty nor green; it's revolting. …
Living a frugal lifestyle means being more discerning about what you use and how you spend your income. Our money, talents, and time have been given to us for a reason. To hoard or spend for our own exclusive sake is a very sad, Scroogey existence. When we choose to recycle leftovers or buy in bulk to save money we then open up doors to send resources to folks who legitimately can't afford food. Buying produce in season is not only cheaper but also supports local growers and reduces food mileage. Living within our means is far more comfortable than the gray, puritanical images frugality seems to invoke.

Do you agree with their distinction between cheap and frugal? And what are your favorite money-saving tips that are also good for the planet?

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