In a deep green world, using less and spending less would automatically go hand-in-hand. Maybe it already does, for some. But the majority of Americans are still struggling to get a handle on doing more with less.
Frugality is a life concept. It’s not just buying on sale or turning off light switches. (Although that’s part of it, of course.) Frugality is more about asking yourself, “Do I really need this?” Or, “How can I fix this so I can still use it?”
Today, it seems that people everywhere in the U.S. just plain have more. No home is without several TVs and computers. Most families have more than one car. Families eat out several times a week, just for the convenience. We buy clothes we don’t need and won’t wear, just because they’re on sale.
As a society, we’ve grown bilious and lazy. We throw something away simply because it needs repair. We drive to the post office instead of walking because it’s warm outside. It wasn’t always that way, you know.
For centuries, humankind did without A/C, cars and coffee houses. And hey, guess what, we survived. Imagine that.
I’m not suggesting we give up modern medicine, electric coffeepots or washing machines, but I think maybe it’s time to take a look at how we spend not just money, but all resources. Even if the economy weren’t sagging, it’s just not right to consume so much in the face of a world that has so little. (I’m thinking of water here, especially. So the next time you brush your teeth and just let the tap run, remember, children in Africa don’t have clean water to drink. Think about it.)
But if you’re ready to begin a journey toward frugality, here are some ideas to help get you started. Start by consuming less and reusing more. Who knows, you might learn to even like the feeling of being more in control of your carbon-footprint - and your destiny.
1. Recycle. Most cities now have free recycling programs, and even curb side pick up of certain items. Throwing away less will also save you money on your garbage bill. more green ideas check out 40 ways to save money and the planet.
2. Be your own repairman. With a good reference book, you’d be surprised at what you can fix yourself. You can even be your own tailor. Get a book and learn how to make simple repairs like sewing buttons or mending fabric tears yourself, and save money on the job.
3. If you’re making home improvements, check out your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for materials. You’ll save some money, reuse still-good items and help Habitat continue building houses for those in need.
4. Repurpose sheets and table cloths to make window treatments, napkins and decorative pillows. Old sheets - as well as old clothes - make great fabric for craft projects, too.
5. Mulch your yard for free. See if your county offers free or low cost mulch and make use if it. Some counties offer free mulch from local landfills, all you have to do is pick it up yourself.
6. Use ceiling fans, even in the winter. If you have one with reversible blades, you can use it to push the warm air down, so you run the heater less. In spring and fall, if the weather is nice, turn your fans on and open the windows. No need to run the A/C just because you can. Get some fresh air circulating.
7. Check out Freecycle.com, an online exchange/barter site. You can find almost anything there, baby items, clothes, furniture - even plants.
8. Start a plant exchange in your neighborhood. Get together with neighbors and friends a few times a year to swap plant cuttings. You can have wonderful new selections for your garden and so can they, for no cost at all.
9. Use your crockpot and toaster oven when you can, instead of heating up the oven. These appliances use less energy.
10. Put your sprinklers on a timer. It will significantly reduce the amount of water you use on your lawn. It’s a good idea to water every other day as well. Unless your area is in the middle of a blistering heat wave, your yard will never know the difference.
11. Do fewer laundry loads. Don’t throw clothing in the laundry after each use, think about whether it’s dirty or not. If you wear a dress for a couple of hours on Sunday morning, you can probably get another wear out of it before washing. You might also think about instituting a two day policy on bath towels. After all, you’re clean when you dry off after a shower, so why is the towel dirty after it’s used once? Always make sure laundry loads are full, and use the lowest water setting practical.
12. Caulk and weatherstrip the cracks in your house, it’ll make a world of difference. Weatherstripping helps keep warm cold air out in the winter and hot air out in the summer. It can help you save on your electric bill, which means you use less energy and start more comfortable.
13. Reuse grey water. Maybe you take a cup of water to bed with you at night and the glass is half full in the morning. Or you hand wash and rinse dishes. Either way, what you have left falls into the category of grey water - water the was purposed for something and not completely used. Well, reuse it. Water your plants, reuse it to flush your toilet or put it in your bird bath. (Don’t use rinse water here, it might contain traces of soap that could be harmful to wildlife. But your plants won’t mind a little dish soap residue, I promise.) Point is, don’t just dump it down the drain, collect it and do something with it.
14. A full freezer uses less electricity. So keep it stocked. Since freezers can be deep and dark, I like to have a running list on my computer of my freezer contents. That way, I remember to use up what’s in there. And it lets me look for sales on veggies, bulk items and meat, because I know exactly how much of what I have on hand at any time. If you have extra space, fill it with plastic water bottles. The up side of doing this is that if you have a power failure for any reason, the contents of your freezer will last that much longer.
15. Close doors and heater vents in rooms you aren’t using. This is a great way to save energy because you’re not paying to heat rooms that are empty. Plus, you’ll need less energy overall to heat the part of your house you do use.
16. Embrace minimalism. Buy less, use less, recycle more.
Frugality - in all areas of life - is a smart decision. It will save the planet, but it will also help you make the most of whatever resources you have to work with, no matter how the economy goes.