In our consumer culture, I worry that many people are getting the message that you have to have money to live ecologically. After all front load washers, hybrid cars, and organic foods cost money, right?
My family and I live an ecological lifestyle on one part-time income. To me, living out my values means living simply, living debt free, and living in a way that honors the earth. The primary way I do this is through frugality. The same skills and values that allow me to be resourceful with money also allow me to be a good steward of natural resources.
Here are things that my family does that are green and that save green:
- We live rurally. Because I work from home and we homeschool, we don’t find it necessary to live in a big city. It is much cheaper and much greener to live in an area where we can have cheap housing, renovate our home in unconventional ways, hang our clothes out to dry, and have large gardens.
- We grow our own food. Having a garden and fruit trees saves so much money. Every organic item I grow is one less thing that has to be shipped to the grocery store.
- We compost. Composting saves money on trash service and also provides great soil for the garden!
- We work from home. Saving money on business attire, transportation costs, lunch out, co-workers birthdays, etc. is green and frugal.
- We bought our house with cash. This allows us to be able to take the money we would spend on a mortgage (or just interest on the mortgage) and put it towards energy saving updates to our home.
- We buy organic foods in bulk. Since learning what you eat is more important ecologically than what you drive, I’ve taken my diet much more seriously and cut down on packaging and non-organic foods.
- We limit our driving. We use less than one tank of gas a month. Driving less is a great way to save money and reduce our carbon footprint.
- We eat meatless meals at home. Meat is expensive and takes a toll on the environment. When I’m budgeting with people I always encourage them to cut back on or eliminate meat from their diets.
- We make foods from scratch. Processed foods not only have harmful ingredients but they come in lots of packaging. We make all our own bread, torillas, noodles, and just about anything else you can think of!
- We buy used as a whenever possible. Every new product you don’t buy is one less item that has to be made.
- We make it, make do, and do without. We try to avoid buying things except when we absolutely must.
- We don’t have a dryer. Our dryer died several years ago and I bought two collapsible wooden racks. We dry our clothes outside on the line in the summer and inside on the racks in the winter.
- We don’t have central heat and air. Instead we have a wood stove for the winter and we use fans (or just sweat) in the summer.
- We focus on reusable products. For example, we don’t most paper/disposable products. By using cloth napkins, microfiber towels, hankies, etc. we save money and throw less in the trash.
These are just some of the frugal choices my family makes that are also green. You can read more about how we live ecologically and debt free on one part-time income at www.budgetingwiththebushmans.com.
Bobbie Bushman records her family’s adventures in frugal living at Budgeting with the Bushmans.
Just out of curiosity–what do you do about health insurance?
This is a question I get a lot! I’m very lucky that my part-time employer provides health insurance.
I’m so frustrated by all the folks who advocate rural living as a particularly ecological choice. It may be frugal, but it isn’t ecological, and it is worrisome to see how trendy it has become. While I agree that suburban living is especially hard on the earth, rural living is certainly no better. Septic is horrible for our watersheds, and burning wood for heat is hard on the atmosphere. Rural living is sprawl — it necessitates the development of infrastructure systems like roads and other public services (not to mention the fuel costs to deliver supplies) to meet the needs of the few in dispersed places, not the many in a concentrated fashion.
We live similarly to you in almost all respects, but our choices to be frugal and ecological led us to purchase (cash) an apartment in a densely populated urban area. We grow our own food in a large community garden plot and in patio containers. We don’t have air conditioning (our apartment building does, however, have heat). We hang our clothing indoors to dry. We don’t eat meat, we prepare our own food and bottle our own hard cider and mead. We don’t own a car but walk/ bike everywhere (including to our jobs and to school), tapping into public transit when needed. We live richly, spending less than $18,000 a year to meet our needs in one of the most expensive areas of the country.
I’m glad to hear we have so many things it common! It sounds like you guys are doing a lot to live ecologically. For our family, we have found rural living to be more ecological than our life in the city. I’ve also seen people who live ecologically in the city. I’m not saying its the only choice, but for our family it was the right choice. To address two of your concerns: our family currently does have a septic tank but will have a composting toilet and grey water system in the future. Those two things were not options when we lived in the city. We also chose to burn wood because it is the most ecological of the heating options in our price range.
We live rurally in a town of 99 people in the middle of no where. We are on City water, trash and sewer. We have a brand new fire truck that is 2 blocks from our house. We paid cash for the $23K house, smaller homes with less land and no central ac/heat go for about 80K 30 miles out. Not every rural location is on septic and wells. We choose this house because it had a brand new commercial size Amana heat and central A/C over $8K. We also home school, garden, wash clothing and dishes by hand and we make a lot of money. We live well below our means, I am a SAHM my husband works in Oil/Gas. We shop at goodwill, do many online deals and eventually will get into solar power. I stopped major couponing because I want us to use more natural products and avoid future health problems. I stockpile long term foods, heirloom seeds and turning our yard into edibles. We rent out our large nice house in the city for a profit, have a mobile home on family land for when we visit relatives and a 5th wheel my husband lives in while he works. Anyway anyone and every one should live below their means no matter what their means are so they can get ahead, stay out of debt and enjoy life more then worrying about money.
Great post! We, too, have much in common with you – although we live in the city. We have a garden, raise chickens, and compost. We’re also lucky that we can walk to stores, the library, bank, etc. and our kids walk to/from school. Simple, frugal & green is easy on the environment and on the wallet.
PS for medical insurance, we have an “individual policy” with the highest deductible possible.
Awesome Sara! We’ve also done high deductible insurance through a private company. It can be surprisingly affordable!