The Frugal environmentalist

There is a myth out there in the big bright world, that being an environmentalist is costly. It doesn’t need to be, actually I have found being more environmentally aware has actually saved me money! Making the “3 R’s and a P” work for you can help your budget and the environment too!
I was introduced to a “new to me” concept this past winter. The naturalist at our Nature Center called it “Pre- cycling”. (The “P” in the “3 R’s and a P”) Whereas recycling keeps items out of the waste stream by turning them into another usable item, PRE cycling is actively doing things to prevent trash from ever “being” produced.
Take for example all those boxes of rice with seasonings one tends to buy. How expensive is that? Lets add it up… each prepackaged meal adds tons of extra cardboard and plastics to our ever growing landfills. Many times, the portions are not large enough for all we are serving, so we use two or three. A serving of rice with seasonings from a box cost about 3 times as much than if you had measured out the ingredients yourself, and it adds all that extra packaging to the landfills. A terrific solution would be to learn how to create those mixes yourself. Buy rice and spices in bulk. A cup of rice, a sprinkling of spices and Viola! You have your own homemade version. It costs less, and it really takes no more time to prepare than if you had purchased the boxed kind.
Another way to be environmentally aware and frugal is to bring your own containers with you to bring home leftovers when you go out to eat. (Yes, even being frugal I still go out to eat.) When it comes time to reheat, just pop your container into the microwave reheat and serve! How much easier can it be? You save money because you now have another meal – or two- from leftovers. You save the environment because you have kept take out containers out of the “waste stream.” It is a win-win situation for all concerned!
Other examples include:
-Trade out paper towels for cloth ones.
– Use canvas bags instead of paper or plastic bags when you go shopping.
– Use rechargeable batteries instead of regular one time use ones.
-View items on your computer instead of purchasing books or printing the items. (This works well with recipes. You can always go back to the website if you need more information. Certainly with all the terrific recipe sites available now, you can have your pick of specialty, diet or ethnic related foods. The web holds a greater variety than anybody’s kitchen bookshelf could possibly hope to!)
Have you ever wondered what all those plastic bottles we recycle actually are turned into? Well, I am happy to say I have many objects that began life as a plastic bottle. One is a terrific “canvas” bag, another is a pair of shoelaces, and a third is a t-shirt. And, I can tell you that t-shirt wears like iron! It is just amazing what our recycling technology has brought forth.
As a child, I looked forward to recycling day at our house each month. We would load up our station wagon with all the pop bottles and aluminum cans we had collected and proceed off to the recycling plant. It was a huge scary place with big crushing machines, loud crunching noises, and frightening junkyard dogs guarding the back lots. But, still, I looked forward to it. I knew after all, I would be getting a cash reward at the end of the day. Money that I could spend on a special treat like bubblegum or yes, even more soda pop.  As an adult, the recycling centers are much nicer! There are many conveniently located throughout my city. Small, clean little sheds and not a junk yard dog to be found! Now, I have the option of collecting my funds or donating them to a local charity with the push of a button. I still look forward to recycling day, as do my children.
Reduce, that is one 3 R that many struggle with. But, fitting reducing into a frugalities life is easy. It just takes a bit of practice. Reduce- to use less.
– Turn down your thermostat during the winter. Save money and save our natural resources. Simple, fast, and really your house doesn’t need to be heated when no one is home.
– Reduce the amount of time you spend driving place to place. Plan out your day so multiple trips will not be necessary. Shop on one side of town one day, and get all your errands done at that time. Next trip you can hit the stores you need to visit on the other side of town. Avoid criss-crossing all over the city to get a good deal. Make plans, save gas and save time.
– Scale down those birthday party plans. Somewhere along the way, children have been conditioned that food comes with prizes, birthday parties come with goodie bags, and parents will spend a month’s salary celebrating a day their one year old will never remember. Save the expenditures until the child is old enough to remember the festivities. Many of my friends were shocked to hear we were hosting a special party for my daughters 6th birthday. We splurged and invited 5 of her friends to a Build a Bear workshop. Each child went home with a new plush animal and an outfit for it. Splurged, yes. But, it was also the first party we had ever held for her. We had celebrated the first five with family only. Forgoing the bounce house, puppet theatres, goodie bags and pony rides so many others in our neighborhood had been compelled to celebrate with. We splurged, but that is what being frugal is all about for my family. Having the means to splurge on occasion, and appreciating it all the more.
Reuse- that is the easy “R” for my family. Think trash to treasure and you have the meaning and purpose of “reuse.”
– We’ve been the recipient of many terrific wardrobes over the years. Even before my first daughter was born I had people giving me baby clothes. How much money is wasted on clothes that only fit a newborn for a month? I am happy to report that except for special occasion clothes, my children reused many outfits from friends and family members. And, we in turn passed them on as well.
-We’ve passed on loads of books we’ve outgrown; and, happily accepted terrific books as well. As a homeschooler, one of the most important things we have learned is that one size does not fit all when it comes to a curriculum. What one of my daughters found a terrific resource, the other can’t bear to use. I am lucky to belong to a wonderful group of people that trade resources freely. Everything from books, to posters, to compact discs have generously been given and received. Money rarely changes hands, as in our community we all believe that you reap what you sow. Generosity breeds generosity.
-We’ve remodeled our kitchen with seats that a local eatery had taken out and had been throwing away. Now, instead of a mix matched set of chairs and a wobbly table, we have a wonderful retro kitchen set! By reusing someone else’s trash, have found a treasure. And, it was free!
Saving money and saving our planets precious resources all go hand in hand. It is never too late to start saving the planet, and certainly never to late to start reducing your expenses. It just takes a bit of planning, a clear idea of how to do it, and taking the steps to set the plan in motion.

Dana Eppele is a homeschooling mom and member of the Frugal-Families team!  She and her family live in California.  Dana loves homeschooling, her family, living a “greener” lifestyle and being a member of the Frugal-Families forums.

One thought on “The Frugal environmentalist

  1. Rebekah Wells-Moore

    This is a good article. Simplifying one’s life to create space -either mental or physical will eventually lead to true happiness because of the renewed ability to focus on what is truly important in life.

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