Out of the blue I was asked on Friday to appear on a national TV show on Network Ten called 7PM Project. They would like to do a segment on frugal living, which I agreed to of course. Seeing that I am one of the writers at the Simple, Green, Frugal Cooperative, I think that will be simple enough to get the message across. Filming is this Wednesday, and I will let the Australian readers know when it will be aired. Apparently, Melissa of Frugal and Thriving blog passed on my name to the producers. Thanks Melissa! 🙂
Then I started thinking, as I do. How does one compare a frugal lifestyle to a sustainable lifestyle that I strive to live. Are the two actually compatible? Lets investigate further, shall we?
My definition of sustainable living is one that lowers inputs and outputs with a view of reducing your environmental footprint. A frugal lifestyle, on the other hand, is one that attempts to reduce your outputs of cash, whilst still living a happy and simple life or other words live within your means. Well, even though the objectives are somewhat different, the outcome is nearly the same.
To put it into perspective, my grandparents and parents were very fugal. I remember as a child, both Mum and Nanna used to make jam, preserve fruit, repair clothes, make dresses, cook all meals for the family, not waste anything, save leftovers, keep anything that looked useful and found a use for it. Both Dad and Grandpa grew fruit and vegetables, worked on a modest dairy farm and took care of livestock. We always had fresh chicken and duck eggs, lamb, beef and of course dairy products that were all ethically cared for and slaughtered when necessary to put on the table. They even had names for all the cows. Their carbon emissions were quite low, they rarely drove cars, all kids rode bikes to school and everywhere else mind you, hardly used electricity, and all other food was sourced locally. That sounds very much what I have tried to recreate in my own family’s lifestyle. Life in the past was frugal and most probably quite green. Even most families in the city had a backyard veggie patch and chickens, and most had a fruit tree or two.
So what about today? Can frugal still be green like it was in the past? I believe that it can, but only if you are selective in what you buy. This is mainly because of the way our present food system works. A trip to the supermarket will confirm this. Cheap canned beef from Brazil, Ham from Denmark and France, canned pineapple from Hawaii, canned beans and crab meat from Thailand. Even the frozen fish in the deli is rarely locally caught. Fresh food is imported in the form of oranges from Argentina or California, Cherries from the USA, Ya Pears from China, Kiwifruit from New Zealand etc,. Food miles and carbon emissions galore, and not very green nor sustainable. There are no longer any seasons, and you may only notice a drop in the price of fresh food when a glut in the market is caused by over production all throughout Australia.
Same goes for manufactured goods. With a flood of cheap plastic crap from China that adorns the $2 shop shelves at Christmas time, discount variety stores are a frugal shoppers haven.
So, in my opinion, to be frugal and green today, you would have to avoid discount variety stores, buy local food in season and preserve the excess, or grow lots of your own. Even a farmers market is fairly cheap and has local fare. Of course, it goes without saying that all the other frugal ways would still apply. Like repairing in lieu of replacing, living within your means, shopping second hand, cooking your own meals, bake bread, knit stuff, essentially all the nanna technology that helped our grandparents survive.
In summary, frugal vs green is not really that different if you are aware of the environmental impact of your frugality, and as with leading a green or sustainable lifestyle, less consumption means that you would be able to live within your means, and live a balanced, happy and fulfilling lifestyle.
Does anyone disagree or can see flaws in my logic?