Over the recent years I have worked hard at optimizing my families lifestyle around our values regarding personal finance. During this time my approach to frugal living has taken a major component of the decision making from reflecting the environmental impact of our consumption. This approach is referred to a lesser known term, EcoFrugality.
My Approach to EcoFrugality
Before we dive in to this post a quick recap on my Mindful Simple Life With Less Manifesto which I have shared many times before on Mindful Explorer. A nice short overview can be found in the post; Little Spark to a Big Change . In that post I outlined my list of mindful strategies to help me achieve that lifestyle as the basis of my striving towards ecofrugality.
- Decrease our footprint by Reducing our possessions & finding a highly walkable town
- Own less, spend less and intelligently Save at a rate far higher than the national average
- Sell off the Excess in our life such as overpriced new vehicles, used is good
- Embrace a lifestyle that focuses on spending time in the outdoors
- Strive for constant Mindfullness and Positivity to make a difference to those around us
- Achieve financial independence to retire early and live a more meaningful life
- Focus on only what brings Happiness to our lives , the highest ROI
Step One Frugality
With the season of Black Friday and Christmas descending upon us I wanted to share a bit on how I approach our consumer behaviour. The most important aspect of personal finance that individuals need to first address is their level of consumption and spending. I am absolutely not against going out and making purchases and equally I am not against making expensive purchases. Just be certain it adds value to your life or that of the person you are buying it for.
To me what frugality means is to make calculated decisions on the value of the item you are wanting to purchase. How much time did it take you to earn the money required to buy that item? Is there a more affordable option to the item you are buying that meets your needs criteria? Will that item provide a very high rate of return? Do I really need it?
An example of this that is relevant to my blog here could be a very expensive pair of trail runners that I have reviewed and you are considering buying them. If I was looking at buying them I might think, ok it took my a full 8 hour day to make enough to buy these, am I ok with giving up that much of my life for them? Next I would look at how much I actually intend to use this item and also is it possible to use them for more than one activity. For myself personally I also look at things like what does the purchase help me stop spending elsewhere on? For trail runners I now can get my exercise outdoors and forego a gym membership. I will get healthier and will be more efficient at work, get sick less, need less medical assistance in my life and spend less on health care and prescriptions.
This process is also important to look at with regards to vehicles, housing and groceries. Do you really need a 4×4 that seats 6 people when you only drive 30km a week and stay on paved roads? Do you really need a 3 bedroom house with 3 bathrooms and 2 living rooms when it is just you and your wife … and you spend most of your time outside of your home? Do you need to make a big fancy meal every night, probably not because nobody sees what you are eating or really worries about it… a homemade ramen bowl can cost $2 and you can eat everyday (yes I sometimes do).
You work hard for your money, thus you should save equally as hard and be even harder on the evaluation process on how you intend to spend that money. Don’t trade your hard earned working hours for things that don’t help you live healthier and happier while hopefully being able to reach financial independence sooner.
- Find work that appeals to you and then do your best. Find your joy.
- Avoid excessive spending as every dollar you waste represents more time at work
- Avoid taking on any debt. The burden is like an anchor inhibiting your freedom
- Save intelligently for the future. A high savings rate will ensure financial independence
For more reading in a past blog post of mine check out the examples of some of my blogging friends Bob, Steve and Dave and their approach to simple frugal living; Simple Life With Less : A Mindful Happy Healthy Lifestyle
A full lifestyle overview was actually done by one of my favourite Vlog channels on You Tube, Exploring Alternatives . They interviewed Stephanie who lives in Vancouver, one of Canada’s most expensive cities and manages to accomplish this lifestyle. I was fortunate to meet up with Stephanie in person during a financial independence blogger meetup recently.
Step Two Environmental Awareness
Ecofrugality combines the concepts of a frugal lifestyle with those of environmental awareness. I have written a fair bit on the blog as my path to financial independence has allowed me to learn more about the environment and our personal decision making impacts on it. I shared the Wikipedia description on Eco-conscious Sustainable living in a previous post.
” A Lifestyle That Attempts To Reduce An Individual’s Or Society’s Use Of The Earth’s Natural Resources, And One’s Personal Resources. Its Practitioners Often Attempt To Reduce Their Carbon Footprint By Altering Their Methods Of Transportation, Energy Consumption, And/Or Diet.”
Environmental awareness in the consumer world is one of single biggest life choices we can make if we truly care about the world we live. So much of societies insatiable desire for fast, cheap and disposable has come at a great price to the environment. With so much of North Americas population living in big cities there is a disconnect to what is happening to our forests, rivers, glaciers, air and animals. Everything we consume comes at the expense of some other part of the environment therefore it is imperative that we use these resources wisely and in a manner that doesn’t create further issues such as pollution and excess waste.
The single largest ecofrugality choices we have are for our homes and our vehicles. They take huge amounts of resources to create, take ongoing resources to utilize and maintain as well as create waste and some form of environmental impact throughout their life cycle. To tackle this challenge realize that people honestly don’t care what you drive or what kind of house you live in. I personally appreciate people for them, their energy and soul…not their SUV or McMansion.
Live small and with less, choose a home that just meets your needs and costs way less than you can afford. You will free up income to go to your savings thus a frugal choice but that house is smaller and with less stuff thus less resources were required to build it. By being smaller the house will also cost less to maintain (less resources) and will cost less to heat and power (not everywhere is renewable yet).
As for the vehicle, well we need to drive way less and choose vehicles that are highly fuel efficient or electric while choosing. That doesn’t mean rush out and buy a new car either, if you truly need it having weighed all the metrics then fine but for most of us used will be great. For me I moved to a community where I can walk and cycle the majority of my time and for when I need a vehicle I sold my old truck and bought a used Nissan Leaf electric car.
Next to on the list of ecofrugality would be our food choices. For me this meant adopting a mostly whole food plant based lifestyle. From all that I have read on health benefits, ethical treatment of animals and also the huge energy and environmental impact of our food choices I made the switch. This switch helped me dramatically reduce my food budget, become healthier (just had a full blood screen and ECG, came back 100%) and put less burden on the environment. My favourite athlete and podcast host Rich Roll sums it all up perfectly in this article; 10 Reasons to Consider a Plant Based Diet plus enjoy this video showing how frugal you can do it…don’t believe the media saying it is expensive.
* Just a note though, to be an ecofrugalist you would do all that grocery shopping Rich did but avoid all the plastic packaging and take your reusable shopping bags
The next step in our consumer mindset to be an ecofrugalist is to adopt a single use mindset and to avoid plastic waste. Right now according to an article in The Guardian “Officials around the globe have banned particularly egregious plastic pollutants, such as straws and flimsy bags, yet America alone generates 34.5m tons of plastic waste each year, enough to fill Houston’s Astrodome stadium 1,000 times.“
The easiest low hanging fruit of ecofrugality is to start using a reusable water bottle and coffee/tea much. I save so much money by not buying pop, juice, milk and limit my take-out coffee. I drink water and bring coffee from home which reduces my plastic footprint.
On that same plastic reduction goal be sure to always use reusable shopping bags when you go to get groceries. When at the grocery store avoid as many things as possible packaged or wrapped in plastic. I find that a plant based whole food diet meets this objective extremely well and us much cheaper. Thinks like fruits & veggies can readily be found without plastic packaging and bulk beans, lentils and quinoa can be refilled in cloth packaging or like I do at Bulk Barn in reused sealer jars.
Plastics, made from petroleum, are also an increasingly significant cause of the climate crisis. By 2050, plastics could account for 20% of oil consumption and 15% of the carbon dioxide budget, according to the UN General Assembly.
When shopping for clothes and footwear this is where I suggest either going the route of thrift stores and/or then choosing high quality new items from brands that have a strong environmental mandate. With your clothing you also don’t need a pair of jeans for every single day of the week as an example. I have 2 pair of hiking pants (one for cold weather and one for warm weather) and then just one pair of jeans. My jeans come from Volcom who has made it their goal to only source fair trade organic fabrics and to reduce energy and waste in the production of their jeans. (this year they reduced water usage by 40%) So I own 1 pair of pants that come from eco-conscious means, uses less resources and is of high quality so lasts longer.
I dig deep into sustainable living with ecofrugality and respect for the environment in my posts; Striving Towards Environmentally Conscious Sustainable Living and Ecological Footprint – Your Privilege is Killing the Planet for some great further reading.
When one arrives at a point of realizing that frugal isn’t a bad word and that the environment is being radically damaged by our impact it becomes easy to shift your mindset. By spending on that which provides us the highest return of our time and money while spending less we find that less stress enters our daily lives. Combining this with an ecological focused attitude you will find a great sense of happiness and fulfillment knowing you are content and that you are creating a better world for your your fellow mankind, the environment and all the creatures that inhabit it alongside us.
The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation lives by the principle of heshook-ish-tsawalk: Everything is one and all are interconnected. So keep this in mind next time you go to buy something, what created it, what will it do for you and what will be its affect on the world after it has left you.
One last thing on all of this, don’t be too hard on yourself. To make mistakes is to be human and even with all my ideas on adopting an ecofrugality lifestyle I miss the mark some days. 80% of reaching our goals is often from 20% of our actions so go easy on stressing the little things and celebrate achieving those big wins.
A quick thank-you to Angela at Tread lightly Retire Early for always showcasing bloggers and writing about ecofrugality on her website. We need more voices in blogging spaces raising awareness on this. Also for an extreme take on personal finance I always enjoy Jacob’s perspective, take a dive into this concept; Ecological Capitalism and Consumer Capitalism
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