Jumping in with Adrie to talk about living more simply that the planet may simply live. Seems money is on both our minds this week. Her post is here.
A good friend and I often have lively debates about the role of money in living a more environmentally friendly life. Oh how we love to disagree on this! I’m grateful we can have these frank conversations without feeling threatened. And we do influence each other in positive ways. Productive, indeed.
I hold the position that by choosing to live on less money, one has the ability to live far more environmentally. Less money means less buying, especially of new, energy intensive goods (even so-called green products require use of resources). It means less traveling, which is undoubtedly better for the planet. To me, those are the two biggest things we can do to change our carbon footprint.
It also means, generally, more time. When I had a baby three years ago and we shifted to living on one income, I was amazed at how much time I had to live more responsibly. There were the small things, like hanging out the laundry, taking more walks, spending more time at the library. If I had been working, our plastic fast would have been
much less successful impossible. I’ve had the time to develop my old time kitchen skills, and to break my dependency on processed, packaged fare. I make most of our body care items, have a bigger garden, preserve food. I’ve had time to learn to sew and to repurpose old clothes into new. Most recently, I’ve joined our community time bank, using time and these new skills to exchange knowledge and labor with others.
Fortunately, I love living simply. This is not a challenging life for me, it is a blessed one I give thanks for every day.
It’s actually painful to me to get new goods. Almost everything in our home is secondhand–given to us, thrifted, scored at a yard sale. We don’t feel deprived! We feel enlivened. The most comfortable chair in the house was picked up on the side of the road. I’ve learned that when I get to longing for something new and wonderful, by de-cluttering and re-ordering my space I actually feel much more fulfilled, satisfied in a soulful way. These days, I seldom even go thrifting.
To be sure, new purchases are occasionally necessary, like the new carseat we just ordered. Most of the time, it isn’t. I want a “new” sewing machine so badly! (Edited 9/14 to add: I had to do it. Brand new and beautiful–green points for local dealer and all metal? Sometimes, one needs the right tools to change the world…) But I know that with patience, something will come along that meets my needs. Or maybe I’ll just learn that I actually don’t need an item, after all. Sometimes, though, I have to make compromises. Just today I went to a really horrible, horrible place to buy Cora some socks. I would love to have a budget for lovely, organic socks, but I don’t. And that is where my friend’s argument begins.
She says, with money, one can buy all local food, all organic clothes. Beautiful, handmade shoes from hippies in Oregon. A spinning wheel. Eco-cashmere yarn. A hybrid car. All-glass canning jars! An eco-vacation in Costa Rica. One can afford solar panels, one can have a state of the art garden, chickens, a carbon neutral home. Yadda yadda.
I confess that I would love some of these things. Minus the vacation and the car. But I also love the challenge of making my own clothes, of having to grow as much food as I can, of making what I have be enough. Of just…going without sometimes. Yet I can sometimes slip into a deprivation mindset, and it’s good to remember that sometimes buying a really high quality, natural lipstick is…good for the earth!
In the end, it all comes down to consciousness. One can be wealthy in every way, but impoverished in an envronmental ethic that leads one to use money irresponsibly. I’m so grateful to those whose resources allow them to live that good green life! Yet, I’ve learned that one can also be “poor” and living in a very simple, very conscious way (rather than an all big-box all the time way, which is often the stereotype).
What’s your experience with the old “your money or your life” debate? How much IS enough? What have you learned to live without? to provide for your family? to scrimp and save till it’s yours? What is truly necessary?