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Save Money, Save the Planet

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So, did you hear that Earth Day was Monday? Yeah, I missed it too. It just doesn’t seem to have the same appeal that it used to, does it? Perhaps the novelty has worn off. Well, maybe this will grab your attention instead:

Fact – The United States comprises 5% of the world’s population but it consumes approximately 25% of its natural resources.

Yikes. How’s that for a fun statistic?

It doesn’t take a math genius to realize that this system can’t sustain itself. With China and India aiming to replicate our “success” there is no way that we can support this. It is time for us to acknowledge that this system is unsustainable.

Look, I’m not some complete tree-hugging, pot smoking, Oregonian. I don’t walk around in Birkenstocks in 3 feet of snow. I’ve never worn a tie-dyed shirt to work. I like to think that I am a pretty pragmatic person. I understand that we aren’t going to be able to save the planet by changing the habits of every single person on it. Still, I have to acknowledge that we are rapidly moving in a direction – on multiple levels – that is not sustainable. It should be pretty clear to anybody paying attention that we can not go on like this forever. Yet, how do you tell that to somebody who is dying because they don’t have access to something that you can purchase by the caseload at the grocery store?

Everywhere I look, we are destroying our only home. We continue to buy more and more junk, made out of non-renewable resources. (Did you know that most plastics are made out of petroleum, BTW?) Then we throw that junk into a landfill, where it will never decay. I mean- this is madness. What are we leaving behind for future generations? Are we really that selfish? Have we no conscience?

This is one of the many reasons that we have decided to live a frugal lifestyle. As Gandhi said, we are aiming to become the change we wish to see in the world. The less we consume, the less waste we create. The less we consume, the less energy we use. We know that we can’t save the planet on our own. None of us can. However, if enough of us make a change in our consumption habits, the total of our efforts can make a difference.

Our Attempt to Save the Planet

Here are a few of the changes that we have made in our lifestyle that are both saving money and helping us to save the planet:

  1. We purchased new windows and a door for our house. Since then, even though energy prices have risen, our gas bill usage and bill has gone down by about 20%.
  2. We bought a used hybrid vehicle. We bought a Toyota Prius about a year ago now. We love it. It drives great, it is comfortable, and it saves us money. Not only did we get it for about the same price as other comparable used cars, we have pretty much doubled our gas mileage. This helps us to save the planet by using less oil, and we spend half as much as we did before on gasoline. Double bonus!
  3. We have moved to a vegetarian diet. OK. OK. So, maybe we are tree huggers. Over the years, we have eaten less and less meat. Holly just doesn’t particularly like meat – with the exception of chicken and fish. I have never been a big steak eater, but have been known to enjoy a burger or two. However, I watched a great documentary called “Forks Over Knives” a few months back. It convinced me to cut back on my meat consumption even more because I believe it is a healthier lifestyle. Also, frankly, it is a way for my pocketbook to vote against the animal cruelty exhibited by many of the large meat producing farms. Furthermore, livestock production is a giant drain on our resources. In fact, 80% of the corn and 95% of the oats grown are used to feed livestock. In addition, over 50% of our farmland is used to raise cattle. We have the ability to grow enough food to feed about 10 billion people. Thus, our addiction to eating meat is a huge waste of resources. While the facts are uncomfortable for us to face, on a personal level they forced us to ask ourselves if we are doing what is best for everyone. When we realized this, how could we not change our own habits?
  4. We are going to power our home with solar. As you know, we may move into a different house one day – once we have this one paid off. Once we decide on our “forever home,” we plan to upgrade the power systems to solar power. While the initial investment may be fairly steep, the cost savings over the long run will pay us back in spades.

So, will you join us in our attempt to save the planet through living a frugal lifestyle? It doesn’t take much. Buying less is a good start.  If we all just do a little, together, we can make a big difference. Not only will we be saving money, we will have the opportunity to save the planet and leave something for our kids…and their kids. So, what are you waiting for? Make one small change today.

What are you doing to save the planet?

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90 Comments

  1. I’m going to be honest, this isn’t something I spend much time thinking about. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a noble cause and I applaud the efforts, it’s just that my brain has limited resources and this isn’t something I really put them towards. I’m not incredibly proud of this admission, just bring honest.

      1. Fair enough. Maybe this piece will make you a little more aware 😀

  2. I made exactly zero financial decisions based on environmental concerns. There are many times where my interest in saving money and the environment coincide, and that’s great. But I rank my happiness and convenience as far more important than the environment. So, I’m not going to be a vegetarian, I’m not going to start biking to work, I can’t stand reusable shopping bags (because I can never remember to put them back in my car), etc.

    1. That makes me sad to read. People need to start taking responsibility for their own consumption, because I don’t really believe we’ll last more than 100 years carrying on like this.

      1. I’m not as callus as I come off in the comment. There are plenty of places where the environment and I are in agreement. For example, I hate wasting time commuting so I live close to work. I shut down my electronics every morning before I go to work to save money. Etc, etc.

        But every time I read green advice it always comes across as having an underlying theme of ‘buy less, do less, live less, be less’ which simply does not resonate with me at all.

    2. I understand completely. That is completely your right…and I think that is the whole point of this post. We need to start changing the way that we think about these things or all the money and grocery bags in the world aren’t going to make a bit of difference because we won’t have anywhere to live.

  3. I think that a more environmentally conscious lifestyle isn’t only good for the planet, but also good for your pocketbook. The less energy that is used means less money on fuel. The less crap you buy the less money spent. etc…. This is why I don’t understand why businesses aren’t in the forefront of a green movement. It would save them a lot of money, except the energy sector. They stand to lose unless they begin seriously researching renewable sources.

    1. Well, business is in business to sell more crap. I think that is the main reason they don’t change. Until the consumer changes what he wants, the business won’t change what they are providing.

      1. I work in the HVAC industry, and I can say that a ton of businesses are adopting energy efficiency policies in their buildings and transportation plans, in order to save money. There ARE cases where sustainability and profits can meet!

      2. Sorry, I mean business becoming more green to save money in their pocketbook. I don’t think that they’ll ever want us to buy less. But if they were more energy efficient and reduced the distances their products need to ship they could save money.

  4. Yeah, I kinda missed Earth Day, too. Meh.

    I recycle and I compost, though those don’t have any financial bearing. Personally, I’d like to have an electric or hybrid car one day.

    I love that you guys are going to go solar. AWESOME. Going off the grid would be really something.

    1. We’d love to go off the grid now but it doesn’t make sense to upgrade to solar if we plan on moving. We’ll add it to our forever house.

      Awesome job on the recycling and compost. Do it to it girl!

  5. Dianne @ Skinny Seahorse says:

    I knew it was Earth Day. But only because my daughter’s school sent out an email with all the special activities they are doing.

    I love the concept of frugality and a clean environment colliding. Good for the wallet + good for the earth. I also adore that you make the world a less crueler place for animals.

    1. Thanks Dianne. It isn’t for everybody, but we have the ability to vote with our wallet…so we do.

  6. Great post! Hmmm…I only knew it was Earth Day because I received an email from Banana Republic advertising their Earth Day sale (yeah, I’m not sure of the connection between the two, either).

    My husband and I try to make environmentally-conscious decisions whenever possible. We try to eat primarily local foods, especially for our meats and produce. The free-range meat is pricey, so we find ourselves eating a little less of it. We compost all organic food waste. My husband and I both have long commutes, in opposite directions. To counter this, we try not to use our vehicles as much on the weekends (walk to buy groceries, etc). I try to take the train a few days a week to decrease how many miles I’m driving.

    1. Hmm….bananas are grown by the Earth…I guess. I knew it was Earth Day because it said so on my calendar. That is it 😀

  7. I applaud your efforts guys! Especially the vegetarian diet. It sickens me how much resources are wasted raising animals instead of being used to feed the 1 billion starving people in the world.

    1. It takes a lot of food and energy to raise all of those crops to feed animals. Why not cut out the middle man and feed ourselves, right?

  8. I work in the energy industry and I can tell you that if you think energy is expensive now, wait for 5 years. The mines we build / wells we drill, keep getting more and more remote and more and more difficult to extract materials. Plus what you do extract is normally of far lesser quality and size than previous finds. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that we have hit, or are about to hit, a critical mass where by sh*t will hit the fan if something doesn’t change in the near future.

    1. I totally agree. Drilling for more stuff isn’t going to help because, at a certain point, the stuff is going to be gone, nearly gone, or impossible to get to. We need to change the way we think about energy now before it really hits the fan.

  9. You’ve taken quite a few steps towards “greener” living! I used to not like the Prius until I rode in one. Especially if you have a long commute it can really cut back the amount of energy you use. I would love to get new doors and windows once the budget allows (and I noticed there are some great tax breaks if you do buy them!). A house down the street installed solar panels, and I would consider doing this but only if I’m staying at a house longer-term (if it’s my “forever” house or at least the place I will raise my children for most of their life). Great ideas! Oh, and I have also started to eat more vegetarian…still eat a lot of chicken but little to no pork or beef.

    1. Awesome job DC! We agree on the solar panels. We’d put them in now, but this probably isn’t our forever house. We certainly will once we move though.

  10. The two biggest things for us are that we don’t own a car (we use a car sharing service and transit) and we try to buy locally when it comes to foods. We do little things like using reusable bags and avoiding plastic bottles, etc, as well.

    1. Awesome! One thing I miss about Chicago is the public transit system. We are also trying to avoid plastic water bottles and buying more locally grown foods. Now, if we could just remember to get the darn reusable bags in the car we would be set 😀

  11. The house I am currently in could be considered a “forever house.” However, I will not be installing solar panels. At the current rates it would take far too long for them to pay me back AND I would have to cut down two 50 year old trees that provide amazing shade in the summer. I am interested to see how solar would work out for you guys since I don’t feel like our location is very conducive to solar power.
    I’m still not on the hybrid bandwagon. If you believe in that carbon footprint idea, then a Corolla (which is a very similar sized car) is a better buy for the environment (assuming you are buying one in the US). But that is a different argument for a different day.
    I do a lot of little things like recycle and consume less of most things, but I don’t go out of my way to be a “tree hugger.”
    I am a firm believer that while we are doing a lot of damage to our planet, in the grand scheme of the Earth, we are nothing but a small blip that will one day no longer be here and will be forgotten about as will what we have done. The Earth is extremely resilient and has survived worse disasters than mankind.

    1. Oh, the Earth is going to survive. We won’t…and most other life probably won’t either.

  12. Like DC said, you guys are taking the right steps. I knew it was Earth Day, only because I got some email about it. I think the excitement about it has worn off a lot over the years and has done so for a variety of reasons…in my opinion at least. We recycle and are starting a compost this year on top of our gardening. We’d love a Prius, though I doubt we could fit 3 car seats in the backseat. 😉

    1. You’ll have to go with the hybrid SUV instead 😉

  13. We do a lot of recycling which I think helps. I also try to be conscious of my driving habits so that I”m not wasting gas, though our awful traffic light system undermines any best efforts. I think each person needs to realize that they are responsible for where they live, and that extends up to the level of the planet, not just the house, condo, apartment or dorm that they might occupy. We don’t go all out, but nor do we act like it’s someone elses issue to deal with.

    1. That is cool. Honestly, I think that is the best we can do. If most people are taking care of their own “backyard” that will have a huge cumulative effect.

  14. In Europe I had a very insulated flat, recycled, had low flow faucets and shower heads, energy saving electric bulbs, and was even working for an energy saving company. Here well we don’t have heat, I try to use the AC as little as possible but all the rest is bad bad bad. Our garbage? we had to dig a whole in the garden and burn occasionally. People here act like water is an unlimited resource, that is what’s most unsettling but they never had a drought that changed their habits.

    1. We treat water like an unlimited resource everywhere, I’m afraid.

  15. I think you’re doing a good thing. I love meat (mmmm, venison) but I don’t eat a lot of it, and I use up every scrap of what I have. When I find the house I want to buy, I will eventually install solar, and I take steps (some would say crazy steps) to save water and electricity. I think it will be easier for us to be green if we not only make good individual choices, but if businesses and organizations waste less. I’m fine with cardboard packaging, less plastic (thus, less oil being used to make it and less plastic pollution), less packaging in general, etc.

  16. First off, you’re SO a tree-hugger, dude.

    It’s easy to see what we’re doing to the environment. While I am a fiscal conservative (in a BIG way), I find it funny that many of the same religious right who tells us to act a certain way on a moral level are the first ones to say we shouldn’t worry about whether man is destroying the planet. WWJD indeed….

    I use reusable bags at the grocery store (because I hate those stupid plastic bags). I carpool as often as possible or walk because when you work from home you don’t get to talk to people a ton and walking is a good excuse to exercise. We recycle because landfills disgust me. I use the best lightbulbs I can find because I think that new technology is cool.

    I eat burgers and fries because they’re so damned good.

    1. “It’s easy to see what we’re doing to the environment. While I am a fiscal conservative (in a BIG way), I find it funny that many of the same religious right who tells us to act a certain way on a moral level are the first ones to say we shouldn’t worry about whether man is destroying the planet. WWJD indeed….”

      I THINK WE MAY BE SOULMATES!

  17. I know that me and W probably don’t sound like huge eco people because of the cars that we drive, but we would like to change. We would like to switch to solar with our next house and I am taking baby steps towards being a vegetarian.

    1. We went vegetarian last year, and I haven’t missed meat at all!

  18. I applaud your attempts at saving the planet and saving money at the same time. I think it’s awesome that you have moved to a vegetarian diet, I want to try going some days without eating meat. J recycles EVERYTHING and we do our best not to waste power and electricity when it’s not necessary! Great post! 🙂

    1. Great job, you two! We recycle a lot too. In fact, we recycle a lot more than we throw away.

  19. How hilarious. I totally had this same thought last night.

    My roommate works in clean energy and environment and we got to talking about earth day, and I looked around the apartment and realized that I’m doing pretty good for the planet… and it was totally by accident 🙂

  20. I think we all need to do what we can, but choices certainly vary depending on where you live. A hybrid car would not really make sense were we live because we never drive in traffic, so most driving is over the mph needed for the electric vehicle. It would make as much sense to buy the non hybrid version of a good mpg car.

    I have no sympathy for mass production beef industry type farms, but we do live in a very agricultural area that does raise beef. It would hurt many people and the rural economy in general if everyone gave up meat. I would like to see more local type industries where meat is more of the small farm rather than the big company, but price certainly influences it. If our government wanted it to happen, it could, but I think lobbies tend to control that aspect.

    We priced solar on our house a few years ago and it was not cost effective at this point, but I hope costs will come down to make it affordable. Again, I think that could happen but the oil and gas industry is just too powerful for much change at this point.

    I guess that sounded pretty bleak, but until people in charge take it seriously, it’s pretty sure we will continue down the same path, but you’re certainly right that we all need to do as much as we can. Congrats on your good lifestyle changes.

  21. You’re doing some great stuff! It’s true that every gadget you get comes from recourses from the earth. People don’t think about that. I keep my environmental footprint as low as possible by working from home 90% of the time (I know it’s not possible for most people), having very low gas and electric usage, not getting the latest and greatest thing just because, recycle and bringing bags to grocery store, etc. I’m trying to get into the habit of turning off my computer and unplugging it every night. That’s still a work in progress, and I know I could ride my bike more than I actually do.

    1. I HATE riding my bike. That is one change I won’t be making. Lugging my kids to the groceries store behind my bike sounds like hell on earth!

  22. I freecycle things all the time if I can’t sell it. I hate throwing stuff away that I know will just sit in a landfill forever, especially if someone somewhere could get use out of it.

    1. I also hate throwing stuff away. It really bothers me.

  23. All your changes are good, but just using less is possible today. I use less utilities than my neighbors. I recycle all paper, bottles etc. I am a partial vegetarian (couple times a week)!

  24. It sounds like you guys have taken some great steps towards sustainability! I was raised in a household that was focused on sustainability so things like recycling have always been second nature to me. In addition to that, we are a one car household (next car will be a hybrid/gas-electric), we eat meat probably twice a week (from sustainable, local sources) and I work in the green heating and cooling industry (using my marketing skills for good, not evil). I’ve got a long way to go and would love to eventually go car free or all electric, have solar panels on my house, and be completely vegetarian, but I’m taking baby steps in the mean time.

  25. I plan on working in some energy efficiency into our next home because I believe that it is good. I am not a vegetarian and will never become one, but I have cut back on my meat consumption just because it is expensive. Humans are built to eat meat, so I am not going to deny evolution. I don’t have any issue with people being vegetarian and I think it is noble, just not for me.

    If we all changed one or two things about our over-consuming lifestyle, I think it would make a measurable impact. The problem is that people think that they aren’t going to see the day when the problems are so great that they can’t be fixed, so why would they care?

    1. If everyone ate less meat it would make a huge difference!

  26. You two are doing awesome things for the environment! I do my best to recycle anything possible, and hate using plastic bags for grocery stores (the store I go to has oats, rice, nuts, etc. in bins so it helps cut down on packaging). It’s hard to move around in San Diego without a vehicle, but I just do my best to compact all my errands to cut down on frequent trips. Hopefully, too, they’ll really expand the trolley system like the rumor-mill has said they would!

    1. We need to improve with our grocery bag usage. We need to keep our reusable bags in the car so that we never forget them!

  27. How did I know Greg wrote this one just by looking at the title, LoL. I’m totally with you dude! I carpool to work, drive high MPG cars, only eat local, grass fed meats (uncle owns cows), and don’t burn down forests. We compost almost everything, and recycle everything else. We also plan on living as much off our own land as possible once we start our garden. It’s really not that hard, and heck, it’s even kind of fun. Waste sucks.

    And yea, I totally missed that Monday was Earth Day. Weird…

    1. We really need to start composting. That is one of the things I am going to get started on this summer!

        1. No, we don’t. Thanks Jacob. I will check that out!

  28. Fantastic post for this time of year. I feel like the end goal of my writing will end up being about treading lightly on the earth. I think economics and ‘thriftiness’ both support the end goal of being better stewards of our resources! Thanks for the motivational post and I love hear stories like this. It also motivates me to keep making progress towards being more environmentally friendly.

  29. Family Fandango says:

    Yeah, Earth Day got the shaft this year in Boston…we will do better next year..

  30. Living in LA, it’s hard to miss the effect we’re having on the environment. We love hanging out at the beach and the amount of trash the surf brings in is awful and eye-opening. We bought our vehicles just as hybrid cars were starting to emerge, so when we eventually replace our current vehicles, we would definitely look into them, especially with gas prices so high. I’m not a huge meat eater, so I do try to watch our consumption. I always show the girls our utilities bill, so we can try to lower it the next month. It helps as they are better at turning things off without Mom or Dad telling them to do it. 🙂 Every little bit helps and I’d like to leave a habitable world to future generations.

  31. I’m trying to ride my bike to work at least one day per week. I’ve only been at it for a few weeks so far, but I like the fact that when I can ride to work, Mr. PoP’s gas guzzler stays at home instead of making a 45 mile round trip commute. It’s a small change, but hopefully it helps.

    1. I’m impressed because I have no desire to ride my bike to work!!!

  32. Yikes, that is a scary statistic! And I totally didn’t know if was Earth Day on Monday either. I guess I do my part in helping the environment by not owning a car, bringing a reusable bag everywhere to eliminate me taking a plastic bag, and umm…I tried to be vegetarian for a week? Does that count?

    1. Yes! Don’t give up on vegetarianism. It’s not that bad!

  33. I use cloth napkins at my house, I purchase a roll of paper towells a year. This translates into saving trees, reducing landfill waste, and an annual savings of about $50 plus dollars a year. May not seem like a lot, but it adds up over time….

    1. I totally agree. Little changes can add up in a big way!

  34. Take public transit to work, work at home when I can, try to run errands together in a logical order, not waste food, cut down on meat..

    1. Those all sound like some good earth-friendly habits!

  35. Investing in clean energy for a house is a great idea. The doors and windows are an excellent start. Our friends are installing solar paneling on the roof (won’t affect the looks of the house) which apparently gives you a return on your investment within six years.

    1. I hope that the price of solar goes way down by the time we are ready to do that!

  36. You two are awesome. We can’t afford a Prius, but we drive a tiny car (one car, two people) and hypermile everywhere. We eat a lot of vegetables, although wild deer is healthy and free.

    We agree that less is more and it’s tough to imagine the current consumption continuing as world populous increases.

  37. CashRebel says:

    Greg, those are some awesome changes. The Prius should be the new American standard!
    When I really looked at the numbers , I was astounded how environmentally terrible beef is for you. I’ve tried to cut back recently for that reason, plus it’s not too healthy.
    I’ve got some experience with solar, so I’d love to hear about the proposal once you decide to go that route. Good luck!

    1. Beef production is crazy bad for the environment. Plus, eating cows is just gross.

  38. You know, I’ve never had much patience for all the enviro-pandering that seems so trendy (by the way, check out the environmental impact of the batteries that fill that Prius), but as I get older, I find myself doing more things that environmentalists would appreciate mainly because that life is more simple, economical, authentic, and intentional. I fill landfills more slowly because I’ve realized that I don’t need that much plastic garbage manufactured in China. I’ll eventually do my best to get off the grid because it is self-sufficient. I ride my bike back and forth to work everyday because I want to be human-powered and show contempt for the laziness of sitting in a comfy car pushing buttons. Less Al Gore and more Epictetus I guess… nice post Greg!

    1. Riding your bike to work is hardcore. I am impressed with your efforts.

  39. Great article. We as well are always trying to do our part and consume less and do things like recycle and reuse things to keep things more environmentally friendly. I like the idea about using solar power but cost is just to much.

  40. What you are really talking about here is being a good steward of what we have been given. We are responsible for the way we use our resources and what impact that has on the planet. We’ve upgraded our windows and installed more efficient heating and cooling units at our house.

  41. There are indeed a lot of ways to help save our mother earth even in our own simple ways. We just have to make an extra effort and it will surely be a big move like not throwing our garbage anywhere and try to conserve energy as much as possible.

  42. Greg,

    Your solar home idea is a bold one! It does take a steep upfront investment so it’s not for everyone. But it’s great that you’re going for it!

    One way I try to save water (and money) is to reuse it whenever possible. For example, water used in washing vegetables can be saved for the garden. I know this isn’t some huge Earth-saving measure, but I’d like to think that every little bit counts.

    In the end, everyone has their way of doing things (e.g. I love meat so I wouldn’t be giving that up any time soon). What’s most important is that everyone tries to do their part to help out.

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