Going Green on a Budget

a yellow bike with a basket that reads "share more consume less"
Source: Photographer

We hope this issue of the Green American brings a smile of recognition to all of our readers who grew up with budget-conscious elders.

“Turn off the light when you leave the room.”

“Don’t waste food; someone else could eat that.”

“In my day we walked; you don’t need a car.”

Going green on a budget isn’t a new concept. In fact, in many ways, the goals of “living green,” and “sticking to a budget,” are the same: to live within our means, recognizing that resources are limited, and that waste comes with a cost. The same lessons about responsible consumption apply whether we are considering the resources of an individual, a family, a community, or the human family stewarding the resources of the planet that we share.

Adopting green-living choices may quite naturally align with the budget-conscious choices many are already making, especially those suffering from economic hardship or the recent high levels of inflation. However, living green is not just a luxury for the privileged few. This issue dives into budget-friendly strategies for everyone to pursue sustainable options for the purchasing categories where households often devote most of their spending, such as food, transportation, and clothing, offering specific suggestions in each category. Shifting purchases within these categories can have the greatest impact—on your budget, and for people and planet.

At the same time, many of the concepts behind the suggestions are universal—applicable across categories, and, as noted above, draw upon the wisdom that thoughtful, future-focused elders have passed on to younger generations for years, such as:

The value of sharing: While our society often prioritizes ownership, sharing our resources can also mean sharing our costs, and ultimately saving both. Are there household items that you don’t use often?  Consider sharing with neighbors, friends, and family. Find more ways to swap and share resources with your community with Free Stores and Really Really Free Markets.

The value of cooperation: While our society often prioritizes rugged individualism, communities collaborating together can develop incredible cooperative resilience that supports both a sustainable and budget-conscious lifestyle. Consider collaborating with others on meal-planning and transportation.

The need to take a long view: Finally, while our society often prioritizes instant gratification, evaluating our actions within a longer-term perspective can help us identify the choices that are more sustainable—and over time, more budget-conscious. For example, while a green-energy upgrade at home might require up-front costs, your investments will pay for themselves in reduced energy bills for years (and you might qualify for a tax credit). While a fast-fashion outfit might be the cheapest short-term option, well-made vintage, or new responsibly produced clothing can last years longer and not need to be replaced. And while organic food can sometimes cost a bit more than conventional, the long-term benefits to your health and the health of workers and the environment will save on medical and remedial costs in the future.

Our green-on-a-budget recommendations begin with eight initial suggestions to go green and save money. We hope the stories of other Green Americans making budget-conscious and sustainable choices will inspire new steps for everyone interested in building a resilient future.

From Green American Magazine Issue