Publicly, I feel a sense of discomfiture in being what I'd like to call a "frugalite". It may be my generation and all the credit that was (until of late) thrown at us with reckless abandon (why they hell wouldn't you buy what you can "afford"?). But as Americans I believe we have--by and large--lost the ability to solve problems without spending money. We seem to assume that making positive changes necessarily means difficulty, discomfort and more money. Strangely enough, it usually doesn't, and even more strangely, when many decide to make a change they make the most expensive one.
From an environmental standpoint, this can mean buying yourself a Prius or a flex-fuel car, purchasing carbon-offsets, or--for hell's sake--a plastic bag drying rack. There is surprisingly little encouragement in this time of 'green living' being so hip, to focus our efforts on reducing our consumption rather than just consuming 'better'. So, for example, instead of boosting our economy with a new car loan for that friendly hybrid, we could further consider taking part in a local ride-share program or investing in a public transport pass. Instead of buying carbon-offsets, figure out what your actual carbon footprint is and start by making simple choices to cut away at the excess.
The age of disposability in which we live has made it cheaper (question, though, in what sense of the word) to buy a new cell phone, computer or car than fix the one we own when problems arise. I realize that things break down and eventually do need replacing, but as consumers we are urged and encouraged to dispose of and replace, without consideration of repair. Unlike the distant production lines where most of our products now come from, local small businesses support much of our repair needs. When the car, computer or t.v. does die, find the best means of disposal--be it donation or recycling.
It's kind of a fun, un-cool place to live, turning old doors into needed desks, soup cans into kid's art containers, wasted fruit into leather, garbage to compost. I'm by no means the Queen of Recycling. In fact, I'd rather be the Queen of Reusing. But the fun is in realizing that the solution to a need may not be connected by your bank account.
p.s. Please don't take this post to mean that I think one shouldn't donate to charities.
Check out Adbusters Buy Nothing Day campaign:
"Suddenly, we ran out of money and, to avoid collapse, we quickly pumped liquidity back into the system. But behind our financial crisis a much more ominous crisis looms: we are running out of nature… fish, forests, fresh water, minerals, soil. What are we going to do when supplies of these vital resources run low?
There’s only one way to avoid the collapse of this human experiment of ours on Planet Earth: we have to consume less.
It will take a massive mindshift. You can start the ball rolling by buying nothing on November 28th. Then celebrate Christmas differently this year, and make a New Year’s resolution to change your lifestyle in 2009."