The Intersection of Frugal and Green

One of my favorite people is a very spry 91-year-old (I’ll call her “Dorothy”), who has a rich life in every way. She also happens to be one of the most frugal people I know, and I always learn something when I visit her. Her lifestyle has always fascinated me, because if you looked at her full closets and lovely home, you would never know how little she spends on pretty much everything. This frugal lifestyle has served her well, for she has no worries about running out of funds in her last decade of life. Not only has this lifestyle not been a struggle, but Dorothy makes it seem like a game, where every new discovery on how to conserve is a “win.”

It dawned on me that this frugal lifestyle translates into conservation of resources on many levels. For example, she can tell you exactly how much electricity a crock pot uses verses the oven. She dries her clothes on the clothes line whenever possible, instead of using a dryer. An appliance is never replaced if it can be repaired. Showers are short, with as little water used as possible. Heat and air-conditioning are only used when absolutely necessary.

Her lifestyle is very different from many celebrity proponents of the “green” movement. Many people claim to be concerned about global warming. However, they are ironically living in 10,000 square foot homes, have heated Olympic sized swimming pools, lush green lawns (even if they live in desert climates), private airplanes, and multiple gas-guzzling vehicles.

When I observed Dorothy’s activities, it is amazing that a by-product of her frugal lifestyle is environmental conservation at almost every level. Because she attempts to repair instead of replace, she reduces what goes into landfills. She conserves water and electricity by being very careful with how often she washes clothes, dishes and other items. She takes old clothes and will use them for cleaning rags or other purposes. The setting of her home is near a wooded area and other than a weekly mowing of the grass, there are no chemicals used or other environmental hazards. She allows the moss to grow along with weeds and wildflowers—with no concerns that her lawn may lack perfection.

While most of us are not at her level of frugality or conservation, it certainly has given me much to think about and to pass on to future generations. Her lifestyle is a testament to the fact that “green” doesn’t have to be difficult and it can produce another kind of green—money in the pocket.

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