"I'd buy organic food if it weren't so expensive."
"I'd buy compact fluorescent bulbs if they cost the same as regular light bulbs."
"I'd buy a hybrid car if it cost the same as other cars."
If any of these statements could be yours, you are not alone. But you are misinformed. Sadly, many people think that making the green choice is making the more expensive choice. Although this can be true, it doesn't have to be.
Yes, it costs more to buy an organic frozen dinner than it does to buy one that contains conventionally grown and, often, artificial ingredients. But the ecothrifty choice is the one that saves money and is better for the environment. The ecothrifty choice for dinner is one that is cooked from scratch. An organic frozen dinner is not environmentally friendly with its two or three layers of packaging, some of which are not even recyclable or biodegradable.
Marketing Time: "I Don't Have Time to Cook!"
"But I don't have time to cook!"
"I don't know how to cook."
"After working a hard day, I shouldn't have to come home and cook."
Madison Avenue marketing executives and advertisers have driven home the ideas that cooking is difficult and time consuming and no one should have to do it and that we are all entitled to eat whatever we want, whenever we want it, without having to do anything other than hand over a few dollars.
How much is your time worth? For most of us, time at home is worth exactly zero dollars because no one is paying us when we are not at the office. I have been running the numbers for years, and although some things may not make a big impact on my bottom line, I'm usually excited about how much money I'm "making" by doing things myself rather than buying them, especially when I am substituting for high-priced items.
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If I were to buy the raspberries that I use in my raspberry crisp, it would cost $20! And if I bought that whole dessert from a bakery, they'd probably charge at least $40. And my raspberry crisp is made completely from organic ingredients and with very little added sugar, which not all bakeries do. To me, this is priceless.
The Real Price Behind Our Purchases
When something is being sold for less than it would cost me to do myself, there often is a very unpleasant reality behind the product price — factory farms, sweat shops in third world countries, illegal immigrants being exploited, or products of such poor quality that they wind up in landfills far too soon. Our cheap food and our cheap stuff are not really cheap at all.
Cooking and food are not the only examples of our giving control to big corporations to take care of us. You can buy anything you need or want, and you can use all your free time pursuing leisure activities and watching television, where you are exposed to more advertisements encouraging you to want more and buy more.
We really want to believe we can have it all. We can avoid cooking, eat junk food, and stay healthy. We also want to eat fresh tomatoes, bananas, avocados, peaches, and every other imaginable fruit and vegetable twelve months a year, and we want it all for a cheap price, even if the food has to travel three thousand miles or more to get to our plates. We don't want to do physical labor, but we do want to drive ten miles to the gym, where we will spend thirty minutes walking to nowhere on an electric treadmill.
The Truth Behind the Illusions
While we complain that we don't have any time, we are watching television somewhere between almost three hours' and five hours per day. We complain that we don't have enough money to eat healthily, but we are spending less of our incomes on food than at any time in our history. Americans spent 42.5 percent of their incomes on food in 1901, almost 30 percent in 1950, and only 13 percent by 2003, and 42 percent of the money we spend on food is spent away from home.
But according to a growing number of researchers, the party is ending. We are suffering from unprecedented levels of obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and other maladies. Landfills are full, and no one wants a new one in their backyard. Our financial systems are crumbling, from the biggest corporations to average families. Some say food prices will double or triple in the next few years.
Are we doomed? No. There is a lot we can do to save money, conserve our resources, and live a healthier lifestyle.
What Can We Do? Where Do We Start?
There are many little things you can do on a daily basis to improve your life and protect our environment. One thing you can do — over and over again — is to simply start questioning things that you have always assumed to be true. Maybe your time is not too valuable to cook dinner. Does your child really need the latest plastic gadget from China? Maybe you wouldn't mind drying a few things on a clothesline rather than in a dryer. Could better time management help you save money by avoiding impulse purchases when you are in a hurry?
The most important thing we need to do is to stop making excuses for ourselves to overeat and overspend on things we don't need. As long as you let Madison Avenue tell you how to spend your money and your time, you're a pawn in the marketing game, making others richer. The good news is that you can stop playing that game whenever you are ready.
Are you ready to save money, get healthier, and stop sending so much trash to the landfill? Don't worry — you don't have to move to the middle of nowhere. You can get started wherever you are living. The important thing simply is to get started. As the saying goes, "A trip of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Are you ready to take that first step?
*Subtitles by InnerSelf
©2012 by Deborah Niemann-Boehle. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New Society Publishers. www.newsociety.com
Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life
by Deborah Niemann.
A must-read for anyone who has ever wanted to live a greener life but thought that it would be too expensive, time-consuming, or difficult, this handy, complete guide will show you how small changes can have a huge environmental impact and save you thousands of dollars, all while improving your quality of life.
About the Author
Deborah Niemann is a homesteader, writer and self-sufficiency expert who presents extensively on skills for living a more self-reliant life. She has raised livestock for over 10 years and is the administrator of a popular online forum and social network focused on Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats. She is the author of Homegrown and Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living, and Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life. Deborah and her family produce all of their own meat, eggs and dairy products, while an organic garden and orchard provide fruit and vegetables.