I started by asking myself if the decisions I make are “eco-conscious” or “frugal” ones. I initially thought it’s not an either/or question, rather a both/and proposition. My dad instilled frugality, while my step-father promoted a sense of stewardship by having us collect cans to recycle. There was a monetary incentive. Growing up in Los Angeles, each can had a deposit and we earned money for returning them. If memory serves, my step-sisters and I earned over $100 for turning in cans (multiple large trash bags full of crushed cans).
Every time I come back to the question of whether I walk somewhere because it’s good for the environment or I’m just cheap, I almost always tend toward the frugality. I can’t stand paying for gas. Every time I drive the car I think about how much money I’m wasting and how much I could save by walking (or biking). Every month, when our auto loan gets deducted from our meager checking account, I curse how expensive it is to own a newer car. The same goes for the insurance on it. We don’t drive much, neither my wife or me. In all honesty I don’t know what her aversion to driving is. She supports environmental awareness, but I don’t know if she quite disdains the financial commitment the way I do.
The funny thing is that it doesn’t matter at the end of the day whether I’m a cheapskate or just being an “eco-warrior” because the two really go hand in hand. Saving resources, like using cloth napkins instead of having to continually buy paper ones or paper towels, is all about saving. Money, energy, trees; these are all resources. I just can’t understand why people would willing spend money when there are viable, cheaper alternatives. I suppose this explains why the savings rate has been so low in this country. Debt – I’m talking about personal, not governmental – is something to be avoided. Why wouldn’t someone choose the option that saves money? There just happens to be an added benefit of saving other resources too sometimes.