I’ve recently been talking about the costs of eco-friendly living here at Growing a Green Family. Now, after I posted Is Green Living Worth the Cost? some of you may be saying, “Green living is worth it me but it’s still too expensive!” I’ve been thinking about it and after years of reading and writing about eco-issues and reading comments from readers I’ve collected some possible reasons as to why people think living green is so expensive…
Because some people choose commercial green living over real green living: For people who live greener mostly via purchases over actions, green living does cost more. There’s a real push to buy more and more green products and many folks give in. That said, green living is a lot about having less not more goods. Green living is about actions you can take, not simply green products you can buy.
Because some people don’t know how to budget for anything; let alone green living: Many people have serious problems budgeting for anything. We’re a society largely in debt and that doesn’t equal a society who can afford anything, including a green lifestyle. If you want to learn to budget and live more within your means then Your Money or Your Life is a must read – it changed my life. I also think it helps to read either Voluntary Simplicity or The Circle of Simplicity – both are excellent and will help to change how you think about spending money. Note: You should be able to find all the above books at your local library. Once you learn to budget and to change your relationship with money you will see that green living is within your reach.
Because some people don’t know how to shop for real vs. fake green products: Many people are confused about which green products are worth the money and which aren’t. Greenwashing is rampant and if you don’t know how to avoid it, greenwashing will cost you. Also, not all green products are necessary. For example you get more bang for your buck if you purchase organic apples and some basic low-flow shower heads then if you purchase a more expensive TV that uses less energy or if you buy organic soda.
Because people don’t make eco-friendly changes alone; they add eco-friendly changes to their already happening lifestyle: Green living cannot be accomplished inexpensively without also dropping some non-eco habits. People focus a lot on adding green to their world and forget that part of living green is the bad stuff you get rid of as well – such as take-out coffee habits, magazines, new books or fast food.
Because a lot of people still like stuff too much: Say what you will but in my experience, most people, even most people who say they’re eco-friendly, still can’t break the habit of owning stuff over experiences and eco-priorities. I’ve had eco-friendly friends who claim that green living costs too much but they do have magazine subscriptions, go on costly vacations or have a garage full of unused gadgets and tools.
Because some people have seriously screwy priorities: Then there are the people who have no clue. No offense but I know people who say, “I can’t afford organic food” but who also have three televisions, replace their cell phones annually, have a home with three bathrooms or have chips and soda in the kitchen at all times. This is beyond just liking stuff. This is not being realistic about needs vs. wants. If you can’t afford organic food because, “It’s too expensive” and you have three cars in a two adult household then your argument is seriously flawed.
There are those who say, “I swear on so and so’s grave, I don’t fit into any of the above categories and I really, really still can’t afford green living”
To that I’ll say this – we all make choices. ALMOST ANYONE can afford to live green. There are extreme situations to be sure, but most people, even low to mid income families can live green without spending a lot of cash.
Just so we’re clear and so you know that I’m not just spouting total bunk about anyone being able to afford green I’ll fill you in on my situation, because if I can afford to live green so can you.
FACTS ABOUT MY FINANCES:
- When I first had my son I was a FT college student. His dad was working and going to school. Guess how poor we were? If you said, “Very” you are right on target.
- After college my son’s dad decided to build a passive solar house by hand with only help from me and other friends. That was tough and left neither of us much time to work. Yup, we were still pretty darn poor.
- I’ve been a single mama for many years now. Now I do live with my boyfriend Dave which YES has been a big perk in the money arena (and other arenas too), but mostly I’ve been living with just my son for the past four years. My son’s dad helps out with Cedar’s school costs and occasionally hands over some money, but I’ve never gotten monthly child support.
- I’ve been working as a freelance writer for years and income in this sort of job, as you might guess has some major ups and downs. AND I used to homeschool which left me even less time to work and make money.
- I live in a fairly expensive area in a fairly expensive urban city. While we conserve resources (obviously) energy and water bills are still pretty expensive where I live and between that and housing there’s hasn’t been too much left to spare over the years.
Basically you can trust me when I say I’m far from rich. My total income has only amounted to low to middle end wages for years but in spite of this my son and I have been able to continually live greener for nine years.
I pay all the rent, utilities and pay for my son Cedar to attend a private alternative school which costs me a fair amount and we can still afford organic food, non-toxic cleaning supplies, non-toxic body care products and other green items (ice pop molds, reusable bags, etc).
Has it been easy to live green on a limited budget? NO! NO! NO! did I mention no? I wish I had a ton of expendable income because it’s really hard to live green without that. There’s a learning curve for sure and there are some hard choices you have to make. Plus you have to be prepared that no matter how savvy you are you may not always get to live as green as you like if you’re dealing with limited income. For example while I would like to buy 100% organic, I sometimes skip organics like butter and coffee because they’re so expensive. My reasoning is that my son doesn’t drink the coffee and we rarely use butter. I’ve learned to deal with green imperfections.
That said, green living is worth it to me so in general I’ve learned to make hard budgeting decisions and through trial and error I’ve come up with ways we can live green without taxing our budget too much. One perk to consider is that real green living saves you cash – which is awesome and a topic I’ll cover in an upcoming post.
To sum up: You can think of green products and green living as expensive and unreachable or you can adjust your thinking and choices. My drive to live green and my choices, not my income, have resulted in our being able to afford green living.
COMING UP: Ideas about how you can afford to live green – even on a very limited budget.
Right now, what do you think? Is green living impossibly unattainable or within your reach with some adjustments?