Three Budget-Friendly Ways to Live Gently on the Earth

Oona Baker
April 25, 2009

Because my husband is recently laid-off, we are quickly learning to live within the guidelines of a strict budget. Luckily, we have always lived a careful and mostly eco-friendly lifestyle, so the recent shock to our family's income won't mean that we have to compromise our values and purchasing habits. Here are three ways we are stretching our dollars and reducing our impact on the planet:

1.  Look at the resources in your immediate area! You really can buy less, and have access to more. Form a tool cooperative in your neighborhood. Instead of each household buying mowers, tillers, or other big purchases, see if you can share with someone on your street or go in on a big-ticket purchase with your neighbors. If someone owns a truck, combine trips to buy mulch or bring yard sale leftovers to Goodwill. We've established a clothing chain where outfits are rotated from family to family as children outgrow them. We also do this with magazine subscriptions, toys, and even electric hair clippers. It builds community, and reduces your need to buy!

2.  Buy a small freezer (you can easily find a used one in good condition on Craigslist) and keep a stockpile of fresh, local foods easily available. Pick berries in the summer and you'll have the luxury of raspberries in your yogurt in the winter (without having to buy them out of season, trucked in from great distances). Better yet, make your own jam to preserve them. Pick up organic staples on steep discounts, like you can find at Grocery Outlet, and quickly take money off your weekly food bill (add to your savings by writing your favorite organic companies and asking for coupons). Instead of having an organic pot roast be the main course of your meal, switch to a smaller cut and use the meat as a side dish, instead focusing on fresh squash or mustard greens from the Milwaukie Farmer's Market (due to open May 10th). 

3. Turn the thermostat down and let the sun heat your house. This can be harder to do in rainy Portland, but we have had lots of success with this strategy. The curtains are open in the daytime to use what sun there may be to light and heat our home. I've found that I can still be comfortable with the extra layer of a sweater thrown on, instead of automatically reaching to crank the furnace. When the sun sets, we close up the house to keep the warmth in. (We do the opposite in summer, and high efficiency windows have helped to maximize our strategy) In the evenings, my husband and I drink tea to stay cozy. At first, I balked at this plan, but it's drastically lowered our bills and our dependence on resources. Find tips on weatherizing your home and residential tax credits from the Oregon Department of Energy

Oona is the Portland City Editor for The Savvy Source. You can read more of her work every day at Being Savvy Portland


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