The dialogue around living a sustainable and conscientious life often centers on how we consume, but not enough about how we value and interact with money. The way we consume impacts on our planet, our economic stability says so much about our philosophy on life. We’re reaching a stage that we’re starting to see the fundamental importance of understanding how we choose to spend our money correlates to our core beliefs. To be sustainable today, to care about our future, it’s important to think about how we value the money we earn and how we engage with it as a consumer. It’s not enough today to say that we choose sustainable brands to follow or we support local businesses in our purchases. It’s more about the emergence of a new frugality that speaks as much about being healthy and good with one’s finances but also about a larger concept of wanting to live a sustainable well-rounded rich life.
The significance of what it means to be wealthy is shifting today. Acquiring material things and having certain goods made by brands that signify class status are starting to be pushed aside by a younger generation of Millennials that see wealth through a new lens. They are more interested in acquiring experiences and living a fulfilling life that doesn’t see acquiring material things as a key attribute of wealth but rather freedom as being an important marker. If we also consider that how we consume, directly impacts our desire to be sustainable. It sheds a new light on how we engage with money and how what we spend affects how we treat our planet, and about incorporating differences in order to think bigger.
I’m a fan of the blog MrMoneyMustache.com. I like what Pete, Mr Money Mustache stands for. He shares on his blog his financially minimal lifestyle that has led him and his family to acquire enough savings to retire young and still live a luxurious life. His message is simple and works with the notion that a minimalist lifestyle creates less of a burden on your heart. The less you have, the less you have to worry about.
He recommends riding a bike instead of owning a car and gives reasons that go beyond the financial savings of foregoing the car. He sees the bike as a means of also getting to know where you live better and connecting with your community.
Lauren, 23 year old environmental studies student in NY, challenged herself to live her ideals. She realized that while she thought she was environmentally conscious, the truth was she consumed so much plastic and wasteful things that she decided to live a zero waste life. She stumbled into the blog of Bea Johnson, a wife and mother of two who documents her zero waste life in California. Lauren’s journey showed her that being zero waste efficient meant she saved more money, she ate much better and she was happier. She’s realized that living a zero waste life means she’s more aligned with her core beliefs. It’s also even lead to create her blog Trash is for Tossers and a new company called Simply Co. – making zero waste products.
Frugality is not about how to survive during economic recessions. It’s about economic decisions becoming a way to live a happier more sustainable life. Now this may might the line that most economic gurus are trying to teach but the difference today is that the more knowledge we have about our beliefs and what we want to accomplish and the kind of life we want to have. This idea becomes more of a reality and more of a way that we’ll see becoming the norm.
As we consider this change in mindset, the notion of truly tackling our environmental issues becomes more apparent. What we also begin to see is how little we actually need to be happy in our lives. It’s not the material elements that provide fulfillment but as Gandhi says, happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. That’s what the new frugality shows us. To be truly in tune, we need to live the life we say we really want.