Save Money, Save The Planet?

Save Money Save The Planet

Save Money, Save The Planet?

While some of the examples here might seem antiquated, the principles are rock solid. According to the Ecological Footprint, one of the best ways to lower your impact on the resources of the earth is to buy less, live in smaller places, enjoy non-material fun and overall have a high joy to stuff ratio.


These hints and tips will help you to save your life energy-adding money to your bank account and years to your life. The next bit of good news is that this process benefits our planet as well. Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia (a future fantasy in which Northern California, Oregon and Washington secede from the union to form an ecologically sound society), observes that your health, your pocketbook and the environment have a mutually enhancing relationship. If you do something good for one, it’s almost always good for the other two.


If you walk or bicycle to work to reduce your contribution to greenhouse gases you are also saving money and getting great exercise at the same time. If you compost your kitchen scraps to improve your soil (the environment) you are also improving the quality of your vegetables (your health)-and saving money on your garbage bill. Saving money may well save your life and save the earth at the same time. It isn’t just an odd coincidence that saving money and saving the planet are connected. In fact, in some sense your money is the planet. Here’s how.


Money is a lien on earth’s resources. Every time we spend money on anything, we are consuming not only the metal, plastic, wood or other material in the item itself, but also all the resources it took to extract these from the earth, transport them to the manufacturer, process them, assemble the product, ship it to the retailer and bring it from the store to your home. All of that activity and cost is somehow included in the $9.99 you spend for a new toaster.


Then there are the environmental costs that aren’t included in the price, what economists call externalities: the pollution and waste we pay for in other ways-in lung disease, cancer, respiratory problems, desertification, flooding, etc. What it boils down to is that every time we spend money we are voting on the kind of planet we want to leave to future generations. Money is a lien on the life energy of the planet. We call this the “Pogonomics Principle”-economics from cartoon character Pogo’s point of view. Pogo’s contribution to Earth Day 1970, as you may remember, was the observation that “we have met the enemy and he is us.” It’s no mystery that the planet is polluted. We did it through our demand for more, better and different stuff. Think about it.


Prostitution would be the world’s loneliest profession without demand. The Medellin Cartel would be a 4-H club without demand. OPEC would be a solar energy and desalinization consortium without our demand. Like facing any truth, accepting the fact that our demand is a cause of many problems can give us great power.


It is empowering to know that the major driving force behind our planetary plight is not the military-industrial complex or the federal budget or defense spending -things we usually feel powerless to do anything about. Rather it is our patterns of consumption here in North America, our demand. And that is something that we can do something about-and benefit ourselves in the process. Creative frugality is a double win-for our wallets and for our world.


The Three Questions Revisited


As we saw in the Fulfillment Curve, fulfillment by its very definition is a function of knowing when you have enough. The three questions from Chapter 4 can be asked in a different way with the planet in mind. The questions to ask are:


Am I likely to get fulfillment from this money spent in proportion to the resources that it represents? Is this purchase in alignment with the values that we all hold in common-the desire to survive and to thrive? What would spending in this category look like if I were working for the well-being of the whole world, instead of for my individual survival?


Remember, asking these questions will not deprive you of things that really bring you fulfillment. They will simply open up new opportunities for saving money and achieving clarity in your relationship with money.


An Example of Pogonomic Thinking


Joe Dominguez was the computer manager for a medical research study that was seeking to model how top-notch research could be done without asking for funding and with minimal cash outlay. As the statistical phase of the study began, with hundreds of print runs of statistics and graphics being called for, it became apparent that printer ribbons were going to be a major item. The first run alone used up one entire ribbon.


Joe did some number crunching and found that, at $9.25 per ribbon, this expense would run up the costs of the project significantly. And then he remembered a small classified ad in a computer magazine for a ribbon-inking machine (whatever that was). He bought the machine for $60 and a pint of special ink for $18, and from a discount computer supplier he ordered 12 ribbons for $8 each, taking a chance that this investment would, over time, result in substantial savings. Inking machine $ 60.00 1 pint ink 18.00 12 ribbons 96.00 TOTAL investment $174.00


In the year after those purchases, Joe re-inked each of the thirteen ribbons seven times.


13 X 7 X $8= $728.00
Re-inking costs – 174.00
TOTAL savings in l year $554.00
1-year return on investment: 318%
This strategy saved the project hundreds of dollars-and had interesting implications for the earth. Think of the millions of offices that discard a printer ribbon after one use. Compute the landfill that these plastic cartridges filled with nylon ribbon require. Compute the petroleum used in the manufacture of the plastic. And, to top it all, note this fact, found in The Wall Street Journal:


Nylon Production Named as a Source of Nitrous Oxide Scientists identified nylon production plants as sources of gases believed to be depleting atmospheric ozone and contributing to global warming.


Saving Money While You’re Saving the Earth


The point of all this is not to send you off into the desert to eat berries and wear fig leaves. It is especially important to remember the mantra: No shame, no blame. We were all born into a world where consuming our way to happiness seemed both natural and benign. The kinds of changes we may all need to make to keep the environment viable will require some deliberate and courageous modifications of our current habits.


But why wait for the year 2000? Avoid the millennia1 rush and start to live with these questions now. (We set the turn of the millennium as our target for achieving what has turned out to be very very difficult: lower overall consumption in North America for the sake of our sanity and the sake of the earth.) You will see many places where you can choose a nonpolluting pleasure and have twice the fulfillment-once for you and once for the planet. Indeed, enjoying nature and feeling your vital connection to the earth, the source of all life, is one of the greatest pleasures there is. At the cellular level, there isn’t much difference between you and a tree. Experiencing that kinship without consuming it is as much a part of an earth-friendly lifestyle as composting your vegetable scraps and yard waste.


If you want to find out how to save money while saving the earth, many fine books are available. The most popular one at the moment is 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth-but many books exist that can help you reevaluate your personal lifestyle choices in light of our current understanding about human impact on the ecosystem. If your library doesn’t have the one you want, request that they buy it so that others can use it as well. That alone would be an earth-friendly act.


The key is remembering that anything you buy and don’t use, anything you throw away, anything you consume and don’t enjoy is money down the drain, wasting your life energy and wasting the finite resources of the planet. Any waste of your life energy means more hours lost to the rat race, “making a dying.” If you have no time in your life to enjoy the fruits of your labor, perhaps what you need isn’t another time management course but rather a refresher in frugality. Frugality is the user-friendly and earth-friendly life-style.


Don’t stop here in your search for ultimate frugality, the most refined and advanced lifestyle the planet has ever seen. Read on.




After a year of keeping your Monthly Tabulations, you will have approximately 1,001 (more or less) single entries under your 15 to 30 spending categories. Chances are very good that you could be spending less on every purchase-from apples to zinnias-with no reduction in the quality of product or the quality of your life. It’s the attitude of honoring your life energy that will show you the way, not following someone else’s recipe for a frugal life. You will be as excited about the savings you discover as we have been about re-inking printer ribbons or furnishing our home from garage sales and giveaways. The empowerment comes from your cleverness and your creativity in finding your strategies for frugality. That’s why we call it creative frugality. So here’s a blank slate. Write your own 1,001 tips for living on less and loving it.




Watch your thoughts. Anyone who practices meditation knows that our gray matter is like a frenetic monkey, churning out a steady stream of unrelated thoughts at the rate of at least one a second. In just 11.6 days you’ll have 1,000,001 thoughts-and most of them will have something to do with desires. I want this. I don’t want that. I like this. I don’t like that. The Buddha said that desire is the source of all suffering. It is also the source of all shopping. By being conscious of your next 1,000,001 desires, you’ll have 1,000,001 opportunities to not spend money on something that won’t bring you fulfillment. Advertising doesn’t make you buy stuff. Other people’s expectations don’t make you buy stuff. Television doesn’t make you buy stuff. Your thoughts make you buy stuff. Watch those suckers. They’re dangerous to your pocketbook-and to a lot more.


Remember, frugality isn’t about being a cheapskate or a penny pincher. It’s about honoring and valuing your most precious resource -your life energy. Shopping smart, saving money, following the adage “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” isn’t about deprivation; it’s about loving yourself and your life so much that you wouldn’t think of wasting a second. It is also, as we have seen, about loving the planet so much that you want to take good care of it. And finally, it’s about loving future generations so much that you want to leave this earth in better shape than you found it.


When we talk about preservation of the environment, it is related to many other things. Ultimately the decision must come from the human heart, so I think the key point is to have a genuine sense of universal responsibility. -the Dalai Lama



  1. Don’t shop.
  2. Live within your means.
  3. Take care of what you have.
  4. Wear it out.
  5. Do it yourself.
  6. Anticipate your needs.
  7. Research value, quality, durability, and multiple use.
  8. Get it for less.
  9. Buy used.
  10. Follow the steps of this program.




Lower your total monthly expenses by valuing your life energy and increasing your consciousness in spending. Learn to choose quality of life over standard of living. Be frugal; it’s cool.

1 Comment
  • Bill Y
    Posted at 20:36h, 09 April

    Pogonomics is a great Mantra