Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

When Being Cheap is Green

Many of my earth stewardship practices stem from my belief in being frugal. I spent six years in undergraduate and graduate studies and now I’m the wife of a graduate student, living in an expensive foreign country. I’ve spent a fair bit of my adult life with limited financial resources and I’ve invested time in finding ways to stretch those resources. Most (but definitely not all) of my methods for saving and using money wisely also happen to encourage earth friendly practices and wise stewardship of resources other than money (like water and energy), because earth stewardship and frugality share a common principle: Do Not Waste.

The old adage to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without (with some variations) is common to both the thrifty and the eco-conscious.  It’s also something often quoted by church leaders, including in an address by Elder Joe J. Christensen titled Greed, Selfishness, and Overindulgince.  In the talk, Elder Christensen  says, “Our resources are a stewardship, not our possessions” and he goes on to say that we will be accountable to God for how we use our resources.  Again, I think this applies beautifully to both thrifty living and earth stewardship.

I read several blogs about thrify living, but the first media to really influence me in this area is a book called, The Complete Tightwad Gazette.  The author, Amy Dacyzyn, is a professional graphic designer but after she married and had her first child, she gave up her career to be a mother.  She and her husband dreamed of buying a New England farm house, so Amy adopted an extremely frugal lifestyle for the family and began her “Tightwad Gazette” newsletter in order to remain at home with her children and save the money required to buy her dream home.

The newsletters were compiled in a series of books, and I love them.  Many of the suggestions are too extreme for me and I certainly don’t choose to adopt all of the author’s practices, but I find the newsletters very readable and full of useful information on repurposing household items, thrift store shopping, making homemade,
and celebrating holidays in less consumer ways.  Some things in the book now seem dated and I’d love to find a more up-to-date work that I enjoy as much, but I still consider The Complete Tightwad Gazette an important book in the canon of thrifty literature.

  • Peter says:

    My wife and I are passing through a period of enhanced frugality ourselves.  (Brought on at least as much by external circumstances as by personal virtue.)  At any rate, I’m surprised at how painless it has been.  (I don’t want to exaggerate our hardship – we still have a very comfortable lifestyle.)  We walk or ride public transportation when the car’s not available.  We use the public library a lot.  Maybe we tend to eat simple foods at home, rather than going out to a restaurant.  We cancelled Netflix, but maybe we were wasting too much time with mindless video entertainment anyway.  In short, a little belt-tightening has been good for us.

    I can’t speak to those who are living on a shoestring and whose finances have forced them to make deep and painful sacrifices.  I can, however, say that a little frugality has been a blessing for us.  If more efficient use of the Earth’s resources is good for the rest of the planet too, then so much the better.

    • MBCB says:

      In our most recent austerity cuts, we sold our car and canceled our home Internet.  While I really miss being able to stock up on supplies at the grocery store with the car, my husband has lost 10 pounds walking to the university and I’ve really enjoyed not having the Internet available to us all the time–we spend a lot more time on projects and reading together in the evenings now.  Like you, I’ve found tightening up to be good for us personally in addition to saving money and cutting our fuel use.