No-spend or frugal February challenges have now been around for a few years, and you have likely come across a magazine article or blog post encouraging you to watch your pennies and curb your spending this month. The impetus behind this challenge is purely economic, providing inspiration to individuals to balance their budgets, spend less money, and grow their personal savings accounts. What if we took a more global approach and took a closer look at our spending choices, how we use our resources and lightening our load on the planet, not just our pocketbooks?

Many of these challenges encourage us to plan our meals, create grocery lists, shop only once per week, and eliminate those in-between trips to stay within our budgets. This suggestion not only keeps us from overspending, but it helps us eliminate waste. Buying only what we need in the way of food goes a long way in reducing the amount of food we throw away. Having a meal plan and grocery list can help us refrain from over-buying items that we don’t need, won’t consume, and will become waste. Why not take it a step further? When we make those food choices, why not be cognizant of how we are buying? Can we refrain from or limit buying the produce in the clamshell packaging? Are we able to resist the lure of buying three (more than we ever hope to use) to get one free? How about taking a deeper dive and considering the sourcing of the ingredients of the foods we are purchasing? How much water is needed to provide the milk in your carton or to produce the almonds in your almond drink? It really comes down to conscious choices. 

Another area of spending that is often addressed in these challenges is clothing. Yes, it is true that we can save a lot of money if we curb our purchases of the latest trend in clothes. We also have a choice to save precious resources and not support wasteful and inhumane practices that are omnipresent in fast fashion. The desire to want more encourages us to buy cheaper products at quantity. The products are cheaper for a reason. Someone or something somewhere pays the price, be it the people producing it or the resources that have been plundered to provide it. Believe me: I understand wanting to be stylish. Who doesn’t want to look good? Why not try getting creative and shopping your closet to come up with new combinations or visiting the consignment shop? There are a lot of fantastic outfits already out there in circulation. Why not save some resources and money all at the same time? 

What it really comes down to is making conscious choices about what we are spending money on and the resources we are using up in consuming those products. This can be applied to any aspect of our economic life. Take books and magazines, for instance. I am a sucker when it comes to literature of any kind, and if I were to overspend on anything, it would be books (or plants!). I still like to– and recommend – purchasing new books because I want to support the writers and industry that brings us all of the amazing fiction and non-fiction that imparts us with knowledge, escape, and joy. But then I choose to balance this consumption of new books with borrowing from friends, checking out from the local library (or the CAT lending library), or exploring the local used bookstore. 

Don’t mistake me. I don’t believe that purchasing my copy of the latest Kingsolver novel used from A Capella Books will save the planet. I do believe that making conscious consumption choices is the only way forward for all of us, either by choice or, eventually, by necessity. Learning to understand what our true needs and desires are, where and from what our consumables come from, and how we can enjoy them with the lightest impact possible will lessen the burdens on our hearts and minds as we move into the world we are creating.

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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team is for you because, well, the planet needs your urgent action – and we need each other as we navigate these changing times. Learn all about the group here,  and check out our minutes and take action table, our lending library and the Carbon Offset Fund. You can also request to join the Climate Action Team on Realm. Contact Jon Reese to connect to the CAT and join us for our next Zoom meeting on Monday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 PM using this link.