Is 'thrift' the new 'green'?

1. Bring your lunch to work.

2. Line dry clothes in the sun.

3. Grow a garden.

4. Turn off lights and air-conditioning when not in use.

5. Make clothe napkins.

Is this top-five list of: a) ways to go green b) ways to save money and get out of debt c) your grandparent’s age old advice? The answer: all three! As economic woes are increasing, many Americans are making decisions about lifestyles and consumption habits. The good news: many of these changes are also good for the environment and fight climate change. Actions like line drying and making your own jam pull on a powerful tradition of thriftiness we’ve shied away from in the past two decades and are also help reduce your impact on the environment.

A recent New York Times article reported that consumers are experiencing a “green fatigue” and are less interested in claims companies are making. Environmentalists may or may not be seeing the beginning of the end of the recent mainstream advertising, but marketing ideas as ‘thrifty’ may be a way for us to encourage behavior change and reduce consumption habits without dying out with a fad.

However, there are reasons to be wary of this line of reasoning. Encouraging people to make decisions based purely on economic choices will not mean that the environment always comes out on top. In fact, in many cases it won’t at all. What’s more, a lot of serious changes will take more investment up front.

We want to encourage environmental values AND stay in the lime light. We should emphasize the value of the ‘thrift’ when talking about environmental choices, but those economic arguments should support not supplement the reason for waking up an hour early to make your own lunch.

The environment and economy will always have a complicated relationship, but as the proliferation of green marketing may start to dwindle and we can cautiously use the appeal of being frugal and saving money. However we must make sure that its clear those actions protect, not destroy, our natural resources.