Being Frugal Should Not Be A Race To The Bottom
How can you maximize your money
and minimize the environmental impact?
Living within your means – at times – necessitates the cheapest, lowest cost product. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the fairest on the environment. Some of the most affordable products come from half-a-world away in distance, and the people are subjected to abject poverty (i.e., parts of China, India, and Haiti). The labor conditions are grotesque for many and the poverty is encouraged by continued international spending. In fairness, this is an economic slant that I’m coming from, and it’s called: “Race to the bottom.” (Wikipedia)
Race to the bottom theorizes that the globalization and efficiency of markets can have a negative impact on the worker conditions, living wages, and much more. Essentially, when we are frugaling by buying the cheapest product, there’s an indirect consequence that includes wage suppression and continued poverty. To make the cheapest products, there must be consequences. Shipping the cheapest toys, clothing, and cleaning products burns countless amounts of fossil fuels. Between the Earth-destroying consequences and poor worker conditions, frugal spenders should try to go beyond this – when possible.
The consequences of inaction or continued spending decisions that are only aimed at the cheapest version can be harmful, externally and internally. Every day you can make little decisions for yourself and those around you. There are choices we can make that benefit everyone.
Waking up to a fair-trade, organic coffee is a perfect example of putting good in and getting good out. Think fair trade is too expensive? Check out Target’s Archer Farms Brand for $6 a pound. That’s cheaper than Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and a wealth of other popular brand names – not to mention it tastes great! The soap and detergents you use can be harmful, rough on your skin, and non-biodegradable.
Buying a gentler, biodegradable soap/detergent will keep your clothes in healthy shape and longer, while caring for the waste water that ensues. Some of the cheapest vegetables and fruits are the most pesticide-laden commodities in the marketplace. Those pesticides pollute the farms and waterways in production, and you invariably digest some of them.
Organic and pesticide-free can be expensive, but you can try to stay away from the worst polluters (e.g., bell peppers, apples, and cucumbers – see more here). Cows that are given growth hormones and antibiotics are harming our ability to fight infection and causing serious medical complications.
The cheapest milks and cheeses on the market are often from these ill fed animals. Look for the cheapest breads, and you’ll find bleached, enriched products that likely contain high fructose corn syrup. These breads have been stripped of their intended nutrients and injected with fake, man-made sugar syrups. I, for one, aim to do better.