Sometimes, when we try to be frugal, we aren’t always socially conscious or environmentally friendly at the same time.
We might choose to shop at certain stores, buy goods wrapped in too much packaging, etc., because the prices are lower. But at what cost?
For example, it’s widely understood that Walmart’s employment and business practices are questionable. Employees cannot unionize and wages are low, to name a few fairly indisputable facts. In addition, products on Walmart’s shelves might have been made by child laborers or adult workers who are treated poorly in factories. Can you say with absolute certainty that that’s not the case? I can’t.
I can’t speak to the integrity of most stores I shop at, actually. But, it’s something I need to investigate further.
The price of many items on Walmart’s shelves are lower than you might be able to get elsewhere.
For the shopper that’s trying to stretch a dollar the furthest, it seems as if she’s stuck. She can either pay possibly lower prices to best provide for her family, or she’ll choose to shop at a locally owned store or stores where wages are fair, but paying more out of pocket, perhaps.
Or maybe instead of choosing a cheaper product with lots of unrecyclable packaging, she’ll opt for minimal packaging, or wrappings that can be reused or recycled–no matter the initial price. I recently read about a company called Styrophobia, based in Hawaii, that sells biodegradable, compostable food containers as an excellent (but pricer) alternative to Styrofoam.
I hope that we can simultaneously be socially conscious, make decisions that don’t have a negative impact on the envrionment, and make purchases that are good for our bank accounts.
In the long-run, I would argue that being frugal is also choosing to be environmentally friendly and socially conscious. As frugal folks, we’re supposed to be good stewards with what we have (and how we choose to spend our money). We’ve got to be frugal with everyone’s resources, not just the ones our immediate family uses.
A few ideas:
— Buy secondhand at thrift stores or yard sales.
— Whenever possible, we can use our own grocery bags or tell the cashier “Ya know what? I only have three things. I don’t need a bag.” And when they were spacing off and forgot that you just said that and give you a bag anyway, you take your items out of the bag and leave it to hopefully be used again.
— Find alternatives to Walmart and Sam’s Club. I don’t shop at Walmart, though I have in the past. Where I live now, somehow I’m pretty far from the nearest store, so I’m not even tempted to go. If I ever join a warehouse club, I’ll opt for Costco, where the wages of workers are much more livable.
— Familiarize yourself with the corporate practices of stores you frequent. This can prove difficult, but it’ll likely be worthwhile.
What else can you add to the list?
I don’t have all the answers. When I shop, I try to get the best deals I can. I have some wiggle room in our budget now, so I feel more able to “vote” with my dollar wherever I choose. I really need to work on becoming more environmentally friendly and socially conscious.