September 25, 2008

Eco-Benefits of a Bad Economy

I've been thinking lately how a recession or at least a sinking national economy can actually be a good thing for the environment. Think back a few years to our booming economy and all of the unnecessary products that were both created and purchased (ie. Big Mouth Billy Bass). I know people still buy stuff like that, but overall, I think that Americans aren't spending money on trivial things that will ultimately (and quickly) end up in landfills. Here are a few other thoughts on the topic:
  • Due to high gas prices, people are driving and flying less, therefore creating fewer CO2 emissions
  • People try to condense their car usage into fewer trips, or simply walk or bicycle to their destinations
  • Families on tight budgets look for free activities, like hiking, playing in parks, and bicycling, instead of leisure shopping or
  • Rather than spending income on new clothes, people mend or repurpose old ones, or just keep wearing older trends
  • Frugality in general thrives in a bad economy as people need to live on less. It encourages creativity in cooking (to stretch their groceries), cleaning (making your own cheaper, eco-friendly cleaning supplies) and recycling of objects that would otherwise be throw in the trash.
  • The tendency to buy disposable products, like plates, pre-packaged convenience meals, and diapers, is often replaced with reusable options like cloth diapers and home-cooked meals.
  • When it comes to heating and cooling your home, people may set their thermostats a little lower and higher, respectively, and save some energy in the process.
I'd love to hear how many of you are coping with the current economic situation. I'm sure I've forgotten some other points, since I'm struggling with sleep deprivation, so please add some more ideas via the comments. And forgive me it this post is not so well written or thought-out.


  1. I absolutely agree! The most eco-friendly generation of Americans came out of the Great Depression. My grandparents wrote letters on the back sides of their shopping lists, reused wrapping paper every holiday, and were experts in creative recycling. That's not to say that we're headed for another major depression, but I think even a little economic hardship helps all of us reexamine our priorities. Thanks for sharing with us this Thrifty Green Thursday! I don't think you sound sleep deprived, but I do hope you get a nap soon!

  2. I totally agree--we take the environment for granted, and need to be pushed to do what's right for it.

  3. Exactly right! I also think that people who do still have a little bit of cash to spend are considering greener purchases. All of a sudden you don't have to be a hippie to buy a Prius. :)

  4. I heard on NPR in the summer that sales of vegetable gardening supplies increase when the economy is bad.

  5. Great post! I love the challenge of spending less - I shop my house and pantry more often and don't take my kids shopping with me!

  6. The rising food prices are where it hits me the hardest. I am trying to be more careful about what I buy and making sure that I don't waste anything. Because gas prices are so high, foods that come from other parts of the country or world suddenly cost much, much more--encouraging us to buy locally-grown foods or plant gardens, as you already mentioned. That is definitely a huge "eco-benefit of a bad economy."

  7. great list...and we were just talking about some of these here this last week or so. we work on a budget in this if we dont' have the gas, we don't go!

  8. I seem to be working backwards on this issue. I drive more and put my ac on lower this year.

    Looks like I need to start making a serious effort to conserve.

    I do conserve water by doing less laundry (I think this might make me lazy) and we do recycle like crazy.

  9. Great post! I have always thought it might be a little bit "fun" to go through a depression so that we all would be challanged to live with less waste and more creatively using what we have. Unfortunately a lot of people have no idea where to begin as far as making things from scratch, reusing, etc.. That is one thing I think is very fun about blogging (as well as just getting to know people), we have opportunities to share the information we know and then also read and glean from others.

  10. Great tips! I'm TRYING to figure out how to sew so that I can re-purpose some old clothing. Drat my lack of skills!


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