With a financial situation that can only be described as “meh” and a desire to be a green as possible, I’m always looking for tips and ideas on how to save some money while also being earth-friendly. Some of the money saving tips I find are way too stringent, the kind you might find on the TLC show “Extreme Cheapskates.” No thanks. I refuse to dumpster dive for medication. And as for being green, there are times when I think the green movement has become too elitist or “yuppie,” like high-end green fashion brands and home accessories. I just can’t fathom buying a tank top that costs almost a third of my monthly rent.
Well, thanks to Deborah Niemann’s latest book Eco-Thrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life, I can I can pay my rent and maintain my desire to be as green as humanly possible.
I first became aware of Ms. Niemann when I profiled her book Homegrown and Homemade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living and her visit to Milwaukee’s very own Boswell Book Company nearly three years ago. Ms. Niemann lives on a huge homestead and farm in rural Illinois where she and her family live a hugely self-sustaining life raising chickens, goats, llamas, and cows. They also have a large garden and orchard. It is from this homestead Ms. Niemann is able to support and take care of her family while being frugal and maintaining an environmentally-sound lifestyle. So needless to say, she is the perfect person to write a book on the topics of saving money and caring for the planet.
Eco-Thrifty is divided into 10 easy to follow chapters covering everything from making your own personal care products to how to make products to keep your home spic and span. Niemann also covers cheap ways to be green when it comes to clothing, raising children, feeding your family, maintaining your health, and gardening. Eco-Thrifty also tells us how entertaining and transportation can also be green and cheap. And the final chapter informs us to get things for free or almost free. Bonus!
I have to admit I looked forward to reading Eco-Thrifty’s chapter on personal care products. I’ve been making own soap for six years now. Not only am I saving money and not using products with a bunch of scary chemicals I can’t pronounce, I’m also having a lot of fun. Making my own soap is another creative outlet. So I was thrilled to read up on recipes on how to make other products like body butter and exfoliating scrubs.
In the chapter on home care, Deborah lets us know how much you can clean with simple vinegar and baking soda (and a little extra elbow grease). You don’t have to buy a mess of products from Wal-Mart. She also has a recipe on how to make your own laundry detergent with items you can easily find at you local grocery or drug store.
When it comes to food, Niemann inspires us to trust ourselves in the kitchen. We can save money, be green and get in touch with our inner Julia Child. She extolls the virtues of making things from scratch, including wine. She also encourages us to grow our own food, letting us know that even an urban dweller like myself can grow an herb garden on my window sill (and I’m planning on doing this shortly).
Other green and thrifty ideas include buying things used, holding clothing swap parties, investing in a good pair of gym shoes to go walking around your neighborhood instead of joining a pricey gym and re-purposing and re-using things you might throw out. Many of her ideas you might be using already!
Most of Ms. Niemann’s ideas and tips are easy to do and practical. Niemann’s writing style is down-to-earth and encouraging. And she knows that not all of her ideas will work for everyone and some may have to be amended to one’s particular lifestyle. Sure, she got a bit preachy about not having a television, but perhaps I was feeling some residual Catholic guilt over watching reruns of “Bridezillas” instead of doing something a bit more worthy of my time.
Ultimately, Eco-Thrifty is a must-read primer for anyone who wants to be green and save some green.