Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ecofrugal spirits in the material world

Just a quick post today to link to this cute little video produced by the Center for a New American Dream: "The High Price of Materialism." It's about the ways in which materialistic values and a lifestyle that centers around money are harmful to individuals and to society as a whole. One of the points it makes is that the more emphasis a society places on materialistic values, the less it places on "pro-social" values. That is, the more people care about money, the less they care about other people and about the environment. By the same token, when people focus more on "intrinsic values" such as "personal, social, and ecological well-being," they become less interested in materialism. This struck me as a very concise illustration of why the "eco" and "frugal" halves of frugality are natural allies: less spending means less waste and less damage to the environment.

It also, apparently, means a higher quality of life. In the video, psychologist Tim Kasser explains that the more people value money and material goods, the less happy they tend to be with their lives. By contrast, building a life that "expresses your intrinsic values"—more time with loved ones, meaningful work (even if it comes with a lower salary), and involvement in causes you care about—boosts quality of life in ways that more income, more expenses, and more material goodies can't. In fact, the research cited in the video indicates that not only is "eco" a natural companion for "frugal," but also that the word "frugal" itself, in its truest sense, refers not to deprivation, but to enrichment. In the modern world, frugality really does live up to the ancient origins of its Latin root, frux, meaning fruit: a frugal life is also a fruitful life, filled with joy and abundance that mere "stuff" can't provide.
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