Accidentally Green

Accidentally Green

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photo: Eugenia Beecher

Many people have lost their jobs over the last few years. Some are living on unemployment, while others have taken jobs with lower pay rates. Overall, Americans are learning how to live on less money. Those who are optimistic can find a silver lining to this situation – people are becoming greener by accident.

Anna lives in Atlanta. Her and her husband had worked for the same company for six years. Anna was a salaried employee who made $500 per week. Her husband was a contractor who made $900 per week. The company that they worked for went out of business with no prior notice.

Anna was able to draw unemployment in the amount of $210 per week. As a contractor, her husband does not qualify for unemployment. After months of searching for a job in her field, Anna ended up taking a job that pays just over minimum wage. Her husband has been able to work as a contractor in his field, but he is only earning around $1,500 per month. Their income went from $5,600 per month to less than $3,000 per month.

Thanks to their savings, these two were able to stay above water for a while. When their savings ran out, things took a sharp turn for them. They were evicted from their two-bedroom, two-bath apartment, and they had to move into a smaller one. This instantly reduced their energy consumption. Their electric bill went from an average of $250 per month to less than $100 in the smaller apartment.

The smaller living space not only lowered the amount of electricity they used, but it also lowered the amount of cleaning supplies needed. They also bought fewer light bulbs, air fresheners, and candles. They did not have room for all of the furniture they owned, so they sold what they no longer needed. The new apartment didn’t have a washer and dryer. Having to go outside of the home to do laundry motivated them to reuse towels. Instead of changing clothes after work, Anna wore the same outfit until bedtime.

After thinking about all of the changes we had to make, I realized that we were living a much greener lifestyle,” Anna said.

Unfortunately, things continued to go downhill, and a few months after they moved their car was repossessed. Now, they own two bicycles and ride the bus. Previously, the two drove their car everywhere. Today, they walk, bike, or use public transportation.

The change in their financial situation also caused them to change many of their habits. Instead of eating out several times each week, going to a restaurant is reserved for special occasions. When Anna wants to buy new clothes, she visits local thrift shops. They are more aware of waste. They save left over food and reuse any items that they can.

When asked about the lowest point in their experience, Anna said, “I have had to wash my clothes in the bathtub and hang them to dry because I couldn’t afford to go to the Laundromat. One day I realized that I only had three coffee filters, but it was 6 days until I got my next paycheck. I found out that coffee filters can be washed and reused.”

Anna has found that she is living a greener lifestyle. Although it was by complete accident, she is happy that she has learned a better way to live. “It feels good, and it feels healthy. I am exorcising more, and I am treating the planet better,” she said.
Written by: M. A. Gallant

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