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Save the Earth on a Budget...

Our guest author is Kyle Kramer, executive director of the Passionist Earth and Spirit Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Now that the arctic winter is well behind us, my wife and I can look back and laugh (sort of) about the disagreements we had over the thermostat setting. Our current home is much harder to heat than the highly efficient, passive-solar home we sold last year. In response, I vied for warmer clothes and a low setting on the thermostat. Cyndi fought for moderation. Both of us took secret missions to change the thermostat back toward our own preference. One time when she caught me at it, she complained: “You’re not really trying to save the Earth—you’re just a cheapskate!”

Ouch. In light of that comment, I’ve done some soul-searching about my relationship with money and the environment, and it has led me to think about three basic approaches in dealing with both personal and planetary goods.

One way is like the prodigal son of Jesus’ parable: we squander what we have, ignoring what would be best for ourselves and future generations. This is the way to financial and environmental ruin.

The other extreme is my own bugaboo: being miserly. Misers see the world through a zero-sum lens, fearful that there will never be enough, so we hold tight to resources—natural or monetary. This may feel responsible and reduce our environmental impact, but it can also suck the joy out of living.

A third way runs between those of the prodigal son and the cheapskate: being frugal. Frugality recognizes that the Earth’s resources, and our own personal resources can be limited if we waste them. But they can be abundant if we tend them carefully and share them generously and justly. Frugality means living on a reasonable budget, but also not being afraid to enjoy life and the occasional splurge.

Preaching about frugality, whether from priests, presidents, climate scientists, or financial advisors, rarely works. A serious personal or global crisis can be effective; so can exploring what in our shadow side leads us to be wasteful or miserly, with money and with the Earth’s goods. But we also have to find a way to make frugality attractive and inviting, like sobriety compared to addiction.

As a miser-in-recovery, I don’t honestly know how to do this yet, but I do imagine that the path of frugality, like any virtue, leads to freedom and gratitude and joy, which are the hallmarks of grace. I also suspect we can’t walk this path only on our own strength. Fortunately, we don’t have to.

This blog is taken from the article “Save the Earth on a Budget” by Kyle Kramer in St. Anthony Messenger. To subscribe to this award-winning publication, click here.


Image: Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock


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"And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood.

I will now give my blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will."

-Papa Francis quote

He does not know you, yet he prays for you.
He will most likely never meet you, yet he loves you.

This is your chance to show your love, for as the Bible teaches, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."