Frugality and how it can prevent catastrophic disruption of life on Earth

A few nights ago Mrs. T and I sat down and watched Leonardo DiCaprio’s new documentary called Before the Flood. The documentary captures a three-year personal journey alongside Academy Award-winning actor and U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio as he interviews individuals from every facet of society in both developing and developed nations who provide unique, impassioned and pragmatic views on what must be done today and in the future to prevent catastrophic disruption of life on our planet.

Many of my friends are outdoor enthusiasts. Naturally, we are all very environmentally conscious. We thrive to minimize our impact to planet Earth as much as we can. Some of my friends are vegetarians and vegans, many of them use bikes as the main mode of transportation, some practice the 100-mile-diet, and some even do self-propelled skiing & hiking trips (i.e. bike or kayak to a destination then hike/ski).

Before the Flood is about global warming and its effects to our planet. Being already environmentally conscious, I am quite familiar with a number of things mentioned in the movie. However, it was a good reminder what we are doing on a daily basis has a direct impact to the well-being of the planet.

Before the Flood Key Facts

Here are some mind-boggling key facts from the movie.

  • Electricity consumption by one American at home is equivalent of 1.5 citizens of France, 2.2 citizens of Japan, 10 citizen of China, 34 citizens of India, and 61 citizens of Nigeria. This is due to Americans are building bigger houses, building more, and using more (Sadly I think us Canadians aren’t doing that much better either).
  • According to Elon Musk it would only take 100 gigafactories to transition the entire world to sustainable energy!!!
  • Of all the reasons for tropical deforestation, the foremost is beef. Beef is one of the most inefficient use of resources on the planet. In the US, 47% of land is used for food production and, of that, 70% of the land is used to grow cattle food. The thing that we actually eat – fruit, vegetables, nuts, only takes up 1% of the food production land.
  • Cows produce methane. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, more impactful than CO2. Every molecule of methane is equivalent of 23 molecules of CO2. About 10-12% of total US emissions is due to beef.




I’ll cut to the chase, can we all agree that global warming is real?

I mean, it’s obvious that average temperatures are increasing, the polar ice is melting, glaciers are melting faster, and the sea level is rising. As a result, we are seeing more extreme weathers – more severe storms, more severe droughts, more powerful hurricanes. Is there a way to save ourselves from this impending catastrophe? While watching the movie I kept thinking that a lot of the unnecessary energy consumption can be reduced or eliminated simply by practice frugality.

Frugality… the saviour of our wallets and our planet!

Being frugal doesn’t just mean we get to save money. Frugality has so much more to offer. I truly believe if more people practice the concept of frugality, as a society, we can prevent catastrophic disruption of life on our planet.

How and why?

  • Turn down the thermostat, turn off the lights when not in use, and take shorter showers, all these actions reduce our energy consumption, which in terms, reduces green house gas.
  • Eat less meat by switching to substitutes like tofu, beans & legumes, eggs, mushrooms, or lentils. Or you can eat more vegetables. Meat substitutes and vegetables typically take up less land to grow and take less energy to grow & produce.
  • Buy used instead of buying new. This means items don’t just get thrown away and end up in landfills. We live in a throw-away-buy-a-new-one-instead-of-repairing-the-old-device type of society. By eliminating the needs to manufacture something new, significant amount of energy and resources can be saved.
  • Walk, bike, or take public transportation instead of driving. This reduces our gasoline consumption and green house gas emission.
  • Air dry clothes instead of using a dryer not only saves money, you are reducing energy consumption at the same time. Clothes also tend to last longer when air-dried. If you are not buying new clothes, that means factories don’t need to produce that one extra new clothes, resulting reduction of energy consumption.
  • Drink tap water instead of pop or bottled water. Again, that means less energy consumption.

In summary, being frugal not only reduces money you spend each month, it also reduces your energy consumption and green house gas emission. To me, this is a win-win situation.

Thinking about the Future

We owe it to each other – and to our children and grandchildren – to leave our planet in a better state than when we found it- Christopher Dodd

To be perfectly honest, although I’m environmentally conscious, I haven’t really thought what the planet will be like 10, 50, 100, or 200 years after I am no longer around. This obviously has changed since having kids of my own. I want my kids and their kids and their kids and so on and so on to have the same opportunity as I did to enjoy the great outdoor. For examples, to ski and hike on a glacier, to climb some amazing rock formations, to be able to snorkel and see amazing water life, to see the beautiful sunset on a beach, to stand on top of a peak and realizing how small we are, to be completely alone in the wilderness, and etc.


mt. gandalf

It would be very sad if future generations can’t enjoy the beautiful nature and have to live in a wasteland. I can’t imagine a life where you have to wear protecting-life-support gear when going outside. I hope we will never get to that point.

In case you’re curious, here’s the full movie of Before the Flood (if the movie below doesn’t work, you’ll have to pay for it). I highly recommend it.

Dear readers, can you think of other frugal practices we can do to save our planet? Are you concerned where we are heading environmentally?

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29 thoughts on “Frugality and how it can prevent catastrophic disruption of life on Earth”

  1. I think it would be great help for people that know the truth to lead by example and stop traveling so much! No flying! Less auto!

  2. Climate change is of course real, but it’s still unclear whether it is man-made or just a cycle. I disagree with the government’s manipulation of data and independent research shows that global warming has actually stopped since the last 10+ years!

    With that said, I strongly believe in reducing, reusing, and recycling. I’m frugal as it is and I hate inefficiencies.

  3. Those 4 points that you highlighted from the documentary are the key ones I noticed as well. Everyone focuses on power plants and oil consumption but how about those everyday things we have a direct impact on.

    Secondly , I am stoked that I found a fellow mountain adventurer that is into Financial Independence like me ( we’ll there is Our Next Life also, they are rad too)

    Looking forward to following your blog now
    Cheers !

  4. Hey Tawcan,

    I didn’t watch this movie but I add it to my list.

    Did you watch “Minimalism” and its 6 hours of bonus? Because I feel it has kind of the same impact on me than your film had on you.
    What I mostly like about it is that it took an angle that I’m profoundly interested by (i.e. minimalism) and from which I never thought I would come to such conclusion about how fucked up is our world about consumerism and its ecological and social impacts.
    I knew it I mean, but not in this level of details that the authors describe it.

    If you didn’t watch it yet, I can’t recommend it enough.

    Cheers from Switzerland mate,

    • I have been wanting to watch that movie but haven’t. Will have to add it on my to-watch list. Unfortunately with little kids nowadays, hard to actually sit down and watch a movie. 🙂

  5. OK, before you write me off here, read my whole post. We’re not getting the whole story with global warming. Start researching the federal government’s HAARP program. Long story short, they can (and are) manipulating the earth’s climate.

    That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t consume less beef or drive less (or drive a fuel efficient car). I think there are lots of good reasons to do those things besides global warming (frugality, health, etc.).

    • Interesting. I do think the climate is changing every year. In Vancouver we’re seeing warmer and wetter winters compared to many years ago. Even if the data is manipulated, it doesn’t mean you should not conserve non-renewable energy.

  6. Ack – thanks for the reminder to finish watching it! Watched first half last week and it was as fascinating as it was terrifying 🙁 Particularly with how this last week in politics went.

  7. Nice post Tawcan. Jasmin (my wife) was actually just telling me about this yesterday. We trying to do our bit and I’m glad that Musk is doing his huge bit. I take public transport which, although for financial reasons is better, is a lot better than me driving to work every day that’s for sure!


  8. I haven’t seen this documentary yet, but I definitely want and need to! We are BIG outdoor enthusiasts. As RVers, we travel all over and see a lot of waste all over the country. It’s so sad.

  9. Yes, being frugal can reduce your footprint, but I’m not sure we can actually have a meaningful impact on changing cycles that have existed far, far longer than us. And if we can, should the cost of that fall on a small minority of the people? And if you believe it should, because we are richer than the rest of the world, are you willing to put off your FIRE another 10 to 15-years to help pay for it? If you have answered yes to all of the above, shouldn’t our leaders demonstrate extreme restraint and stop using 100x* what a typical American would use in Green House gases in a year for a single campaign stop or world meeting. And what about Space Travel? What environmental impact does launching rockets through the atmosphere cost?

    To me it seems like a great big power and $ grab.
    cd :O)

    *I have no idea what the real figure is, but as I understand it, Air Force 1 trips are not considered a small footprint activity by any figment of the imagination.

    • Yes we are the minority but if enough minorities start making changes, the result can be quite extraordinary. What good is it if I can get to FIRE earlier but there’s no nature left for me to enjoy? I’d happy delay FIRE 10-15 years just to make sure there’s nature for me and my kids and their kids to enjoy for many years. We need to stop being so selfish and just think about us. Think about the future and the longevity of human beings.

  10. I love those pics and your take on tying together frugality and the environment. Nice one! A lot of “frugal” things I do seem to be born from an environmental standpoint, and are pretty interchangeable with frugality from a $$ standpoint.

    As a geologist, yep, global warming is real. From a geologic standpoint, we’re still coming out of the last Ice Age temperature wise. Before humans, there have been warmer Earths (Greenhouse Earth) and colder Earths (Snowball Earth), we’re just in an excellent sweet spot right now climate wise.

    I find climate study really interesting and love looking at past climate data pulled from ice cores, paleogeographic reconstructions of the planet, paleoenvironment reconstructions and even all of the corresponding fauna fossils showing the climate at that point in time. I guess that’s part of why I like my job so much is I have to think in terms of “what was the planet like back then?” to be effective.

    Before the pitchforks come out, I agree that we are not doing ourselves any favors with all of the general disregard we seem to have to what we’re putting in the air and ground. While we (humans) may be doing a lot to alter these processes, one good volcanoe can spark a mini-Ice age, Krakatau for instance.

    Thankfully, we’re not up to that level of impact yet. Which is why I think we all need to do what we can through little steps and little changes to alter what we do every day to conserve resources and reduce our impact on the planet.

    We do a lot of things you list, along with “if it’s yellow let it mellow” as more of a water conservation. Don’t worry we flush before guests come over, lol.

    • Thanks Mr. SSC. That’s great lots of frugal things you that do are born from an environmental standpoint! That’s interesting that we’re still coming out of the last Ice Age temperature wise. Hard to imagine what the temperature would be like once Ice Age ends.

      There are so much we can learn from the past and I hope we take these scientific data and start making a difference. If we all can take little steps individually, the combined result can be very beneficial to the planet.

      LOL we flush before guests came over too. Occasionally we forget. :p

  11. Man, I love your pics Tawcan. You gotta drag me out there with you one day.

    Can you give me a rundown where those pictures are?

    I agree about being frugal and lessening our footprint on this rich earth. I just hate how it has become a political and financial tool.

    • Everything become a political and financial tool… it’s really too bad. We need to start thinking about the society as a whole rather than us individually.

      Picture wise:
      1. Garibaldi Neve
      2. Siwash Rock Stanley Park
      3. Hiking in D’arcy area
      4. Lake Garibaldi area
      5. Madhorse Glacier in Pemberton
      6. Black Tusk area
      7. Metal Dome in Whistler
      8. Mt. Brandywine
      9. Madhorse Glacier (I think)
      10. Vantage, Washington
      11. Deception Pass, Washington
      12. Somewhere in the alpine in Squamish area
      13. Mt. Overseer in Pemberton
      14. Mt. Gandalf in Pemberton
      15. Mt. Brew area in Squamish

  12. My wife was watching that same documentary on Saturday night.

    Frugality and having a small impact on the world are two sides of the same coin!

    I feel like I’ve been talking about this very same stuff for years. The same stuff you mentioned here I write about on my blog all the time.

    The problem is we live in a culture of energy burning beef eaters with an endless gushing fountain of cash to burn. Most don’t want to give up the luxury of that decades-old culture.

    Things are improving though. Electricity use and cars continue to get more efficient. Coal use continues to decline in the U.S. We recycle more now. Humans are learning…it just takes time. Time and cultural change.

    I’m optimistic. I don’t think the world isn’t going to end in catastrophe. However, I do think it will be different than it is today. Hopefully for the better.

    • Not surprised that we are on the same wavelength when it comes to frugality and environment… after all, we’re in the same region of the world.

      It is a problem that us frugal people are in the minority… there’s always people that will continue wasting energy simply because they can. But if the minorities all do their things, soon enough we can become the majority. Things are definitely changing but I hope we can expedite the process.

  13. I’ve been meaning to see that movie.

    I love the angle you took on frugality, and that’s kind of the dirty little secret in the FIRE world. Frugality & saving more is never REALLY about the money. It’s about the other benefits: gaining time, consuming less, worrying less, etc.

    We, as a community, don’t always do a good job of selling the non-monetary benefits, but you do here.


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