Frugality and “Quiet Quitting”

It appears that some good may have come out of the pandemic and the cost of living rises, in terms of the environment. I think we all know that attitudes towards work shifted somewhat as a result of the pandemic, with lots of people having to work from home.

This of course made businesses realise that it wasn’t always necessary for their workforce to be in the office (obviously this doesn’t apply to manual labour, the NHS and lots of other types of work), and indeed, a friend of mine mentioned a while back that the pandemic had revolutionised how her company now hold meetings.

This is all good because it means that there is less traffic on the road. My friend said that she generally now works from home most of the time and really enjoys it as it improves her work/life balance but also, she feels, makes her more productive on the work front as she’s not spending as much time tired from travelling.

There is, however, another element to this: the spend less to work less movement. Obviously, this is something that involves sacrifice but for many, this was something they’d already become used to during the pandemic, either through (like me) their work diminishing dramatically or, because they’d got used to living on less.

Apparently, 44% of people (source: FlexJobs) say that they’re happy to take less pay in order to be able to work less. When we then balance this against the impact on the environment, this means: buying less “stuff” (reducing), mending or upcycling more stuff (reusing) and consequently creating less waste which has to be either thrown away (which should be an absolute last resort) or recycled.

The cost of living rises have of course put even more strain on many of us with worries about how we can heat our homes over the coming winter, but it has also made many people think about saving energy for the very first time: turning lights off when they leave a room and switching to LED lights a bit at a time, ditching use of a tumble dryer, turning electrical appliances off at the plug, thinking about how they cook (apparently Aga owners are now pulling these out in droves as they are now costing £70.00 per week to run!), thinking about how often they heat water, ensuring that their homes are well insulated and as draught-proof as possible, thinking about applying for grants for things like heat pumps (which I’ve written about previously) and solar panels (and there are indeed many schemes around although there is currently a shortage of installers for solar panels).

It has also made approximately 85% of the population (source The Guardian, article by Max Wakefield 9 September 2022) demand that the government invest heavily in renewable energy rather than continuing to invest in fossil fuels (as the issues with them won’t be going away any time soon) which is very heartening.

All of this has resulted in two new unofficial movements: “frugality” and “quiet quitting”. What does this mean in practical terms? Well probably, fewer meals out, fewer takeaways, second hand clothes or mending/upcycling clothes, batch cooking meals to go in the freezer, using leftover food rather than throwing it away, taking public transport, for some, giving up their car or cars if they have more than one, learning to cook instead of buying expensive ready meals and so on.

All of the things mentioned above which save money are also good for the environment: less energy, less travel in private cars, less spent on air travel, less food waste etc. I also think that when people change their habits, they usually keep those habits, once they’ve become normal practice – it’s something to hope for.

Sharon Duggan
Cranleigh Climate Action

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