How to Be Green While Saving Green Like the Amish

In our consumer culture, our default mode is to think we have to buy something in order to do something. We sometimes think that going green, making our lifestyle more environmentally conscious, requires spending: buying compact fluorescent bulbs or even solar panels, maybe even trading in the old gas guzzler for a new hybrid or electric car.

The truth is, you don’t have to spend the green to go green. In fact, if you start with the intent of being thrifty, you’ll probably end up making “green” choices that actually help the environment.

Lorilee Craker, journalist and author of Money Secrets of the Amish, interviewed Amish families about how they save money—and found that “the Amish are gloriously green, but incidentally so. Frugality is at the root of their avid repurposing for as a group they are incredibly thrifty.”

Lorilee Craker notes that the Amish often say, “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without,” to describe their thrifty lifestyle. Who knew that doing just that would also help the environment?

Here’s some more tips that will both save you money and help the planet.


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    Repurpose: When we find a new use for an old thing, rather than just throwing it away, we’re keeping it out of a landfill and also cutting costs. Craker suggests:
    • turning old clothing into a quilt or rags;
    • saving empty plastic jars, egg cartons, and fabric scraps for kids’ craft projects;
    • repurposing old cans in your garden.
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    Recycle: If your town has a recycling program, participate! But also consider recycling yourself:
    • use old cans or glass jars to store nails, screws, and other odds and ends;
    • clean out plastic containers to reuse for food storage.
    • One thrifty/green secret Craker shares in her book, thanks to a reader’s tip: take old jeans and make them into pillow covers, using the pocket to hold a tooth for the tooth fairy!
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    Hand-Down: Small children don’t stay small for long, so they typically outgrow their clothes before they wear them out so consider reusing them for the next child. Most Amish families have at least half a dozen kids, so they naturally clothe the younger ones with hand-me-downs. If your family is slightly smaller, find other families you can trade with, or at the very least, donate used clothing to charity instead of them hitting the landfill.
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    Plant a garden and put a dent in your summer grocery bill, reduce your carbon footprint, and make the world a little greener — literally. For example, Craker interviewed Ella Yoder, a fabulously thrifty Amish woman, who among other things uses gallon metal apple butter cans (minus both ends) as seedling protectors in her garden.
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    Buy from a local farm or farmer’s market if you don’t have a green thumb, but still want to be green.


  • Shop your own closets to find out what you have before buying new.
  • Every product that we buy new not only costs us money, but it also has a carbon footprint: the fuel used in manufacturing it, getting it to the store, getting us to the store to buy it, and so on. Every time you decide to reuse something you already have — even if it is a yogurt container — you’re not just helping your budget, you’re helping the planet.

Sources and Citations

  • Lorilee Craker. Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing and Saving. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011.

Article Info

Categories: Buying Wisely | Reduce Recycle and Reuse