What happens when we apply the principles of Slow Living to personal finance? Slow Money, of course! This means making sure that our economic activity—earning, spending, investing, and general resource use—promotes the well being of not only ourselves, but other people and the planet as well.
The roots of Slow Money are numerous and varied, and have been most recently expressed in terms of sustainable and green economics. Some of this rethinking was inspired by Natural Capitalism (1989) which laid out the argument that natural resources and the services they provide have considerable value for human culture. These include the water we drink, the air we breathe, the pollination that helps grow our food, and so on. Our well being is very dependent on the health of these natural systems, and we suffer the consequences if we fail to maintain them. When it comes to human well being, the Fair Trade, cooperative, and micro–lending movements, among others, have sought out approaches to production, distribution, and investment that truly enhance the quality of life for those involved. As globalization has separated producers from consumers, and the human and environmental impacts have become diffuse, these efforts have created economic systems that ensure people are compensated fairly for their work and minimize any environmental damage.
In his 2008 book Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money—Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered, author Woody Tasch put forward the term Slow Money to indicate the environmental and human benefits of shifting investments into local food systems. As it evolves, Slow Money is expanding beyond our connection with food to other aspects of Slow Living. Ultimately, it invites us to consider the life-affirming opportunities for connection, meaning, equity, etc., that are possible as we go about the task of getting what we need and want. We can buy food, and we can grow food. We can hire a service, and we can trade and share with friends and others in our community. We can go to the store to buy what we need, and we can borrow, barter, or turn to Craig's List, Freecycle, garage sales, and the church bazaar. More and more creative alternatives are emerging all the time. Increasingly many of them make use of technology, the internet, and social networking as well as new types of real time organizations that value sharing, trading and cooperating for mutual benefit.
Other ways to practice Slow Money include the following:
There are a growing number of businesses that are interested in offering services as part of a gift economy. One way is to offer customers the option of paying–it–forward such that each customer is offering a gift to the next.
Like all aspects of the Slow Movement, Slow Money is a work in progress that draws upon many ideas from sustainability. The goal, as always, is to apply our creativity and develop life–affirming practices for the benefit of ourselves, our communities, and where we live.