For the past decade, American consumers have been engaged in a credit-fueled spending binge, lured into an inflated sense of wealth by soaring home values and record-breaking stock prices.
By the time of the financial meltdown, personal debt stood at a staggering $13.8 trillion--nearly $125,000 per household. The ensuing economic crisis accelerated two concurrent national trends of frugality and sustainability.
Now, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, "The Great Recession" is technically over. Following every recession since World War II, penny pinching quickly fell out of fashion as Americans returned to their previous spending habits. Will this time be different? As the economy recovers, will we continue to practice a sustainable lifestyle that's as good for the planet as it is for our bank accounts?