Have you taken a look in kids lunches lately? Individual servings, wrapped in plastic, in portions too large for most kids, and filled with too much sugar. I have taken back the brown paper sack lunch and replaced it with a basket (from the thrift store). Inside I pack sandwiches filled with home made almond butter and apple cider jelly (from apples gleaned by my daughter), homemade granola and yogurt, mason jars filled with milk or juice, and none of it wrapped in anything. All of this is topped with a handmade napkin and reuse-able water bottle to keep it all in. Everyday she comes home with her basket ready to fill the next day rather than full of garbage.
Jim & I learned to live small while sailing our boat to the Bahamas from Lake Ontario. We found that the most expensive and high energy using thing on board was our fridge. So over the side it went! (Actually, we just never installed it, some-one gave us a few bucks for it, poor slobs!) We found that my chef-type skills were up to the challenge, although you’re only as good as your food source, (read: US small towns don’t really have a great fruit & veg department).
We now live in a 500 sq. foot house quite similar to our boat: no fridge. No running water. PV electric panels work great especially when you just plain old don’t NEED.
First I wanted to make a comment about your film which I just saw. You didn’t go into your water usage which I think is actually more in danger than our energy or other green issues. You only mentioned your non-use of toilet paper, but you didn’t go into how much additional water you ended up using to clean yourselves, and doing laundry in the tub, etc. I just wished you had taken the entire sustainable lifestyle seriously and addressed those issues.
The other concern I had was that you failed to address the world’s biggest problem and you had a prime opportunity. The problem of overpopulation. Overpopulation is directly leading to all the environmental concerns that we have, from global warming, to air quality, water quality, depletion of energy and resources, etc. Even with China’s 1 child only policy they still have a net increase in population every year, and that does not include immigration, but is due instead to increased health and longevity.
Anyways, other than that I loved the experiment and I am impressed you were able to do all of those things. My family is attempting a lot of those but a bit more gradually.
We no longer eat any red meat, and we are reducing our poultry consumption as well with 1 to 2 vegetarian days a week, while I learn how to cook meals that will satisfy my families intense desire for meat.
We shop as locally as we can. I wish I had a better sense of what foods are in season when. Now days we have so little connection with the earth that it’s hard to know. The grocery store is stocked with blueberries all year round for example. We go to the farmer’s market frequently. We eat organic as much as possible (as much as we can afford).
I bicycle to work a few times a month at least (a 40 mile round trip) and am increasing that as well. My wife bikes our 4 year old around the city almost everywhere.
We have put in renovations and improvements, from windows to low gallon toilets, to tankless water heaters, and new energy star appliances, to reduce our monthly energy costs by more than half. And we have contracted to install solar panels to supply all our energy, but we are waiting on the incentive funding to become available from the DC Govt.
We only buy clothes from second hand stores (or accept gifts) – unless absolutely necessary.
We are currently growing a vegetable garden including pumpkins, watermelon, cantaloupe, peas, corn, peppers, raspberries, beans, cucumbers, basil, thyme, mint, and onions. And we are planting an apple tree this weekend.
But perhaps the biggest positive impact I have had is in convincing my boss to allow me to start a green committee at my office. The office is hard core conservative, with a good proportion of them not believing in climate change, much less man made. It has been difficult to find ways to appeal to them, but I have made strides by appealing to the bottom line and making it about making or saving money. For improvements in health and lowered health care costs: things such as having a planting day to plant tomatoes and peppers, providing fruit instead of processed and packaged snacks, and a bicycle repair workshop. We have created a freecycle room to for people to exchange unwanted items like baby toys, or books, and music, and other things. And have instituted a huge recycling project where we actually get paid for the white paper and office paper that we sort out. It has been a challenge, but has been very rewarding to see the biggest opponents of environmentalism getting involved.
I heat and cook with wood which I fetch from nearby woods, usually dead or down.
I grow almost all my food, using no commercial fertilizers or poisons. I get a nearby farmer to deliver a dumptruck load of manure yearly. Sometimes he can’t, so now my 10 hens are in a house I built them and I use the henhouse cleanings as excellent fertilizer.
I mow the lawns with a simple push mower. I rake up the mowings for mulch.
I drive an old VW Jetta that nobody wanted because some of the gears don’t work. It doubles as a pickup with the back seat down. (I’m always picking up something like dirty hay from the barn, buckets of decaying woodchips, firewood, restaurant waste for the hens…)
I go to town (8 miles over hills, otherwise perhaps I’d bike) once a week. I could go less often but I have a son with financial problems which require me to go to his workplace and collect his paycheck every week.
When I’m going to town I ask a neighbor if he needs anything.
I go to bed early and get up early.
I read books from the nearby library.
I rarely buy new clothes (you don’t need to look too good when you never go anywhere).
I work hard all day, so at night I’m too tired to need much entertainment.
I help a nearby dairy farmer whenever he needs me (no pay, but I get all the milk I can drink, as well as occasional packages of hamburger, tongue, liver).
I write letters. (I only have internet when I have children living at home, as now).
I make jams or dried fruit for Christmas presents. People love it.
Of course I hang-dry my laundry. In the winter I hang it in the house, it puts moisture in the air.
I build what I can, I fix what I can. This is very rewarding.
When I do buy new things I try to get excellent quality so they will last. For example, right now I am about to buy three new gardening tools (mine are finally busted), they all have lifetime guarantees.
On the rare occasions when I get sick I drink nettle tea (from nettles I pick and dry) or eat cayenne (from peppers I grow and dry).
I appreciate the beauty around me.
Don’t think you can’t do this. I’m a 60-year old mother of five.
we are an artist and a musician working together to maximize the amount of time we’ve got to do our work (which happens to be very much inspired by sustainability and reconnecting with nature) by having very few expenses. we’re living in a 14′ travel trailer while we build a 15′ square cabin on some land in the high desert – the climate here is mild, so we need little in the way of heating and cooling, and we’re able to grow lots of our own food. my art studio runs on $500 worth of solar equipment (including panels and batteries). we made a refrigerator that burns a minuscule amount of energy simply by changing the thermostat on an old chest freezer we found next to a dumpster. much more info on our blog at http://www.theobviousobserver.com.
I am quitting my addiction to food wrapped in individual packages.
I found a website called reusablebags.com and have decided to start buying food in bulk at my local co-op using reusable bags, taking my lunch to work in reusable containers, and doing whatever else necessary to eliminate the number of plastic bags/containers I throw in the bin. My goal is to get down to less than 1/2 bag of trash per week.
Truthfully, I think using my own bags for food might be a healthier alternative to using the plastic. Who knows where those bags came from and how they were processed.
Eat only organic
Increasing plant based meals
Eating local from farmer’s markets
No take out- bring food with us.
Wash laundry in cold water
Chemical free household (cleaning with baking soda and vinegar, chemical free/ organic body care products)
Setting the thermostat low in the winter and high in the summer
Reuse all cardboard – art trading cards, kids projects
Wearing preowned clothes
Enjoying nature on weekends instead of shopping
Adopting an animal from a shelter- then donating toys make from old clothes back to the shelter.
Hosting green bday parties with near zero waste
Bring cloth produce bags and bags for shopping
Have just had the 3 month followup of a home energy audit which was $300 very well spent. Show Me Home Energy Solutions, owner Dave Rabeneau, did a very thorough review of our old home and showed us the most important ways to make changes to reduce our energy expenses. We carried out some of those and he comes back free to show you the change in air leak measures, etc.
Also, am driving a 2003 Honda Insight with 55.9 MPG, but declaring NoCarDays in which I leave the car and walk to the Metro. Wish I could say every day is a no car day, but so far there seem to be so many reasons to drive (have to take a load somewhere, have to pick someone up, can’t walk that far, train doesn’t go there, etc.). I know part of this is going to take breaking the habits I’ve formed.
Thank you for supporting what I know in my heart is right.
I am reducing my impact by making my own eco-friendly cleaners. Using store brought cleaners have always irritated my skin, leaving a bad rash and burning them. Making my own has not only save me from further skin damage but it also is saving the environment and cost less.
We a kitchen we have here at work so I wash the disposable plastic bowls and spoons and reuse them every day. Consequently, I’ve used one bowl and one spoon within the last week as opposed to seven bowls and seven spoons. It feels better because now I have a special bond with my own cereal bowl and spoon, heh! Colin is right in that if you treat everything in your life as trash then it all becomes trash and you life is full of trash. By the way, thanks to Colin for coming and speaking at the Google NYC office! You’ve made a difference!