Monday, April 28, 2008

More commited than ever

We had a lovely weekend in Portland. Visiting "Grandma and Bopa" is always fun, and the train was a fun twist (and highly recommended).

While I was gone, I finished reading the David Wann book, and then I came home to a gift in the mail from Carolyn - a new book called, "Farewell, My Subaru" about a guy who decides to move to New Mexico and attempt to live an off-the-grid-petroleum-free lifestyle. (The title is because he has a beloved Subaru with 200,000 miles on it, but he decides to switch over to a giant truck....that runs on bio-diesel, aka vegetable grease, that he gets from fast food resturants.)

All of this reading has me more convinced than ever that I am okay with being "that nut" - the crazy lady who jumps societal ship to do things in new ways. I am more and more convinced that this is less "weird" and more "cutting edge" and that I am finding the wave of the future. My rationale?
- Our planet can not sustain the level of resource use and abuse that it currently takes. We're running out of petroleum (and sometimes paying $4/gallon for gas - ACK!), our water and air are polluted, our biodiversity is in jeopardy, and the things we take for granted are proving themselves to be in short supply.
- Our bodies can not sustain this level of abuse. Our bodies need clean air and water, for instance. And healthy food with vitamins built into it. Don't believe me? Look at cancer rates on the rise. Look at diabetes rates. Look at the rate of heart disease. You might be able to get away with it, and your body might keep you going....but for how long? And what will it take for us to stand up and notice that our bodies are crying out for help?
- We're not happy. Something is inherently wrong in a system where people feel disconnected from community, friends and family. We buy and buy and buy because "they" (marketing, corporations, and even governmental advertising that says "go out and boost the economy!") say it will make us happy. Well, national happiness levels are lower than ever. People are buying, but they're getting stuff, not happiness. Doesn't this tell us something?
- I'm starting to really "get" that we can live much better on our salary than we have been living. We can have all that we need - and more - and have money left over. We can eat well (organic, healthy food) and spend less. Money issues are stressful, and so my happiness increases when I reduce this stress. Much of our spending is bad for the environment (how do they manufacture that plastic stuff, anyway?), so less spending on "stuff" equals better environment, too.

Environment, bodies, happiness, money. All tied together...wow.

So here's what I want. I want to be happy. I want to breathe clean air, to drink clean water. I want to be healthy. I want to live within our means. That's it. The reason for my craziness is that I want these simple things.

Here's what I'm doing right now to get to where I'm going:

Plant a vegetable (and fruit!) garden. Such a simple thing, but it's giving me a lot:
- time outdoors to breathe fresh air and work my body
- fresh food that is as healthy as anything on the planet
- reduced carbon emissions - did you know that the average piece of food travels 2000 miles to get to your table? Well, my garden will travel about 20-40 feet to get to my table. By foot, not by gas powered vehicle, so not producing crap for the environment to deal with and for my body to deal with.
- a sense of well being. I'm not a gardener (au contraire), but I'm realizing that there is something meditative about working the soil, about doing this project as a family. I know what I'm doing and why. Simply put, it's satisfying. Amazing. All this satisfaction from seeds?!
- Improved biodiversity. I'm not buying seeds from Monsanto, I'm buying heirloom vegetables. Why? Because the biodiversity of crops is falling annually, and because this makes crops less pest-resistant, drought resistant, etc. As a result of my eating this crop, I'll get a greater diversity of nutrients, as well. Earth wins, body wins, Monsanto loses. I'm okay with this.

Lowering my house temp (and programming my thermostat).
- We used to keep the house at a steady 69 degrees (when I was first a stay at home mom; I worried about Tessa being cold). I've read that we can cut our heating bill by 3-5% per degree lowered (in the winter; we don't have air conditioning so that's not an issue for us). Well, now we're keeping the house at a high of 66 degrees, and lowering it to 60-62 degrees at night and while we're gone. If costs equates to energy use, then just by putting on a sweater (if you come over and you're cold I'll loan you one!) we're lowering our energy use by something like 15%.
- It's not weird to wear a sweater. It's NORMAL. It's healthy. There is no down side.

Walking, biking, bussing....not driving.
- We live in a great walking community. How often do I go to the Junction? And how often have I DRIVEN to the Junction? That's crazy! We're less than a mile away from grocery stores, Farmer's Market, specialty shops, resturants, coffee shops, art gallery, live theater. A great percentage of the miles I drive are within West Seattle. Well, why not walk? My body loves it. My brain gets endorphins (there's that happy thing again). The environment loves it. It takes a little longer, but even that can be a good thing. I am so tired of rushing! I love those walks with Tessa....we talk, we notice things, we feel the seasonal changes.
- I don't need to tell anyone who knows us that Ryan is a bike fanatic. He's HAPPY when he's on his bike. He's gleeful when he bikes to work....passing all the stopped cars. Good for body, good for soul, good for environment.
- It's not possible to walk or bike everywhere. So I'm adding the bus to my list. We take it downtown whenever possible (so much easier than traffic and parking issues) but I'm trying to use it even more than that. Yesterday, we walked a few blocks from the Amtrak station to a bus stop....and Ryan discovered a beautiful park downtown with a waterfall. We caught the bus, and ran into some friends. I was scrambling to find a quarter (bus fare is $1.50 and I had $1.25 and a $20 bill) and a nice lady gave me a quarter with instructions to "pay it forward" next time I was on the bus.
- I found out that the bus by our house goes to the Target/Westwood Village area. So next time I need to go to the library, Marshall's, or even (sigh) Target, I could bus it. I'm committed to taking the bus even within West Seattle when possible.

Stop buying "stuff."
- When I look around my house, I don't see needs. We have furniture, blankets, clothing. We have decorative stuff (candlesticks, pictures, etc.) We have entertainment (games, television, stereo, even Xbox). Our cupboards and closets and attic are overflowing with things. We "need" very, very little.
- The pursuit of stuff makes me temporarily happy....but then I usually feel bad. The items are often not quite right. I spend too much time in pursuit of these items (shopping) and not enough time in parks, at SAM or the zoo or the aquarium or the beach. Then I spend a ton of time organizing my stuff, cleaning my stuff, getting rid of my stuff (come see us at C&P May 10 for the yard sale!). In short, stuff doesn't make me happy.
- All that stuff produces insane quantities of waste. For every one can of garbage at the household level, 70 cans of "garbage" (including toxins in the air and water) are produced earlier in the production cycle. See http://www.storyofstuff.com/ if you haven't already. I don't want to add to that kind of waste!
- The production of stuff requires huge amounts of petroleum/oil, and that's awful for the environment and my body.
- I shouldn't need to say it, but I will: stuff costs money. Money I could be using to live within my means. Living within my means = feeling happier.

I'm rambling (in the time I've written this email, I've also prepared snacks for girls, done chores, gotten the dog out of mischief, etc.) but I think you're getting the point.

The bottom line? I'm the crazy lady. And I'm okay with that. It's going to get crazier, too. And that makes me happy.

If you're reading this for ideas, and you're not prepared to tear up your lawn to plant a vegetable garden, or you're not ready to retire your car keys, try these simple things instead:

- Replace conventional lightbulbs with energy efficient ones. Major positive impact on the environment, and they're said to last up to 30 times longer.

- Choose something that you eat that's not currently organic, and replace it with organic food. Maybe apples - start small like that.

- Next time you have a small errand, consider walking. Choose a nice day - and walk to the mailbox, the coffee shop, the corner store. Leave your car at home. Enjoy the weather, the flowers, the conversation along the way.

- Find a bag (you've already got one....maybe a lightweight beach bag, maybe a giant purse, maybe a canvas tote, maybe a backpack, or maybe one that they sell at the grocery store) and take it with you whenever you shop. The grocery store, but also any other errands you're doing. Keep those bags out of landfills! This isn't newfangled, this is old school. In Europe, this is what they've been doing "forever."

- Plant something edible in a pot, and grow it organically. Maybe just basil for your kitchen, or maybe a few strawberries, or maybe a tomato plant. Harvest from your small crop, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you've done this.

1 comment:

Julie said...

This was a GREAT post!
We have just started composting this year and I'm so happy about it. Now my next door neighbor is putting her scraps in the composter too!
I am also trying to be the crazy lady. Most of my friend think I'm nuts but that is just fine with me.
Thanks for sharing your life and ideas.
Julie*