Mutual encouragements, combined with humor, can help keep us steadily on the path towards a more conscientious lifestyle. I am an environmentalist because our kids deserve to have what many of us were lucky enough to have: Clean food and water, access to nature and natural resources, Peace, and the knowledge that we are part of something bigger.
- One bin is for packaging that can't be recycled or composted (trash; mostly plastic packaging);
- One bin is for recycling plastics, glass, and aluminum;
- One bin is for recycling paper and cardboard;
- One bin is for the city compost (organic waste that would attract raccoons, like meat); and
- One bin is for the household compost (organic waste that doesn't attract raccoons).
The use of plastics should be avoided where it can, especially as disposable packaging for food (see below). After I've recycled and composted the things that might otherwise be trash, I am primarily left with un-recyclable plastic packaging in the trash bin. Even plastics that go into the recycling bin are oft not recyclable and end up as trash. I am voting with my wallet by buying things that are sustainably packaged. The following are some good websites to look at.
I avoid the use of disposable, "one time use" things. I try, or at least make an effort to:
- avoid the use of disposable, one-time-use items like plastic utensils, straws, cups, etc.
- If I have to choose between a bio-degradable disposable paper cup versus a non-biodegradable plastic cup, I always use the bio-degradable one.
- carry around :
- a water container at all times, so to not use disposable water bottled in plastic.
- a set of utensils (my favorite chopsticks in a Totoro case) to minimize waste.
- a small container to take home take-out food in, to minimize the use of doggie bags. (My Nalgene bottle doubles as a take out container - I wish steel water bottles came with bigger mouths.)
- ceramic tall mugs with silicon lids to avoid the use of disposable paper cups. They are the size of a Grande at Starbucks. If I'm lucky enough to remember to have it with me, great.
Other good sites:
According to the online carbon calculator my carbon footprint is way lower than the average American's, but way above the average World citizen's. We have to continue to make hard choices to dial down our carbon footprint.
Some of the below concerns the secret life I haven't been blogging about:
For now, it is a necessary evil in my life. I have a bio-diesel car. I pack 10 gallons of the veggie oil in my trunk, and together with the 10 gallons in the tank, I have plenty of fuel to go to L.A. and back (about a 12 hour drive), and then some. Diesel engines have double the efficiency of a normal car engine.
I did try out City Car Share (a non-profit, car sharing service in the S.F. bay area) while my sister was here this summer. It was cool to have access to the car models that I like to drive: hybrid (Prius), cool (Mini), cute (Scion), or useful (Outback, Tacoma). At $10/month, it was a no brainer, and I would use their services again. The for-profit version of City Car Share is called Zipcar, which has spread to most other major cities in the U.S. If you must have a car in your life, it's better to share. Two thumbs up!
I am considering various options to minimize flying, long term. Some of the options involve teleconferencing with skype on the iPad. I can have a pretty effective meeting with anyone, any where in the World, as long as we are both connected to the internet. I know I said I was on a journey to a sustainable past, but to me the ability to video conference with people from around the globe instantaneously is an integral part of that plan. (Or is that wishful thinking?)
It takes a lot of fuel to carry us to far away lands, no matter what form of transport we choose (airplane, train, car, etc.) I try not to travel to far away places, but I am the first to admit that I have plenty of exceptions to this rule. When I do, I try to do less of it. This has been the most difficult adjustment in my life, because I have family in two continents.
3. BUYING LOCAL
1. EATING LESS MEAT
Meat tastes good, and most people agree. It's just that we should eat less of it, at a minimum. For now, I'm letting myself eat meat that I'm willing to kill the animal for, at least in my mind. Also, some people need to eat meat, like people who do physically taxing work or children. So I don't think we can exclude meat completely from the human diet, so I've been looking for a reasonable alternative to industrialized meat.
When I first gave up meat, I craved meat. My housemates and I experimented with raising nine edible bunny rabbits. Bunny stew can be delicious (tastes like pork)! The baby bunnies were extremely cute however. After spending several months raising the fluffers, my housemates declared that they preferred being Vegetarian - so our bunny experiment was a bust.
Michael Pollen says that we should treat meat as a side dish, a type of seasoning. Americans eat more meat than any other population in the World. Eating less meat would be a good thing to do for most Americans to decrease obesity, heart disease, etc.
I follow the guidance of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I don't eat Sushi anymore, unless it's a special occasion. Vegetarian sushi is surprisingly good.
Or, if I really feel like eating seafood, I eat seafood that are lower on the food chain. For example, eating a pound of tuna is like eating 30 pounds of a fish that the tuna eat. Eating things lower on the food chain (especially creatures that are herbivores) is better for the environment. This also doubles as a way to consume less mercury, which are found in creatures that are higher on the food chain (like tuna) because the mercury accumulates as you go up the food chain. For now, U.S. farmed rainbow trout, catfish, and tilapia, have a green stamp of approval from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
3. FAST FOOD
In a pinch, bean burritos (@ Taco Hell or Green Burrito) offer a quick snack that is both delicious, inexpensive, vegetarian and has minimal, biodegradable packaging (a piece of wax paper).
1. USING TRADITIONAL, NON TOXIC CLEANING PRODUCTS
I've learned a lot about using old fashioned ingredients to clean, and they work!! Some basic ingredients are: borax, baking soda, and vinegar. Here's a good websites about making your own non toxic household products:
This has been a challenge, but luckily in Berkeley and in San Francisco, the local supermarkets sell bulk household cleaning products like shampoo and conditioners. I take an empty container to the store and a store clerk weighs the empty bottle. Then, I fill up the bottle with whatever I want. They weigh the bottle for a second time, and I pay the difference. I don't have to keep buying plastic containers this way. I've been able to significantly cut down on the consumption of household disposable plastics.
3. ON THE USE OF ENERGY IN MY HOUSEHOLD
Here's another good page, which I am implementing, bit by bit. (Weather-proofing, insulating, etc.)
You can compare your energy consumption with your Facebook friends if your local gas & electric company participates in OPOWER. It is interesting to see how you compare.
4. BUY LESS, BUY LOCAL, AND BUY WISE
Before purchasing that thing in your hands, consider the following:
- Can I supplement the purchase of this thingy by other creative means (for example, can I borrow something like it from a friend instead?)
- Is the thing bio-degradable?
- Is it locally made? Can I get something similar that is manufactured more locally?
- Do I really need this thing?
- Is it over packaged? If so, can I get a similar thing with less packaging?
4. WEAR LAYERS AND AVOID THE USE OF GAS TO HEAT THE HOUSE
I have several wool hats and wool gloves that I wear around house during the winter to cut down on the heating bill. Sometimes, however, you'll find me blasting the wall furnace for short periods of my time while I treat myself to a good soaking of heat to warm my bum up.
Here's a good link for dialing down our energy consumption.
DECLUTTERING MY PHYSICAL SPACE
Am a bit behind schedule on this one. (Must finish blog soon, so that I have more time. Writing this blog is the opposite of simple.) De-cluttering my physical space does mean that I need to have less projects going on at any given time. Must do less.
Organizing annual yard sales with your neighbors is a good thing to do.
DECLUTTERING MY SPIRITUAL THOUGHTS
That place that is in our soul that is quiet needs to be the source of all of our outer calmness. Somewhere deep inside of us, many of us know that we are each a piece of the puzzle, and that we are capable of what our brains tell us is impossible. In order to find that higher-self inside of us, we need to create time in our lives to relax and reflect. I know that this is a luxury. But many of us DO have this luxury.
DOING LESS: THE BEST WAY TO SIMPLIFY MY LIFE
In order to simplify my life, I need to do less. And before I do less, I need to prioritize my life goals. I want to throw out all the b.s. in my life and only keep the necessary or good bits. That means that I need to know myself. At times like this, I think about who I want to be.
The best guide to simplifying my life is also online, by a guy named Leo Babauta. Good stuff!
In a World devoid of spirituality, we'd learned to make pacify ourselves by over-consuming our resources. I find myself reciting the serenity prayer to myself sometimes, just to get through the Changes.
It's like perpetually being on a twelve-step program. But unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, I don't really believe in going cold-turkey about addictions, since I know myself enough to know that I'll crave it more if I do. I prefer dialing my consumption down gradually. That seems to work better.