Sunday, March 18, 2007

How then shall we live? Baby steps add up

We made some big changes last year: local, seasonal food; warm house in summer/cool in winter; hang most clothes to dry... It seems that many small and large decisions made over the years have begun to really add up.

Before last year...

Major: One-car family. Every move in the last 15 years but one, chose to live within 2 miles of where my husband works, and within 5 miles of grocery shopping, library etc. Very restricted spending, and focus on getting out of debt.
Secondary: Light- or no-meat meals. Recycling. Some compact fluorescent lights. No chemical use on the yard, and little in the house. Cloths rather than paper towels, paper napkins, diapers, "feminine needs." Increasing reliance on pass-along and thrift store clothing, supplemented as needed.

Last year...

- Began buying much more food locally (fyi, this improves our food's environmental impact much more than buying organic, pastured, grass-fed, etc., though we do that now too, for animal products).
- Battled last winter's high natural-gas bills by dramatically lowering the thermostat and wearing lots of layers. The light dawned: we can and ought to adapt more to the climate we live in. In summer we did the reverse -- kept the thermostat high enough that we broke a sweat doing chores, and dressed lightly.
- Learned to hang all of our laundry to dry, even without a clothesline (I use lots of plastic hangers and hang laundry in our sunroom, in doorways, and along the shower rod).
- In summer, cooked very little indoors, and especially avoided oven use (to keep our cooling costs down).
- Switched to a laptop as my primary computer (which I use intermittently most of the time I'm awake).
Secondary: switched every possible light to compact fluorescent. Moved to eating foods that are in season (not strawberries in December). Knitted cotton dishcloths rather than sponges.

This year...

I don't know what we'll actually get done, but I want to do some vegetable gardening. Install shades for our sunroom windows. Declutter and dejunk dramatically. I would love, love, love to put in a shading arbor over our southwest-exposure patio and the nearby window. Put in a ceiling fan in the living room. Try a solar cooker. In the fall, plant fruit trees, recaulk windows, and put up insulating curtains.

Some of this is about sustainability, and some about living simply, or learning to rely on our local resources, or living lightly in the world. My dream list of projects basically matches this list (for a house in the same bio- and climate region).


Jules said...

I am impressed with the changes you have made. I would love to do many of those things myself, but it seems very daunting. This week I am going to try not using the dryer for clothes. I am also going to start a vegetable garden. I have been reading Square Foot Gardening.

Does buying local food increase your food bill?

Barbara said...

Baby steps! Good luck; I like your plans. Buying local doesn't seem to have changed my food bill much. I think it's because I'm also avoiding processed foods, more or less.

nlph said...

Thanks for sharing what you have and are doing. I'm also trying to do better. It's been a bit rocky. You make it seem simpler though!