Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More On These Stories After This

I'm taking a break from blogging. I'm not always sure what I'm accomplishing, and I'm certainly growing more cynical. I just ran across this same sentiment at Pocket Farm's blog. The cynicism, I mean. It's beginning to feel like another chore, rather than something enhancing my life and cause. Now that I'm going to be working again I'd like to minimize my obligations. I still plan to stay informed, and if I run across something I think must be shared, I'll do an entry.

I am happy to report that, having been unemployed for several months, I will be teaching two courses this Spring quarter, one here in town at CWU, and one online for Everett Community College.

Before my break I'd like to outline the steps I'm taking to minimize my environmental impact. In case anyone "drops by" I'd like to have my most recent entry be inspirational, if possible!
  1. I don't drive anymore, except on very rare occasions. The last time I drove was to the doctor because I felt too sick to walk or ride. I do my laundry, grocery shopping, and all other errands on my bike, or less often, on foot. I will be using my bike to get to work this quarter (about a 10 min. ride). Using my own power to get around has been as good for me as it has been for minimizing environmental impact. I feel better physically and emotionally, and my life is much more peaceful. If I were living in the city and trying to commute by bike during a 40-hr. work week, I'm not sure how I'd be feeling. But here, I truly enjoy being outside, seeing this beautiful town at a slower pace, and feeling good when I get home. When I go over the mountains to visit my friends and family, I take Greyhound. It's a 4-mile walk from town to the station, but I'm surprised at how short 4 miles actually is. It's a one-hour walk, give or take, and I find it amusing that we generally think nothing of spending an hour in the car to get somewhere, but an hour walking at a leisurely pace? Most people never consider it. I certainly never used to.

  2. I'm buying organic food, and local when possible. Sometimes the only organic apples at the store are from New Zealand. I live in Washington - the apple state!! Is it better for me to buy a local, chemically-produced apple, or one that came from thousands of miles away, across oceans? I'm happy when there are organic apples from Washington. What I wouldn't give for an apple tree right in my yard! As far as shopping at the smaller, privately-owned natural foods stores, I haven't been much of a customer. There's little to no produce, and most of the items are a full dollar or more than the same item at the grocery store. I have to buy gluten-free foods, which are already expensive ... so it's hard for me to lay down those extra bucks. I don't feel good about the large store where I shop, but maybe when my income stabilizes I can make a commitment to the local stores. After all, in the post-Peak Oil world we will really need smaller stores to serve our communities. I don't want them to go under before that.

  3. I do my best to MAKE DO, OR DO WITHOUT. It's surprising how little we really need. Food, yes. More clothing, no. Toilet paper, yes. Paper towels, no. It's pretty simple when you break it down. I try not to buy anything for which I could re-use something I already have. I'm so attached to my cloth napkins, I use them for everything. I use my backpack for a grocery bag, and I wash plastic produce bags and re-use them (they're suprisingly durable). We won't be purchasing any more ziplock bags, plastic wrap, that sort of thing, so if I do use an item like that I either wash it for re-use, recycle it, or throw it away, knowing it won't be replaced. These steps have involved a shift in thinking that ultimately has liberated me from our culture of acquisition. At first I used to repeat to myself over and over, "They can't make me buy stuff." They are the corporations, who bombard us with marketing to convince us we need things that we don't actually need, things that are destructive to the environment and to a culture centered on peace, sustainability, and helping others. There is so much joy to be found that doesn't involve purchasing anything. If you feel like you have to buy something, I suggest a secondhand bicycle or musical instrument, preferably acoustic. (I'm assuming that someday we may not have electricity the way we do now, or we won't be able to afford it.) Learn to find joy in things that don't leave destruction in their wake. The elation in finishing a long bike ride, or learning a new chord, is far more pure and satisfying than the temporary fix of purchasing a new knickknack for your home, or a new outfit to show off at work. Also, the satisfaction of doing the right thing for the planet and all its species, is a true joy unto itself. Don't knock it till you try it!

  4. I don't eat meat anymore. Not only do I want to refrain from contributing to an industry that is cruel and unhealthy, but I'm aware that everything that goes into meat production and distribution is bad for the environment. All that grain could be used to feed people. All that methane contributes to global warming. All that fertile land is taken up and destroyed by grazing. Mostly, though, it's the suffering of the animals that I can't bear to be party to. If our neighbors were using factory-farming methods on animals in their own backyard, we (average Americans) would be horrified and call the authorities. But when it's out of our sight, and it ends up as a steak or drumstick on our plate, we accept and support it. I am getting in the habit at looking at the way things actually are and absorbing the reality of it. Understanding the reality of mass-produced meat means I cannot contribute money to that industry or put that contaminated food in my body. I still eat organically-produced dairy and eggs. I try to get the eggs from local folks. I'd love to go vegan, and might eventually, but I'm already gluten-free and vegetarian ... so it will take some time.

  5. Recycling and composting - T. and I are doing are best to recycle everything possible, and, along with our landlady, with whom we share a yard, we are composting all our table scraps. There's no meat in our scraps so everything goes in the compost, and our garbage consists almost entirely of packaging. Someday I hope to see this reduced.

  6. We are planning our garden. Neither of us is really a gardener, but we have some excellent help from a master gardener friend of ours, and our landlady (with whom we share the backyard) is also willing to help us get started. I hope this summer and fall we'll be eating fruits and veggies that came right from our little patch of dirt. Of course, we'll be using only organic methods to help our garden grow.

  7. I call my legislators and sign letters and petitions. This wasn't an easy one for me. I'm shy and reserved by nature. But someone told me that senators and members of congress, at the state level, consider one phone call to be the equivalent opinion of 10,000 people. Whether or not this is exactly true, I believe it's important that we involve ourselves in our government whenever possible. The government exists to serve the people and our interests, which include the interests of our grandchildren's grandchildren. There simply isn't anything more important than saving our planet. It's easier than ever to stay informed when organizations like MoveOn and WashPIRG send out regular emails with prepared letters and petitions.
I recently watched an interesting program on American photography, and it showed the first pictures of the Earth from space. What struck me was one comment on the picture of Earth rising above the landscape of the moon - how it presents a vivid contrast between a living and dead planet. We have a LIVING PLANET. It's teeming with life. And it's the only one we have. We're not colonizing any other planets any time soon. We must focus all our resources on what is truly "Homeland Security." This is it. Let's not let this miracle die at our hands, when we have the opportunity to save it. I want generations of folks hundreds or thousands of years from now to remember this precarious time as one when greed, materialism, disconnection, and self-absorption began to slowly dissipate as love, sacrifice, community, and commitment to the future took hold worldwide.

Happy Spring! I plan to return to my blog in the summer.


At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to have just found you and now you are taking a break! But I understand as well. I've been blogging for such a short time as I was unemployed. And now I have a new job as faculty at Oregon State and I find myself having no time to blog! I hope you come back as I enjoy reading your posts.

At 3:31 PM, Blogger SustainableGirl said...

Thanks Melissa! I'll send some good teaching vibes your way and you do the same for me ... and good luck with your garden too!

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Liz said...

Isn't that just the way? I found that reading less of the "bad news" really helped my cynicism. I'm really looking forward to the Eat Local Challenge in May and encouraging others to think more about food choices. I figure if I focus more on one aspect, it may be more rewarding for me.

I hope your first garden goes great... get in touch if you need anything. :) I'll be looking forward to reading your blog again.

At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come back!!!

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best of luck, sustainablegirl! Enjoy the break, and lemme know when you come back!!

At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as the local vs organic question, in general I go with organic. On the one hand, you have the whole human health issue that simply being local doesn't change, besides the growing evidence that organic is also more nutritious. On the second hand, there is the environmental costs, species die-off, water poisoning, and top-soil eradication, all of which are crucial to both human and ecological survival.

But that doesn't let us off the hook to seek out local organic food, pester local growers to switch to organic, and debate whether a local grower that isn't yet fully organic but not as bad as conventional growers is a worthwhile compromise (and then pester them to switch more fully to organic).

The oil will be burned one way or another, but we can do a lot to stop the ecological destruction and human harm caused by conventional agriculture and it's chemicals. That's what it comes down to for me, unless I knew more specifics about the way the local non-organic food is grown. If you are particularly concerned about the oil burning, I suggest definitely hounding local growers that sell to your local area, and stocking up in the season.

At 6:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just came across your blog, shame to see it is on hiatus. I hope you come back... every little bit helps. -Gary

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Couchman said...

Love the site, great info really making a big difference! Helped me tremedously too! Take Care


At 8:03 AM, Blogger Janie Katz-Christy said...

Hi there,

We have a blot at, and I was wondering if I could copy some of what you wrote about how you are minimizing your envir. impact on our blog? It was so nice to read.

Thanks so much.

At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good plans, good ideas. If you want to do even more than that, go to You can find there lots of good advice to pollute less, use fewer resources and energy. This is of course shameless self-promotion but the site is good and non-commercial (!)
And please, if you like it, tell other folks. This site was a lot of work.

Karsten Weiss

At 11:22 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Love the site, great info really making a big difference! Helped me tremedously too! Take Care. Bad Piggies 2

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