Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Dreaming Of Being Green

by Gavin @ The Greening of Gavin

How do you make the transition from just dreaming or thinking of being green to actually doing something about it? It has often been said that every great journey begins with a single step. That is how I found my journey towards a sustainable lifestyle started out.

My journey started with a jolt into a place that I had dared not to venture. That place was reality! The reality of the world around me and I finally saw what a sorry mess we had made of it all. Sure, the city I work in looked nice enough on the surface, but under that thin veneer was a behemoth of an energy guzzling machine, spewing millions of tonnes of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and trashing the natural environment around it. Some awakening, and this was not new to me. It had been going on for decades. It seemed like no-one cared (even me up to that point in time) except a handful of kindred spirits who cared and dared to take action.

So what can one person do to lower their impact on the environment and turn a lighter shade of green? Well, the first step my friends is to do a self assessment, or in other words, take a good hard look at your own behaviours and spending habits. You may already be a little bit green and not realise it! if you already practice some frugal habits that you have learnt from reading essays at this Co-op, then you have already taken your first step. This is because I believe that being frugal = being green. A simple life is a green one in disguise.

Let me give you an example. You go to a op-shop/thrift store and buy some second hand cookware. Firstly, you have not used any new resources such as steel, oil, or aluminium for the pots and pans, including the energy required to manufacture, transport, and store them before sale. Secondly, you have rescued that resource from landfill, and have given it a second life and a good home for a bargain price. So by purchasing second hand goods or reusing materials you have around the home, you help to reduce your carbon footprint.

So what else can you do? As I mentioned, spending habits are easily formed in today's society. You have probably heard the term 'Retail Therapy'. Have you ever felt excited about buying something new, purchased it on credit with money you don't really have, only to return home with said item and then get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? You suddenly realise that you have to work harder to pay it back, and that you probably didn't really need it anyway! Not a very nice type of therapy if you ask me. If I had to go to therapy it would be to heal, not to help me suffer more.

How do you change this behaviour/habit? Well the only way I know how is to assess your needs verses your wants. Needs are usually items, goods or services that you purchase or make yourself to survive. Things like shelter, food, water, hygiene, love, clothing (up to a point), and transport. Wants are essentially the opposite. Wants are things that people desire that do not really enhance their lives or happiness levels above and beyond their basic needs.

Here are a few examples;
  • You have a small appartment that serves your shelter needs, but you want a McMansion out in the 'burbs to be like everyone else.
  • You have a functional TV that your parents gave you, but you desire a massive wall mounted Plasmas/LCD TV to watch sport on all weekend.
  • You have a basic wardrobe with basic items of clothing that mix and match well throughout the year, but you absoloutely would die for that latest designer jacket and matching handbag so that you can dine out most evenings.

All of these types of wants are destroying the environment! Here is why I believe this is true. The more we consume, the more we have to manufacture stuff. The more manufacturing, the more raw natural resources we have to use. Things like wood, water, oil, minerals, etc. We cut down rainforests in other countries to make way for plantations and mines to feed our wants. The simplest way to start your green journey is to reduce your excessive consumption of stuff and make your way back to basic needs. That is how our forefathers managed to live fruitful lives. Less excessive consumption = less resources utilised = less greenhouse gassess emitted in the process. You can also be assured of treading lightly on your part of the planet which we only have one of.

It is not an easy task, but certainly a worthwhile one. When you consider that the future of our children, grand children, and all those humans who follow, not to mention every other species on the planet, is what is really at stake. We may or may not see the full impact of the last few decades of our present behaviour in our lifetimes, but rest assured, our decendants certainly will if the majority of scientific evidence is to be believed.

All food for thought, and no better reason to take that first step. You may never dream of where it may take you. I never did, and our family have not only stopped needless consumption, but we have saved a fortune and some of the environment in the process!


Gavin said...

Fixed up some spelling mistakes. Thanks to my wife for picking me up on them!


City Girl said...

I am just starting to green my life a bit and have been blogging about it. I'm really enjoying it and am amazed at how much easier some things are than I anticipated such as composting and joining CSAs for my veggies, fruit, cheese & meat.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people have posted in this blog about homemade bread, cheese ect. Does anyone know about homemade wine? I am just starting out, I wanted to try to make wine with local ingredients (eg. rhubarb, honey, blueberries ect.). If someone already does this kind of thing, a post would be really informative.

Margaret's Ramblings said...

Gavin, what a great post. I have been hammering the difference between needs and wants for over 40 years and really feel that it has made not one bit of difference to family and friends. I just continue to be 'A bit odd'. I followed your link back to your blog and watched all the 'Rev Billy' trailers. What a man, someone who would be great to have around to dinner, sitting right next to you of course.

Keep up the good work,


Mary said...

Our family's' motto is-Don't pay retail-and for most items we don't.
It takes some patience to wait until the specific item can be found second hand.It is very satisfying when it happens.

An added benefit of buying second hand is no sales tax, which can really add up over time of *not paying* the 7 percent in our state.

Frugality is a journey. We are all at different check points but ultimately on the same path.

daharja said...

These days, I look at those big McMansions, and all I see is the huge McBills to go with them! The McMortgage, the McGas Bill, the McTwinCar Petrol Ouchies. And don't forget the McElectricity Bill :-(

As for downlights, how did anyone ever invent such a ridiculous thing?

Lots of iddy biddy holes in your ceiling for the heat/cold to get through, creating breaks in your home insulation blanket and heating/cooling envelope, while increasing the electricity bill - all at the same time!

I counted over 50 downlights in the living room alone of one house we inspected on our house-hunting expedition. No - we didn't buy the house! But some poor bugger did, and right now they'd be getting their first electricity bill of the season, and going WTF!

So no, I'm no longer inspired by the Big Suburban Dream. It sounds more like a nightmare to me, guaranteed to keep my pockets empty and my life exhausted.

Greening our lives is a step towards sanity, if we let it. Manageable homes, getting out of debt, clearing the clutter, reconnecting with our communities, learning useful skills that we can enjoy and appreciate.

Thanks for such an honest and open post, Gavin.

Hana said...

Daharja, that mansion scares me... why would anyone want to live in such a house unless they were a family of twelve?
Insert irony, roll-eyes smiley or something like that...
It reminds me of my one week of student exchange to Germany in, wait, 2004? Unfortunately, the German girl at whose family we (me and my classmate) stayed at couldn't come in exchange, because she went to the USA instead, and it was already planned... but it was the best student exchange I could get. It was a Christian family with four girls, living in one half of a reasonably big house, sharing the other half with another family of their congregation. We lived with them: helped in the kitchen, went to a picnic with the oldest girl and her friends, played with the younger girls, went biking with them, went to the church with them... one week of rich, full life, I left out a lot of other things we did; not counting in the trips we made with the rest of the students from our school! And now I remembered another girl who boasted about her host family's big mansion and generally about how rich they are... but I doubt she felt part of their family as we did for the week.
I think it was one of those things that now inspire me to become like that. They weren't living a particularly green or frugal life, but I believe the ideals of their life were actually similar and it keeps encouraging me when I remember.

Gavin said...

@ Me. Thanks Kim

@ City Girl. Yes it is quite easy once you get going. It is important to make sure you reflect on your achievements every so often to take pleasure in everything you have accomplished.

@ Rachel. I make beer. I will ask the other co-op members.

@ Margaret. Thanks, I think that wants and needs are about as simple as you can make it. Oh, and BTW, you are not odd, everyone else is! :-)

@ Mary. Second hand items are usually a bit older and were made to last. It is always my first choice as well.

@ daharja. I here you loud an clear. There are so many of these types of home in the newer suburbs around me. All I see are their massive energy bills and mortgages! And your welcome regarding the post. It needed to be said in a way that was as honest as I could make it.

@ Hana. Sounds like your experience was a good, simple and fruitful one. A lot of good things to be said about a close family unit.



Saving money is a great incentive; but being proud of being self sufficient is even greater.

belinda said...

Your quite right Gavin,

Without self assessment as the first step we are just refusing to take responsibility for our own actions. The problem is that too many people's sense of security is based on a future looking like business as usual.

I have generally found that almost everyone finds it easier to blame than take responsibility.. problem is blame doesn't make the changes happen.

Kind Regards

greenfumb said...

Great post as always Gavin, I particularly liked the idea of reducing the carbon emissions by buying second hand. I often get clothes, books and kitchen equipment from Vinnies or eBay but I didn't think of it as green, only frugal.

Eilleen said...

Fantastic post Gavin! Thank you. :)