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Showing posts with label Inciting Change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Inciting Change. Show all posts

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Frugal Limits

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches























Every now and then I hear about a large family with the same food budget as our more avearage size family, or a family in size similar to ours, with a much more modest food budget and I question why I'm not able to be as frugal. I wonder where I am going wrong and I usually sit down committed to read their blog, or the article and learn something. The goal? To reduce our expenditures. I begin reading feeling like I'm doing something wrong, I finish, feeling like I'm doing something very right. You see, we all have to do what is right for our family and I believe, what is kinder and gentler for the earth and those who are more vulnerable. But reading the nitty gritty about what people are willing to compromise on, I actually leave feeling like it is a compomise too far. I'm personally not willing to:

- Shop once a month: access to fresh fruit and veg is too important
- Purchase ready meals or packaged foods with coupons
- Skimp on fruits and vegetables - one blog which which received much attention for being frugal and healthy posted a menu plan which included only 2 fruit and 1 veg a day (most studies recommend a minimum of 5-6 a day)
- Purchase factory produced animal products
- Build a diet around cheap fillers without much nutritional value. For example, a pasta dish served with bread was recommended as a cheap meal. Whereas e may have pasta, but it would be served with a fresh spinach salad and a veg.
- Shop at unethical major corporations

The more I think about it, the more I realize that while I certainly do budget and work hard to stick to it with food, I do see placing priority on green living, simple healthy meals and supporting others (for example by purchasing fairtrade items) as more imporant to me than slashing my budget another $50 or $100 a month. And for somewhere between $300 and $350 a month we purchase:

- Free range eggs from local farms
- All organic animal products
- Fairtrade: sugar, bananas, tea, coffee, mangos, flour and cocoa
- Green cleaning and laundry supplies
- Pet food & litter
- About 50% of our fruits and veg organic
- Enough fruits and veg for 3 fruits and 3 veg (plus a salad) a day
- A locally sourced produce box
- Seeds for our community garden plot

Yes, I could probably shave at least $50 a month off the budget if I changed to what some frugal bloggers recommend. And that $50 would come in handy. But more than that, I want my children, who have experienced malnourishment prior to joining our family through adoption, to continue to make educational and emotional gains that good food has allowed them. I want my hard earned money to tred softly on this earth and help people. I want to invest in our health now, to safeguard us for the future. And if that takes another $50 - $100 a month, I'm really OK with it.

What about you? What is your line when it comes to compromise? Is it only about money, or like me, something more?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How Much To Sweat the Small Stuff

by Linda from The Witches Kitchen

I have taken to getting a cup of takeaway coffee on my way to work lately. I used to always just make a cup myself, but the café  has the best skinny latté. It's a little treat I really enjoy, and it took me a shamefully long time to actually realise how many takeaway coffee cups I was throwing away. I live near a small country town. I didn't want to make a fuss or stand out by bringing in my own cup. I was in denial until one day I went to empty the waste basket under my desk, and it was full of paper cups.  

So I'm very much in love with my new KeepCup, and the local café loves it too. Being a total cheapskate, it took a deep breath to spend that much on a cup, but it just works and my frugal side only regrets money wasted on junk, not money spent on things that work.

Usually I take my lunch to work too, or buy it at the local café. Most days, this is my lunch packaging.


But I got caught up in town the other day, and had to buy a quick take-away lunch from the supermarket.  It amazed me the quantity of packaging.  If I did this every day for a year.... 
 

It adds up.  Each little bit seems reasonable, but it adds up. 

I do believe it is counterproductive to get all moralistic and purist about the small stuff. It just creates the kind of culture that normal, fallible, doing-their-best mortals feel excluded from. But at the same time, the small things like takeaway coffee in a reuseable cup, or a lunch box that doesn't require plastic wrap, often involve no real sacrifices at all. They're the low hanging green fruit. It's just a bit hard to see them sometimes. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

We're Different And That's OK

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Yesterday, my email provider had a front page article about the biggest mistakes people make when giving Christmas gifts; totally out of my character, I clicked on the article and began to read it. Lo and behold, one of the biggest mistakes, according to the author, anyone can make is to give homemade gifts, particularly knitted items. Apparently such things are ghastly and embarrassing for the giver and receiver. Who knew?!

When I got over my initial one second check in (I had just, the hour before, finished putting together a few little handmade gifts) I enjoyed a little laughter at the hilarity of it all. Not only did the article suggest homemade things are totally inappropriate, but so is anything useful, including some items of clothing, giftcards etc. And I began to think of the hilarity of it all, one person, who came across as incredibly spoiled and pampered, a person who is probably quite young and used to having money spent on them, is dictating what is acceptable/normal/OK. Well, here's the truth, his/her norm is certainly not my norm.

And there in that little article was the theme of my life over the last few months. As I navigate motherhood and find what other parents view as normal is vastly different to our life and the norm I want for my children. As I chat with colleagues and hear their views on necessities (a family can not live in less than 2500 square feet, apparently, nor can they function without TVs in their van), I've come to really think about being different and being OK with being different.

We are all on a journey. In my teenage years I desperately wanted to fit in and truth be told, for most of those years didn't. Sometimes, when I compare "notes" with the lives others have, I fleetingly think how nice it would be to have what they have, because in the throws of it, we are all human beings with needs and emotions. But the truth is, I'd rather be different. I'd rather put thought into what comes into our home, than accept the toys a manufacturer tells me my children need. I'd rather give money to help causes, then fret over which new car/van/TV/laptop to buy. I'd rather spend a couple of hours making a dishcloth, then pick up 10 for $2 and I'd certainly rather have to shop at 4 or 5 local shops/farmers stalls, than go to one big conglomerate and feel proud of how much more I could get for the same money.

Sometimes being different is challenging. Sometimes I can feel too different. Sometimes it would be easier not to think critically about each choice, not to have to wonder where something came from, or how its production impacted others. Sometimes it would be lovely to simply roll up at a particular fast food joint and be done with dinner in 2 minutes flat. But the truth is, 99.9999% of the time, I am totally head over heals in love with this different life, bad gift giving (knitted items!) and all. My greatest hope, is that 20 years from now, my children are OK with being different too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

City Mouse, Country Mouse


by Linda@The Witches Kitchen

A post on Little Eco Footprints this week called Are we making a mistake living in the city? has been in the back of my mind at odd moments all week.  I live in a rural community.  I moved here as a young hippy mum nearly 30 years ago, living first in a caravan with no power, road access, or running water.  I have never regretted it and although it was diabolically hard in those early years, I do have the best of lives.

But sometimes, like the deserted beach or the fantastic suburban restaurant, things are only fantastic so long as no-one else knows they are.  Is living in the country like that?  Is it only possible to do it without destroying it because most people don't?

My "perfect world" fantasy has everyone living in permacultured villages with tiny ecological footprints, networked and linked with electric railways and internet (powered with geothermal or big desert solar installations), largely self sufficient in food, water, waste disposal, houshold and local energy, trading knowledge, culture, art, craft, manufactured goods and specialist crops.

The villages would be neither city nor country, but a bit of both.  They would have enough population density so that people could get around by foot and bicycle - kids could walk to school and to their friends places to play, neighbours would be close enough to rely on in emergencies or even just to borrow a cup of flour or a tool or visit for a chat.  But they would have a low enough density to allow most of the fresh food production to be local - kitchen gardens, fruit trees, chickens, geese, dairy cows.

That's not a very different level of population density to the older suburbs in Australia. As permaculture writer David Holmgren says, "It's technically possible that the traditional older suburbs could actually produce all of the food needed to sustain the people living there. The amount of open space - both public and private space in backyards - means that you've got a population density not that much greater than some of the densest traditional agricultural landscapes in the world."

FAO says that "It is realistic to suppose that the absolute minimum of arable land to support one person is a mere 0.07 of a hectare–and this assumes a largely vegetarian diet, no land degradation or water shortages, virtually no post-harvest waste, and farmers who know precisely when and how to plant, fertilize, irrigate, etc."  John Jeavons claims that  0.2 hectare can support a family of four. So my fantasy isn't unreasonable.  There's a batch of other references here, if you're interested.

But back to my fantasy.  Households and small businesses would have local grid connected solar power and rainwater tanks for water, with local water and power boards managing supply and floating pricing to force frugality in times of shortage. Along the same principles as the current push for carbon pricing - people figure out ways to use less of something when it's expensive.

Villages would have their own schools, hospitals, and local economies, based on trading everyday goods and services, but would be connected by high speed electric trains to allow some villages to produce specialist and higher education, specialist medical services, centres of excellence in research, arts and sport, and manufactured goods and specialist crops. Villages would also be connected via the internet, allowing work in any kind of knowledge industries to be globalised.

Giant solar installations in the desert would provide the power for the railways and energy intensive manufacturing.  There would be no private cars.  Petrol would be very expensive and reserved for engines and manufactured goods that couldn't do without it. Young adults would go backpacking round the world on trains, bikes and sailing boats.

Thump.  That was me falling back to earth.

In reality, both urban dwellers and country dwellers are a long way from my fantasy. With the prices people are willing to pay for quality food, and the cut that goes to packaging, transport, storage, wholesalers then supermarkets, it's no wonder that many farming practices are the equivalent of strip mining of farmland, as destructive to the environment as concrete suburbs. Much of our food is industrially produced, in CAFOs and ILOs that are just like rural factories. Both farmland and urbanisation are threats to biodiversity. Both lifestyles rely, in different ways, on huge energy subsidies.

I think most rural areas in Australia at least would benefit hugely from a big population influx of people intent on creating a simple green frugal lifestyle. It would move them towards, not away from my fantasy.  But in reality, the majority of the population lives in cities, and it is there that the real work of creating change needs to be done, and will have the biggest effects, for all of us.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Capturing the Good Life in Statistics

by Linda from The Witches Kitchen.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has started a blog called "Measures of Australia's Progress". It's a public consultation about what we could use, instead of or along with GDP, as a measure of "progress'. It asks "Is life in Australia getting better? How will we know if it is?"

I find this immensely encouraging, and I wonder why I hadn't heard of it before? I knew about Bhutan's "gross national happiness" indicator, which has been around in alternate circles for yonks. But it's a clumsy, soft measure and I could never see mainstream politics taking it really seriously.

Of course one of the seductions of GDP is that it is used internationally, but the MAP site has a page with links to all the similar projects around the world, including UK and USA, and it says "There has been an explosion of interest in indicator projects over the last several years, both in Australia and around the world".

That official statistical bureaus are looking for other ways of meauring wealth beyond how much stuff we buy and sell is, to me, really exciting. It's really hard to argue that simple, green, frugal equals good when the measuring stick used to measure progress is how much wasteful overconsumption we've indulged in over the last year. It's like our whole society is in a giant hot dog eating competition and it's called progress.

But wealth is a slippery beast and it's not so simple to nail it down in a way that can be measured and compared, in a way that newspapers can grab onto and politicians can use. Marge Piercy has a poem called "The Perpetual Migration" that has a lovely part in it about wealth:
"Peace, plenty, the gentle wallow
of intimacy, a bit of Saturday night
and not too much Monday morning,
a chance to choose, a chance to grow,
the power to say no and yes, pretties
and dignity, an occasional jolt of truth."

It's very beautiful and true, but I can just see the poor ABS statisticians trying to measure it. I'm all in favour of the ABS consultation, but when it comes to having my say, it's tricky. How do you measure progress?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics project tries to solve it by a kind of complex of measures grouped under society, economy, and environment, with a whole heap of sub measures such as health, education, crime, social cohesion, productivity, biodiversity, atmosphere and so on, each with their own tick or wavy line or cross. They're all measurable, but they don't grab you. It's like comparing a big box of apples with oranges. My eyes glaze over.

I've been trying to summon up the courage to have a say. The concept at the centre of it, I think, is that once everybody in a society has enough, has their basic needs met, producing and consuming more stuff takes us backwards, not forwards. It destroys common wealth like air and soil and water and wildlife and being able to lie on the beach on a sunny morning without a hole in the ozone layer overhead. It steals resources from future generations that they will need for "enough". The only areas in which you can keep producing more and keep becoming wealthier is in art and knowledge and culture and science. And that's the thing.

I think a society is progressing, is becoming wealthier when more of its citizens have the basics, when less is borrowed from future generations, and when more is given to future generations in the form of knowledge and culture. That would give us three basic measures.

The basic needs themselves are not simple. A nation is wealthier when more of it's citizens have enough, are above the poverty line, but we Australians are all wealthy by the standards of Somalians. A nation is wealthier when more of its citizens are healthy. A nation is wealthier when more of its citizens have access to education, at every life stage from early childhood to third age. A nation is wealthier when people do not need to hoard to feel safe but can rely on their community to rally to their aid, when it has a good and functional fire, police, ambulance, and emergency services, and community connections. It's not simple, but we should be able to have a crack at coming up with a measure for whether we are going forwards or backwards at providing everyone with the basics.

Borrowing from future generations is a simpler measure. Are we using more or less non-renewable resources than last year. Less? Yay, that's progress.

And thirdly, how much have we invested in art and knowledge and culture and science. There will, of course, be huge debates about whether it is better to spend money on opera or street art, a cure for malaria or for coral bleaching, an internet protocol or a novel, surfing or soccer. But an overall dollar value will do for a measure of progress.

By these kind of measures, simple, green, frugal equals wealthy, and that feels like the truth to me. What do you think?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sell Outs

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches



















I have long held the belief that a simple, frugal and green life isn't about following a script or ticking off certain things on a list. A simple life in the country isn't so simple if you spend your time yelling, constantly bargain hunting or feeding a tv addiction. A simple life doesn't mean you have to keep pigs and bees or make every single meal from scratch. A simple life doesn't mean you can't work. Instead I view the simple life as a paradigm and a lense by which I view the world; a fundamental belief in focusing on the most important things, seeking to find balance in all I do and living by the principals "less is more" and "living simply so others may simply live".

Lately all around me colleagues and friends have been talking about what is important to them, a few even mentioned the term sell out. You see many of them thought in their early 20's that they would make "good choices" (that is their term, I certainly am not value judging their choices as good or bad) but as their lives have developed through their late 20's and 30's they really haven't decided to stick to those "good choices" they once thought they would live by. I spent the last week listening to their examples, some of which were:

- Deciding to commute for 2 hours to work so they could have the "biggest bang for their buck" aka the biggest square footage house
- Not buying free-range or organic meat or dairy because they don't care anymore about animal welfare (this person was very pro responsible farming in her late teens)
- Not taking the option of a 4 day work week after returning from parental leave because that extra day is a weekend in Las Vagas every year.
- Never hanging clothes to dry because it would take an extra 10 minutes and interrupt precious facebook time
- Feeding the family hot dogs, boxed pizza and boxed macaroni & cheese almost every night because that is what is quickest and after 10 hours outside the home, no one has the energy to cook
- Admitting they see less than 10 hours a week of their 4 and 2 year old because with an 11 day work day 5 days/week and a love of bargain/frugal shopping (thus visiting 5 different shops on Saturdays and often nipping to the US for the real sales) the grandparents pick up the grandchildren from daycare Friday afternoon and keep them until Sunday morning. This was a hard one for this friend to admit because while suffering from infertility they swore time with their children would always come first, now they have 2 very good careers, a very large house they just totally renovated and only see their children Sundays.
- Being scared to go without because their friends are richer than they are.
- Becoming so obsessed (their words) with paying off their mortgage, buying a second and third home to rent out and retiring at 55 that they are not really living now
- Throwing away anything with a tear/needing a new button and buying new

As I have listened to these conversations, I have tried not to make any value laden statements but did occasionally ask "so if you know, would you change anything", I further asked one "would you now go to work 4 days a week so you can do the things that used to be important to you and simply shop/eat out less". What was really interesting to me, is that no one said they wanted to change a thing. One, a top city lawyer married to another top city lawyer, who eat out 20x a week and admits they don't see their children at all between Mon-Fri said "nope, I'm a proud sell out - I want as much as I can have for as little as I can get it for, we're not interested in having less money, we want more money". I smiled and pondered those words, asking myself what I can learn from their experiences, choices and definition of happiness/selling-out.

What is interesting to me, is in my experience, the older I get the less I want to "sell-out" and the more comfortable I am going without what most people view as a necessity. It took fostering four very broken and traumatized children to help me see there was another life waiting patiently for me to embrace; they taught me there is so much more to life than work, stuff, money and materialism. And while I don't really have any friends in real life who live like I do (although I am blessed to have one friend on either side of the Atlantic who are at the beginning of their simple living journey!) hearing these friends and co-workers yearn for more money and not desire to change anything about their current circumstances, made me very thankful for places like this co-op, the readers of my own blog, Rhonda's blog and the myriad of others which remind me daily that each day I will face choices, those choices bring me closer to the values I hold or further away. While I do aim to be careful about how much time I spend online, I do feel a bit of a haven in what I choose to read in this amazing place. It was that haven that helped me stick to my choice not to attend a friend's wedding and your words gave me the confidence to stick to my conviction when the bride expressed her anger.

Through my own learning this past month (both from the wedding and the new life that awaits me, as well as conversations with those who live so differently to myself) I've come to a place of both certainty I'm on the right path and also grace - grace in deciding I don't have to be perfect or do things exactly like other simple life followers. I've come to realize if we embrace the simple life as a lifestyle choice, then we are probably all doing the best we can, sometimes under extra-ordinary circumstances and most often without people around us to commiserate or encourage. I've come to accept this path will often be lonely. And maybe when it comes to a simple, frugal and green life, that is OK. Maybe as long as we hold onto that value and don't allow ourselves to totally "sell-out", then our anchor will at the very least keep us grounded through the seasons where being simple, green and frugal is more challenging. Like my current season of vermicomposting - and it failing time and time again. Yes, it may be easier to throw in the towel like many people and not bother with spending more time trying to "do good" but since when is the right choice the easy choice. And by heck, one day I'll get that worm compost system right!

My own personal goal this week is to write a list of things I'm not willing to compromise on, as I begin a brand new and exciting chapter in my life, maybe it will serve as a reminder to hold onto what is most important and leave the rest behind! Because the truth is, whether people see it or not, there is a cost to selling out - a cost to ourselves, our families, those we love, our community, our environment and future generations. By focusing on the most important things, I hope to avoid the real cost associated with selling out and instead reap the rewards of a slower, more balanced, person/community centered path. And suddenly I'm reminded of the tortoise and the hare. And now I can firmly, without a shadow of a doubt, say I'm the tortoise, how about you?

Have a happy, simple, frugal and green week, filled with choices which represent the real you !

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Agents of Change

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin & Little Green Cheese.

I have been reflecting today, and without trying to big note myself or being seen to be big headed, I believe that I have a bit of a talent to help people through changes with a couple of simple methods. 

Change in peoples lives, especially the few about to hit mankind in a few years, can cause all sorts of emotions manifest themselves.  From terror, to guilt, to a sense of excitement, anticipation and opportunity.  There are many people who resist change, and would rather continue on with the status quo, however there are some people who relish change and create opportunities to bring others along for the journey, but in a special sort of way.

One of my ways to promote change is to lead by example.  This is something that I learnt whilst in the military many moons ago.  I learnt that you cannot ask someone to do something effectively, being a task, behaviour, or change a personal value, if you don't show that you practice that task, behaviour or have that value yourself.  Sure, in the military they most probably do it because of the command structure and discipline, however they won't do it willingly and morale usually suffers.  On the other hand, if they see the person leading by practising what he/she is preaching, then they usually follow willingly and with enthusiasm.  I attempt to live up to this "lead by example value" in all aspects of my life. That was one of the reasons that I didn't begin writing my personal blog until at least 6 months after our family began our journey towards a sustainable lifestyle.  Well, that and everyone urged me to write a book about what I had done, but I thought a blog was a better idea due to the interaction you receive via comments.  I wanted to explain the how and why I turned green and what my motivation was.  You can probably tell by the way I write that I am enthusiastic and passionate about all things green and sustainable, but you probably didn't know that one of my personal values is that I do what I say I am going to do.  Another of my core values is to try and not let people down when I make a promise. I believe that it is these simple values that rub off on people, who either know me in person or read about my exploits via my writings.  It inspires people to act in a positive way, towards a common goal. 

The second special way of helping people change is to do things in such a way that they think it was their own idea in the first place.  This can be in the form of a simple suggestion, a comment during a TV ad, or leaving a magazine or book conspicuously open to a certain page at work or at home.  It can be in the form of harmless propaganda, like a poster showing benefits of a certain way of doing things.  People may think that this is a deceitful way of getting things done, but that is exactly how marketing and advertising works all around us as well.  I believe that if you have a message to give, you might as well utilise the best known way to do so.

Let me give you a simple example.  We used to spend lots of money on cleaning products at home, but now we use only two or three main items for cleaning bathrooms and the like.  Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda are about all we use, the type of cleaning products that our grandparents used to use.  Now to begin with my wife Kim detested the smell of vinegar and didn't believe that bicarb would do as good a job as the shiny, new, advertised chemical petroleum based products.  I had to subtlety convince her so it sounded like her idea.  I must say that I was slightly deceitful in both examples.  The first was we ran out of Windex (a blue liquid window cleaner that stinks and makes me sneeze) kind of on purpose (my bad!).  I then suggested that we try vinegar and newspaper to clean the shower glass.  After a quick demonstration on how easy the vinegar got rid of soap scum and cleaned the glass, Kim was hooked.  That is all we use now, and I only had to make it seem that it was her idea.  Another example was with bicarb soda.  Once again we accidentally ran out of dishwasher tablets (you know, the ones that cost a fortune and are toxic).  I suggested a few tablespoons of bicarb in the bottom of the machine and some vinegar as rinse aid.  Guess what, as I expected it worked well and the dishes were wonderfully clean.  It even got rid of the smell in the machine!  Once it clicked, Kim thought that we should use it to clean the shower recesses as well which works very well to remove soap scum.  I even showed her my very cool method of making a stinky sink drain smell fresh and clean by pouring quarter of a cup of bicarb down the drain and then 5 minutes later tip the same amount of vinegar, and watch the fizzy show and the smell goes away and unblocks the drain.  Much better than highly caustic Draino!  As you can see, all it took was a comment or spark and it then became that other persons idea.  No fights, no arguments, no right or wrongs, just change for the better.  Now she tells all her friends about the miracle of vinegar and bicarb. She is a clever lady, my Kim!  Love her to bits. 

So, I suppose that the moral of the story and my method/talent that I have learnt through experience is that if you tell some one to change they won't and will resist like a stubborn toddler or teenager, but if you lead by example and help them with and along the journey, change is not only inevitable, but fun as well.  This is how I find making changes to my sustainable lifestyle, easy, painless and fun.

If any readers have other subtle ways to promote change and convince others towards a more sustainable way of living (other than screaming at them), please add them via a comment.  This could turn into quite a little toolbox of tips!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Being Different

written by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

I am different.  Yes, really different, but I hope it doesn't stay that way for long.

However, I know that I am not alone.  Slowly growing within the consumeristic heart of western culture and society, there is a special kind of person that is different from the mainstream.  Sometimes they are hard to spot, but with a bit of careful observation you can pick them out from the crowd.

You will see them shopping in op shops buying clothes and other essentials.  You will catch them on weekends in their gardens growing their own food.  You will find them in their kitchens cooking meals for their family.  You will see them mending and repairing, reducing, reusing, and recycling items around the home.  You will find them talking about the antics of their chickens instead of talking about weekend football or some other trivial pursuit.  You will notice their friendly demeanour, and note that they give endlessly of their skills and knowledge.  You will finding them buying local produce and goods.  You will find them using less resources in their lifestyle.  You will hear them enjoying life and not have a nagging feeling in their gut that something is missing in their life.

In fact, these people are you.  I can see you out there as our audience, changing your lives, being different from the rest of society, every single day of the year and living life to the full.  Having fun and finding the courage to be someone different who stands up for the future of humanity and all creatures on the Earth in each and every action you take towards your simple, green, and frugal lifestyle.

It feels good to be different is a small way, however what would please me much, much more was if everyone lived as if the welfare of Mother Earth, Gaia, Mother Nature, or whatever label you put on this big blue-green marble we live on and call home.  I yearn to see the day when we are all the same.

Being different is maybe good in the short term, but a big green groundswell that reaches a tipping point is far superior.  Change at the community level is the only thing that will make a difference in the long run to our environment which without we do not stand much of a chance.  It makes me laugh when I hear the term "Save the Environment".  As I know full well that the environment is not something separate from humans, what that term really means, and has a bigger punch in the process is "Save Humanity and all other Species on the planet".  It has a better ring to it, and a worthy goal.

So lets take the "different" and make it "the norm".  Reach out to your local community and share all the different things you do in your sustainable lifestyle, and I bet you my best laying chicken, that you will make a difference to someone's life!

Who is up for the challenge?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I Occasionally Want But I Don't Need

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


















I'm not sure about you, but for many of the people I know I am the only person they know who lives a simple, green, frugal and downshifted life. Many of them would never elect to go without their SUV's, drive through dinners, busy schedules, quest to climb the career ladder, extensive clothing/shoe/jewelry collections, the convenience of disposable diapers or even the use of paper plates {I have a friend who uses paper plates, cups and cutlery for all their meals - going through 72 of each per week!}. One of the main things I've noticed is they struggle to understand why anyone would choose to wash dishes by hand, hang clothes to dry, live without a vehicle, wait for books at the library and wonder how anyone can want those things. I try never to seem perfect or totally put together either on my blog or in real life and I certainly share that there are times I do really wish for a little bit of convenience {usually after a long hard day!} and yes, occasionally I want. The other day after a long day, I thought about all the things I occasionally want and I wrote them down. A few minutes later I countered my wants by identifying what my needs were...

I want to drive a car down a big open road, listen to tunes on the radio & gaze at the sky...but I don't need to own a car.

I want a week of no dishes...but I don't need a dishwasher, I have two hands that work perfectly well

I want a weekend where I don't have to make time to take my food waste to the city compost when my vermicomposting worms aren't quite up to the challenge...but I don't need that time, in fact I like my weekly walk and I certainly like my worms {most days!}

I want to be able to eat 3 mouthfuls of a cookie {which contains gluten} without spending the night with skin bleeding {like it is tonight!}...but I don't need to eat cookies to survive, in fact going without cookies is a good way to make my frugal budget stretch further

I want to have some reprieve from life & eczema by sitting on a beach in the sun for a week or more {just like my Dr. recommended!} and enjoying a good 5* service...but I don't need anything except inner peace and the earth certainly doesn't need those carbon miles!

I want a much healthier bank account...but I don't need anything more than trust, sacrifice and perseverance and I certainly don't need more work hours to give me that bigger bank account

I want a microwave to make my meals in 2 minutes flat...but I don't need things to be ready at the push of a button, there is a rhythm to waiting for good nourishing food that fills my evening routine, which I'd be sad to say goodbye to

I want a week of no dishes...but I don't need a dishwasher, I have two hands that work perfectly well

I want a new wardrobe that doesn't need to be built around my skin issues or a non-existent budget... but I don't need anymore than I have, even if compared to the world it is more than frugal.

I want my clothes to be dried in a dryer with no creases and no extra work of hanging to dry...but I don't need a dryer and there is something exceptionally mentally cleansing about hanging clothes to dry!

I want land with lambs, donkeys, rabbits and chickens {oh my!}... but I don't need anything more than myself in order to live the frugal, simple and green life.


Once I finished writing out my list, I reflected on what life would be like if I had all those wants. The truth is, my life wouldn't be something I personally would want to lead. I have enjoyed my little journey in downshifting, learning self-sufficiency skills and the peaceful rhythm which finds its way into my daily and weekly life. I like that my choices reflect the values I have and that I aim to tread lightly on this earth. Yes I occasionally have hard days, every so often I wish there was a little button I could push to make that particular day easier, but the truth is, I wouldn't swap my new life, or my new choices, to return to my old ways. Nope, no going back!

What things do you occasionally want that you don't need? Do you think about what life would be like if you weren't on this journey? Could you ever go back?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

This Journey Is Like Learning To Knit

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

















I think, when I started out on this journey, I thought it was going to be flip flops and applesauce - also known as having more time to do things I love (like wear flip flops) and learn the skills to make things (like applesauce). Oh how wrong I was! For me this downshifting, simple living has at times not been so simple, although it has certainly been memorable and mostly humorous too! There have been many mistakes, teary days, joys and a whole lot of frustration. It has at times, felt all too easy to be misunderstood and some days, living a life which felt far too different from the norm; I've yeared to be part of the simple living, homesteading, crafting posse but didn't have the land or crafting skills to make that happen. Finally, I documented here sometime earlier this year that I was going to simply take my time to get to where I want to be, with no self-induced pressure, no time lines, no stress and what do you know, suddenly it became a little easier. After what seems like years trying to learn to knit, making mistake after mistake (most of which I had no clue how to repair!), starting and re-starting, switching patterns and getting a whole slew of advice, I just decided to knit and knit and knit, adding in a few rows here and there, in my very own style, with no set pattern, all in my own time. Slowly but surely it got easier and over a period of about a month my first real knitting creation was born (pun intended); suddenly I was filled with renewed hope.

Life is a journey, finding the simple, green & frugal lifestyle that is right for you in your particular season can be bumpy, it can be a bit like one step back two steps forward (although sometimes it feels like one step forward two steps back!) and we'll each succeed (at what success is for us!) in our own way, in our own colours, with our very own stripes, in our own time...and let's just say, this knitting gig is here to stay!

Did you ever have a moment where you realized just how far you'd come on your journey? If you are a knitter, what was your first knitting creation?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Living Through Changes

written by Gavin, from The Greening of Gavin.

When openly embracing a simple, green, or frugal lifestyle, you will inevitably have to make some changes to your current way of living.  In the fourth of my not so obvious series of posts about green psychology, I will try to explain the different stages of change, and what to expect when embarking on your journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle.  Please note that I am not a psychologist, just someone who has gone through an incredible change, and hopefully can articulate from experience what each stage feels like. The information provided is a rehash of many sources found on the web, that I have collated into a sensible format.

During my life's journey I have found that change is an unusual and personal thing. I have noticed that some people embrace it and find it exciting, while others resist it with their very last ounce of strength.  Why is that so, I have often asked myself?  Why would humans rather endure pain and discomfort of the status quo than change for the better.  Usually, the change happens when they realise that the pain of the status quo is a worse place to be than the change itself or the new reality. Change can be made by you or made to you.  I prefer the former!

Lets dig a bit deeper to discover the emotional stages that happen when humans are confronted with a change.  I found this diagram below which is a seven-stage adaptation of the five stages of grief identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the acknowledged expert on grief and bereavement. Following the publication of her book "On Death and Dying (1969)", it became clear to practitioners that the stages in the grief model were transferable to all personal change and had a far wider relevance than just to death and dying.  So, based on the evidence that all change contains some sort of loss, her model is used to this day to map where an individual is at any given stage of a change that is affecting them.  (Click chart to enlarge)


Now, although the stages are fairly consistent for each change you may experience, the speed at which you move through the stages varies from person to person.  You could fly through the first two stages and get stuck in Self Doubt for ages before you finally accept the change, or you could whiz through to Experimentation in just a day.  It all depends on how expectant or open your mind was for the change.

Lets go through each stage whereby I have attempted to articulate the types of emotions that you may (or may not) experience during the stage:

Stage 1 - Shock.  This reaction is usually immediate and from experience, it can be within a few hours.  Even if you have planned this change, the fact that it is actually upon you will give you a strange feeling of disorientation.   This stage will last longer if it is unexpected.

Stage 2 - Disbelief/Denial.  You have usually managed to get back to everyday life at this point.  Intellectually, you know that the change has happened and what may happen, however emotionally, you may block out the new reality from daily life.  You will probably be processing this new reality in your sub-conscious mind. Cognitive Dissonance usually occurs at this stage, and you are more likely to get stuck in this phase if you are change resistant.

Stage 3 - Self doubt.  This is a very uncomfortable stage.  Old habits and beliefs are no longer relevant, as are some of the things that used to be important to you.  Your sense of identity will be shattered.  You feel a sense of nothingness until you develop a new way of 'being'.  Your confidence will be low, and you may be fearful of the future, become angry, depressed, and have an overwhelming sense of guilt.  I have personally felt doubt as to whether I have made the right decision or whether I am up for the job.  You also may want to seek isolation to mull it over further, and at the same time feel unmotivated.

Stage 4 - Acceptance.  You have come to the decision to accept the change and face the future.  By letting go of the past reality, the pain goes away and finding your new way of being becomes exciting and a challenge rather than a loss.  Your energy levels will be going up, as this stage usually begins just after rock bottom on the emotional scale. You still might not know what you are going to do, but at least you know that your reality has changed.

Stage 5 - Experimentation.  You try something new from the new paradigm, but don't be surprised if you can't stick to the plan.  You could be all over the place, trying little changes to fit with your new reality.  You will still be working it out in your mind, however your energy levels continue to rise.  Try little things before attempting any major change at this stage, because you may slip back to self-doubt if a large experiment goes pear shaped.

Stage 6 - Search for meaning.  When you have embarked on your journey towards your new reality, you may start to appraise where you were before the change occurred, what has happened since, and why.  You will begin to fit your experience into your "life story" and re-examine your view of yourself and the world around you.  You will start to make sense of it all.

Stage 7 - Integration.  At the end of the change process, and all being well, you will be comfortable, confident, and a feeling that you belong or are seeking belonging in your new way of life. 

Now just a realisation on my part.  Change may be difficult at times and for a long period, but it can also be exciting, energising and uplifting.  It is a part of life.  Also remember that just because there is a model, it does not mean that everyone will experience all stages or the same change in the same way as others.  Every person is different and the above model is for guidance only and is based on my own experience.  Yours may differ significantly.

I see major changes happening within our society, and I see many people stuck in stage 2 - Denial/Disbelief which is disheartening.  However lately I have noticed many more people who are more advanced and are well towards the end of the cycle and seeking like minded individuals or groups to enforce their new paradigm.  I often write on my personal blog about the big issues like climate change, peak oil, collapse, and demonstrate the things you can do to soften the blow and assist.  Living a simple, green and frugal lifestyle will help to us no end, as will paying down as much debt as you can.  However, if you have a basic understanding what stage of change you and others around you could possibly be in, it could help to adapt to the current situation in a better way. 

I wish my family and I had have know about the stages of change when I had my very own green epiphany!  Maybe my wife would not have thought I was having an affair at the time.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thinking Differently

written by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

In last fortnights post about Deviating From The Norm, I mentioned that I have realised that I have different thought patterns that others around me.  Once again, due to my green transformation, I find that I am deviating from what is considered normal behaviour.  Let me give you a few examples, which may seem a little crazy, but hey, that is just who I am.

Driving down the freeway the other day going towards Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, I noticed that the roads department were installing high tension steel cables as barriers.  My very first thought was that it was really nice of them to protect the trees from cars hitting them.  Maybe I am right?  If the drivers didn't do irrational things in their cars, then the trees wouldn't need barriers to protect them!

Every time I walk to the Gym on Sunday morning for exercise rehab,  I am always gazing up at the roof tops as I power walk my way down the road.  Why, I hear you ask?  Certainly not because I am admiring my neighbours homes.  It is to determine the best houses that solar panels would work on, of course.  As I live in the Southern hemisphere the north roof get direct sun and the bigger the roof, the bigger the system.  There is nothing quite like a big north facing, unshaded roof.  I even comment to Kim (my wife) when we drive past massive warehouses and factories, that they should have solar panels on them, or at least have a big rainwater tank connected.  Is it just me?

When it is windy, I don't complain.  I just wish I had a wind turbine.  When it rains, I don't complain.  I just dream of having more space for a larger rainwater tank, and think that the veggie patch is loving all this extra water.

When I see a green lawn, I just want to rip it up and plant vegetables.  Where others see weeds, I see food for my compost bins or chickens.  Where others see empty jars, I see jam receptacles.  Where others see empty beer bottles, I think of my next batch of home brew beer!  Where others throw away lumber, I see chicken houses.  Where other see pretty city lights at night, I see dangerous carbon emissions.  My green thoughts just keep on coming.

The 3R's have become an obsession, to the point of if I can't use it, I try and find another person who might use the item.  Nothing elevates my blood pressure faster than someone putting a recyclable item into the general waste bin at work.  It is not like the co-mingled recycle bin is not right next to it with a great big label or anything!

Anyway, enough of my unusual thoughts, because I could go on forever listing the weird green ways that I ponder each day.  Am I alone in this behaviour or do our readers also have random green moments of insanity like I do?  I would love for your to share your "out there" think with us.  Don't be shy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Do You Get Your Friends To Care?

Recently I received an email from Nicole with a very interesting question:

How do you come to terms with the fact that so many people in the world don't seem to want to become educated about how their actions affect their world? For example, I am learning a lot about our food system lately and I really want my friends to become educated about it, too. I feel like if they just KNEW where their food was really coming from, they would make healthier and more environmentally-sound decisions. But I don't want to see preachy or holier-than-thou. Another example: I have two friends who just don't recycle. I can't wrap my head around it. They CAN recycle in their neighborhoods, they just don't. Again, I want to call them out on it, but I just don't know how to do it without seeming judgmental - even though I AM!

This is something I think about a lot actually. I think about it when writing this blog, I think about it when I'm doing work for my clients, I think about it when I walk through the streets on my daily walk, ... yes, I think about it a lot! Do you struggle with this, too?


Nine Ways To Get Your Friends To Care


Here are a few ways that have worked for me. Please share what has worked for you in the comments!


1. Think About Your Friend and What They Want. What is a good entry point for them? Would the entry point be finding a healthy home for their kids? Or maybe food, knitting, reading (book group?), shopping (antiquing or thrift store shopping or a clothing swap?), gardening? Find an entry point that will draw them in.



2. Meet Them Where They Are. You are likely at point c or even z, while your friend might be at point a. So help them simply get to b first. Make it easy, cheaper, tastier, more fun.



3. Never Use the Word "Should" or "Can't"- your friend needs to WANT to change their lifestyle, otherwise it won't work and won't stick. In the same way that you wouldn't change if you felt you were being judged, neither will your friends. Despite how much our friends can be frustrating, being judgmental or condescending just doesn't work to changes anyone's mind.



4. Remember Your Own Mindset When You Began Thinking About Change. What did you experience? Like me, you probably weren't told something, but rather you experienced a moment when something happened, something clicked. Somehow it hit HOME for you, and applied to you on a personal level in a way that it never had before. So what were the steps that led you there? How can you recreate that whole experience for your friend?



5. Just Be Friends and Appeal to Your Friendship - ask your friend to accompany you to the farmers market or help you pick out a dress at the thrift store or make an organic cake for your little one. Something similar to what you would normally do, with just a little tweak to let them slowly into your new world. You might even ask them to help you, because this is something you're really interested in.



6. Be Patient. It takes time and we are all different with different learning curves and needs and wants. We all take two steps forward and one step back as well, so know that just as you are not perfect, you friend is not perfect either. The best thing you can do, though, is stumble through this ebb and flow together. So let them in when they are ready.



7. Make It Fun. Particularly while the world is in Recession and Recovery, nobody wants to hear that the world is dying, or they are going to die, or anything of the sort. Right now, whether we like it or not, the world needs some fun. So make going green fun! Try new things together, with your kids, and in a positive and forward-looking way. Look to the future and see how your lives will change, how your changes will make an impact. Strive toward that point, and continuously redefine normal in a positive way.



8. Show Them How Excited You Are. Good friends will be excited about things that make you happy, healthy, and excited about life. Sometimes all you can do is make your own changes, and let others look on until they find something they find useful or interesting or exciting, and begin to pick it up. This is a tactic that has worked very well within my own family, for instance, where my mother and sister began learning from what I was doing, and started trying it themselves. It happened very organically, and now they make changes on their own and at their own pace.



9. Keep On Truckin. Some people are in such a different place in their life, their work, and their very being that there is nothing you can say or do that will change their minds. That's ok. They may come around sometime, or they may never come around. One of the things that is so important to me is to focus on helping those who are already beginning to convert their lifestyles. There is a lot of merit in that, and a lot of merit in just doing what you do and doing it well. We all need to learn to be ok with being the first, being the loudest, and being the furthest. And you'll be surprised at who just might catch up with you when you least expect it!



You know your friend better than most people do, so pick a tactic that makes the most sense given your unique relationship. Don't give up on your friends. Friendships lift us up when we are down, friendships move us, shake us, and support us, and we need them. If you are not finding support for your lifestyle within your current friends, you might consider finding like-minded people who can support you.



What Has Worked For You?


Please share your success stories!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Power and Importance of Our Lives


by Melinda Briana Epler, One Green Generation


There is a rift in the sustainable and simple living movement. There are those who believe the most important thing we can do is change the way we live our lives at home. Because it makes our families healthier, our budgets easier, and our lives happier. And then there are those who believe that each of those little changes in our lives do not matter, because the danger of climate change and peak oil and poverty and greed are so huge, that if we don't change things on a massive scale, we won't make it as a people.



I used to believe the latter. I used to believe that while it was important to me to eat healthier and support local farmers, what was important for humanity and the planet were only the big, political - and societal - changes. So I worked for many, many years to learn how to change the world on a massive scale.




But you know what? In a way, I ended back where I started.



I tried art, design, narrative film, and documentary film. I searched for how to tell people the world need saving. And after 20 years, I realized that telling is important, sure. But the real thing that incites change in the world is doing. Doing publicly, sure, but doing - it is the action that makes the difference.



Nobody wants to be told what to do, or what to think. But everyone loves to watch successes happen. Everyone loves to watch people become healthier and happier. Everyone wants to believe that they can live better on less.



Our individual and family changes are powerful. The stories we tell about them are also powerful. And together, our doing and our telling about it is one of the best tools we can use to incite real, solid, movement-based change in the world!



Just in the last 2 years since I began blogging about my own personal changes, I have seen the number of simple, green, and sustainable living blogs increase exponentially - have you? It's amazing, isn't it?



At the same time, I've seen more businesses cater to local and green living. I've seen more organizations working to rebuild greenbelts and replant forests. The amount of socially and environmentally responsible investments has grown considerably. It is now ok to talk about shopping in thrift stores and recycling everything imaginable, and not using plastic, and turning down the heat, and so on and so on. The gardens, oh the gardens - how many more people are planting vegetable gardens!



Societal Change Is Happening. Because we individually are changing our lifestyles, and we are telling others and showing others about it. People see our passion, our health improvements, our enjoyment in going back to the basics. And that passion is catching!



Now this does not give us an excuse not to vote, not to join community efforts to create change. These things are necessary, too - and we should all take part in the stake of our community, national, and planetary laws and goals. But what we do every day at home is equally important. As we learn and grow and redefine how we live our lives at home, we are spreading a movement of change in how the world defines normal.



So don't stop, and don't let yourself get down when it's tougher. Keep moving forward, and changing the world - one day at a time.