Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Making a change


Last week I showed an Inconvenient Truth to my graphic design students. It was a great fit into the curriculum - as one of the classes I taught focused on a public service announcement (series) which included global warming. Another class was motion graphics (film making). An Inconvenient Truth suited perfectly. I opened up the class to others in the University system. Unfortunately, only a few others arrived.

We had a great discussion about what we could each personally do about global warming. We had talked about this quite a bit throughout the class, thus it was not a new topic. However, I think it affected the students even more than they had anticipated. Most of the students had done readings and research. It is much different to read about global warming than to see the evidence.

I also found climate change map. Minnesota will be like Missouri, Wisconsin like Kansas, Illinois like Texas. These are northern midwest states. What will Texas be like? What will the grain belt be like? Will they even be inhabitable? What about water? The great lakes are already being depleted.

It is evident that not only is this happening, but that something needs to be done about it. We need to do something now. Let's stop waiting for the government to tell us to do something. Instead, let's take this upon ourselves.

We all know that changing our light bulbs is a great first step to stop global warming. We have heard about things to do - such as turning down our thermostat, recycling, driving less, etc. What else can we do? How can we move beyond light bulbs?

Here are just a few of things that I am doing:
Reduce Packaging
I purchase most things in bulk. No - not 10 jars of something. Instead, I purchase a 25 lb bag of rice. I then store it in a PETA safe bucket or repackage it in another way.

Reusing
Instead of tossing the glass jar into the recycling, I am trying to find additional uses. Recycling is great - but it does use additional energy.

  • I have given a glass jar to each child to use a piggy bank.
  • I will take the rice (mentioned above) and premake mixes (check out Hill Billy Housewife - the rice mixes are great). I premake these so that my kids (or husband) can easily start a meal.
  • My milk comes in glass jars - which are reused
  • cloth diapers can be reused
  • thrift stores for clothing
Reduce
  • I freecycle almost everything that I do not need. When I gave up cleaning supplies and opted to use homemade, I freecycled all of the remaining supplies. Thus, someone else was not purchasing.
  • I reduce food waste by either composting or
  • reusing my vegetable scraps (by making and canning vegetable broth) - then I don't need to purchase it!
  • choosing not to purchase unnecessary items.
  • turn off things (TV) when not in use
  • line dry clothing

Relocalizing
Instead of shopping at mega centers like WalMart, I am choosing to shop locally. Food comes from the farmers market, my garden, or local farms
I am also choosing to visit locally owned stores.

Transportation

  • My spouse drives a veggie car. This is a car which runs on waste vegetable oil. The WVO (waste vegetable oil) creates less pollution.This is not practical is you do not commute - it take s awhile for the oil to heat up, etc. However, my spouse works at hopsitals that are 2- 4 hours away.
  • We also have a scooter for in town driving
  • I often choose to walk or bike most places.
  • ride with someone
  • Combine trips
So, these are just a few of the things that we try to do. Can we provide each other with ideas of ways to move beyond light bulbs? What are you doing? What will you do next?

42 comments:

Evan said...

I know that we are not typical and that not everyone can do what we are doing, but three years ago we decided that our two job lifestyle was bad for us, bad for the environment and bad for our about to be born baby. We put our 3600 house on the market, I quit my job and went to massage school and earned certifications in personal training, cycling and triathlon and my husband took a huge leap of faith, quit his job and started his own engineering practice from home. We were very nervous in the beginning. It took over a year to sell our house and with a new baby, that was stressful. We took the equity in our house, bought some land, put up a metal building and installed a rainwater collection system. We have been building our house as we have the money to buy green materials to do so. We do have a homeowners association and have been in violation of one of the rules for a while so I don't recommend that, but we will be in compliance soon. I have never built anything, so this has been a good learning experience. We have been taking our own canvas bags shopping for over a year now and if we end up with a plastic bag or two, we reuse them as garbage bags. Garbage is a pet peeve of mine. Even with a baby, we seldom have more than one standard garbage bag a week. We buy as much local produce as we can and we always buy organic. We buy very few items that have packaging. I even take my own cloth bags for produce. We don't watch TV and only use our one TV for a family movie once a week or every two weeks. We read, play, color, go for walks, instead. I wish we could walk to stores in our area. We live more than 7 miles from a store and I would run or walk that myself, but not with my child on these country roads. When my husband has an appoinment in Austin, we all go and that's when I take care of shopping and other errands. We try to do this once or twice a week at most. We do not have a lawn. My husband used to cut two acres of grass every weekend, what a waste! Now we have a natural landscape and instead we trim dead branches for firewood. We will be trying an organic garden again next year. We bought a diesel vehicle so that we can make our own biodiesel. We will be installing solar as we have the funds and also a wind turbine. We buy wind energy from our local utility for now. If we buy anything new it's usually organic or from a small family type of business. We Freecycle and donate anything and everything we can't use. When we downsized we donated truckloads to the Katrina effort. It feels good to be free of so much stuff. Most of our furniture is over 20 years old and gifted to use by my husband's parents. We do not impulse buy anything and anything new is purchased with the expectation that it will be with us for a very long time. All of the furniture in my daughter's room was inherited or used by my husband when he was a child which is great since it won't off-gas any longer. We don't eat out or pick up take out food anymore. We don't go out for coffee several times a week anymore. We have eliminated most snack foods from our diet. Absolutely no sodas, etc. We recently took a family trip to Germany(we take airplane vacations once every three to four years) and we were struck by the cleanliness and lack of waste in most of the places we visited. Everything is used, the environment is treated with respect. Even public restrooms are clean. It was a huge culture shock to come back here. If you want a plastic bag in the shops or if you forget your own bag or basket, you must buy one, they don't give them to you. There are deposits on every kind of bottle, so people return them for recycling. We had this in Michigan when I was growing up so it was expected and people just did it. In fact, we recycled a lot when I was a kid, what happened? Okay, I'm sure there's more that we are doing, but I've gotten way too long winded.

BurdockBoy said...

Tis is a great list. It just seems so simple I can't understand why people aren't living this way-it just comes second nature to me, perhaps because I was partially brought up this way.

I'm currently looking into getting an old VW or Mercedes for a veggie car. Did you install the kit yourselves or get someone to do it. I'm not very mechanically inclined.

Chelee said...

We recycle and for a family of four we have one kitchen trash bag of garbage a week. We changed out all our light bulbs to cf bulbs. I use cloth shopping bags and made cloth bags for our gifts this year. I've switched to homemade cleaning products. We sold our second car. We buy local when we can and use freecycle type lists. We line dry our clothes. Next spring we plan on a garden to supply us with most of our produce. We buy organic foods. We combine trips when we do use our car so it's not just a one time trip. My dh rides the bus to work. There are so many things we've done to change the footprint we leave and live a more simple life. Great post, thanks.

AnnMarie said...

Emme, would you write up how you make veggie broth (in another post)? I found a recipe that makes a great broth, but takes a lot of cooking and produces a fairly small amount of broth. Involves roasting the veggies then cooking them in a crockpot. I tried putting in extra water one time, but it wasn't nearly as flavorful, of course. But out of a good deal of veggies, I get something like 4-6 cups of broth. Hardly even one cooking of soup! Well, does make one meal + lunch leftovers when there's only two of us, but who wants to make soup for only one meal?

Bellen said...

Emme - Great post - you do a tremendous amount.
Some books I would recommend for anyone trying to make a lighter footprint:
Reuses by Carolyn Jab - written in 1982, it may open the eyes of many and does give lots of good ideas

Green Living by editors of E magazine, 2005. Good for beginners and gives lots of resources

How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible by John Jeavons. Very detailed on amounts to plant, succession planting and using raised beds.

The Have More Plan - usually found in an oversized edition. Written after WWII. One family's plan to be very self sufficient. Includes house floor plan, plantings, raising animals, etc. Pick and choose what will work for you.

MotherEarthNews.com archives. While some of the information may be outdated, the info in general is terrific. When we moved from CT to FL 3 years ago, I sold my 100+ issues of MEN and still regret it - I found the ads as good as the articles. Lots of articles on living with little, alternative living and some really good recipes.

If all of us would just take 1 or 2 baby steps every couple of months, the world will be much better.

Carolyn said...

Well, "we" may all know about changing to energy efficient lightbulbs but not everybody does! As per a promise to myself (made public on the Compact message board)I'm trying to give out free CFLs to strangers. This weekend, I gave one to an elderly woman and her son who were in line in front of me at the grocery store. Neither one of them knew about these! They were very excited about the longevity and frugality claims on the packaging, and I think I made two new converts. This is one of my goals. Beyond changing my own life, I intend to share the knowledge, hence, I applaud all your efforst to do the same. Your job affords you a wonderful venue in which to share the news, and you're doing a great job with it!

Emme said...

You all do so much! This is great! I want to keep adding to the list.

AnnMarie - I will post a recipe. I just throw everything in a pot with water....

Carolyn, Thanks for the reminder. I have to remind myself that we (who are reading and writing here) are preaching to the choir. There are so many others who have no idea what they can do. Thanks!

Christa said...

Hi,

I just found your blog via Technorati and I really like what you have here. One of my goals for 2007 is to do more things to fight global warming. I am hearing more and more people talk about it these days, which is positive in that more people seem to be aware about the issue and are concerned, but still, so many people are enamored with their energy-consuming gadgets -- and cars! I live in the city and don't have a car. I walk to most places or take public transportation, so I think that helps. There is more that I can do, though, and your list offers some great suggestions.

Christa
Calendula & Concrete

Emme said...

Burdock Boy - I plan on posting about the veggie car one of htese days. There was a mechanic in Duluth that helped for the first one (which we are selling) and J did the second one with a kit through greasecar.com

Christa, i am glad that this list offers suggestions! :)

SimplyTim said...

Emme,

Another great post!

Could you post the web address for the climate change map?

My last two postings on my site was on a similar theme of how to help the system move towards both awareness and action. I have also come to a similar conclusion that the most important awareness and action must come from within one person at a time.

My wish / hope is that then it reaches a tipping point and then meaningful legislation will follow. I sincerely doubt that it will be the other way around.

Following that logic then it is important to find, if we are so inclined, "force multipliers" which can help others to focus their actions also. That's what I mean by "elevator pitches."

Your blog is a marvelous "force multiplier." Bravo!

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