Tag Archives: green living

New Year Resolutions

Yesterday I blogged about making radical green resolutions. So, you may well ask, what are mine? I already don’t own a car, a fridge, a freezer, a television or a microwave or washing machine. I’m already committed to not flying, and I’m already vegetarian. I can’t do much more to eco-fit my home because I live in a block of flats. I can’t grown my own food or compost my own waste for the same reason. My scope to make radical changes is not as big, as a consequence.

I am looking at strategies to reduce the amount of animal products in my diet. I’ll be blogging about this as I go.

I’m looking at how people drive because of me, as an extension of car use issues.

I’m going to invest more effort in persuading people to live more as I do, and I’m going to do that this year as part of a project to talk more about how to be happy. I get a lot out of my relatively low impact life and I think other people could, too.

Last year brought a lot of changes and challenges for me, but it’s made me think a lot about what I want in all aspects of my life. I’m rethinking where I am creatively – more on this to follow. I’m set on focusing more on how things work day to day, rather than being too long term about anything. I don’t have any long term goals at this stage in my life that don’t depend more on luck than my own efforts. How I live day to day has more impact on me than where I might be going.

This last year has taught me to rethink a lot of my relationships with people. Every time I’ve held my boundaries and said no, it has really paid off for me. I’ve asked for help – something I find difficult, but I’ve clearly asked the right people and have had help that has made a huge difference. I’m going to go forward more aware that help may be available, and more willing to ask for it.

My major intention for 2019 is to make more time for daydreaming. I’ve still got a lot to figure out. I feel like I’m in an in-between place, not really ready to set firm intentions for a calendar year, but needing to put in time on how I want to change and grow. Daydreaming has always been an important imaginative tool for me. I use it to test ideas, seed creative projects and figure out who and how I want to be. I need to dedicate more time to it.

I hope whatever you plan for yourself for this year, that you can do it in a way that serves you. I’ve tried resolutions as penitence and self-punishment and they don’t achieve much. I’ve done much better with them since I shifted to setting intentions and looking at my trajectory and needs. I can heartily recommend this as an approach.

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Plastic and privilege

I’m always in favour of people being the change they want to see in the world. I think it’s an important place to start with any kind of activism. If you believe it, you live it. However, often there’s a massive privilege aspect to being able to walk your talk.

If you don’t need plastic straws – and most of us don’t – then giving up straws to save the planet isn’t that big a deal. It’s a small sacrifice. However, for disabled people who need straws for drinking, for whom paper isn’t durable enough and washable straws are problematic, giving up straws isn’t so simple. Of course most of us should do without them, but making life difficult for the disabled is not the answer here.

If you’ve got plenty of money, then buying loose veg and going to your farmer’s market is easy. You may have to drive to get there and to carry your plastic-free goods home and you’ll want a big fridge to keep them in. How green is it? And if we berate the people who can’t afford to do that, is that going to help save the world? If all a person can afford is the 45p bag of carrots, and doesn’t have a car to drive them home in and can’t afford to run a fridge to keep them in… complaining about the bag seems to be the wrong place to focus attention.

If being green is a game for the well to do, in between flights to nice places for holidays, then it’s pretty meaningless. As poverty is a real barrier to living a greener life, there has to be political change. There has to be change that makes it easier and more affordable to be green.

There’s usually some bright spark on hand to say that the poor should try harder. That it isn’t so difficult to do this and that and save money here and there and really, you don’t need the things you think you need. The reality of living in poverty is that it is mentally and emotionally exhausting. It’s hard getting good food every day when money is tight. And when you have to watch every penny and cost up everything it takes a toll, and yes, a few pence here and there on the cost of things can make a difference. It’s easy for people who live in comfort to talk about what they think everyone else should be doing, but that’s not good activism. And no, the farmer’s market is not affordable, and no, not everyone can grow their own veg.

It is certainly true that if everyone acted differently, a lot of environmental issues could quickly be solved. Inspiring, enabling and uplifiting people so that they can live more sustainable lives, is a good thing. Blaming those who are least able to make changes, is not cool. And if you’re jetting off to other countries a few times a year, I’m not convinced that your organic fruit is much of an offset. Green living as an affectation doesn’t fix anything, and it can serve to entrench injustice and blaming the victims of an unjust society.

Do what you can to make changes in your own life. Share things that work – especially things that really are low cost. Go after the people with the power to make changes, not the people with least power who are easiest to harass. Remember that if it’s easy to be greener, there’s privilege at play – wealth, opportunity, resources, skills, education, energy, and so forth. Seeing what personal advantages you have that enable you to be green is a good place to start if you want to tackle the issue of why other people aren’t doing so well. We need to lift each other into more sustainable ways of living, and we need to ask most of those who have most.

 


Making a home

We’re in the process of transitioning off the boat. It’s an opportunity to reflect on what is needed, what it is that we want from a home, what’s viable, and how best to walk our talk. We’ve lived without a lot of the ‘normal’ things for several years now. Do we need to go back to conventional living arrangements? It doesn’t feel like good Druidry.

The boat has a solar panel and wind turbine, so most of our electricity is fairly green. I can’t see any way of replicating that in the foreseeable future. However, there are all kinds of dinky bits of technology out there… more efficient, smaller, lower impact. Realising that with this move we have the luxury of time, has opened a few doors.
Other things are going to be odd though. I’ve lived with fires almost all my life, and it looks like there will be no hearth in the next home. For me, a home without a hearth is going to be weird. I can’t say I enjoyed that last time I did it, but that’s part of the trade-off.

In preparation for moving, we’re once again getting rid of stuff, taking the opportunity to offload things that aren’t needed, aren’t used, things we grew out of, or were hanging on to just for nostalgia. That’s a good process. It’s one of the things I find I like about moving home – the chance to reassess every owned object and make some decisions. Last time we did that we gave up furniture and kept books and musical instruments. This time, the absolute priority was finding somewhere we could all live together. ‘All’ in our case includes Mr Cat. Finding a place where he would be happy and welcome informed a lot of our choices.
We’ve enjoyed some aspects of being really rural with the boat, but work would be a lot easier with more ready access to infrastructure. We will no doubt be out and about more, and I suspect I’ll be doing more in-person teaching, as well.

The right space can be really enabling. It underpins a lifestyle, permits certain choices, removes others…. The process of looking at what we need and want in that regard, too, has been really good. Soon we jump, and the next big adventure awaits us.

So, short post today because I’ve been running round in the rain a lot, finding needful things, and sorting stuff out, and ring to work out how best to mix the alternative and the normal to make something good. Much to figure out yet though.


Druids afloat

We’ve just had our first anniversary of moving to the boat, which seems like a good time to reflect on the experience. Boat life has definitely changed me, and altered the dynamic in my family.

The first and most obvious issue was space, moving from a large two bedroomed cottage to a narrowboat meant paring down our possessions. A lot. Tom had already done that to change country. I had to consider what to put in storage, what to bring, what to give away. James had to contemplate his vast array of toys. The process turned out to be similar – what has good memories associated with it, and what reminds us of things we would rather forget? We took the opportunity to get rid of anything with unhappy associations. What do we really use and enjoy, what is just ‘stuff’?In the space of a few weeks, we contemplated our need for and relationship with every physical thing we owned. And I have to say, we judged well. We swap books and toys around with those in storage every so often, but I don’t miss any of the things I let go of. Rather than having a lot of toys, James now has a few that he really gets good use out of, and a better idea what to pick out for himself when looking for new things.

The shortage of space inside means we are outside a lot. It also means we have learned to work and move around each other, careful of each other’s space and needs, co-operating to make what space we have work for us. That’s been really good too, and I think in terms of inter-personal skills, has fine-tuned the child’s sensibilities. He defaults to tidying up now, has learned to manage his own space and possessions, and has become very good at fitting in. We’re a quiet boat, and a happy one.

Electricity as been an interesting issue. Boats are self contained units, which means generating your own power. This has made us super-conscious of what we use, and absolutely careful about not wasting it, or frittering it away on pointless things. Computer time is really focused, and if we can find a non-electrical solution we use that instead. So we have a wind-up radio, and sometimes we use candles. It makes for a more relaxed and peaceful environment.

I’ve always loved to travel although I don’t do well in cars. Boat life means moving at least every two weeks. A change of views, a different route to school and in the holidays and at weekends, adventures further afield. There are a lot of villages that are a bit like ‘home’ and we go to events all over the place. We meet a lot of people. And of course all the other boaters are moving too, with a shifting, transient community of friendly people. The flow of neighbours, the webs of friendship and the real sense of community amongst boating people is lovely, and I’ve really enjoyed that aspect.

I’ve learned a lot about me in the last year. I have learned how little material stuff I need in order to be happy, but I have also learned what I cannot do without. I’ve fallen in love with small-space living, I can’t imagine I’d ever want to live in a big house after this. I love the compactness. I love having to think carefully about what I need, and what is useful. I had thought before this that I wasn’t a materialist, that I was mindful of electricity and water consumption, but I’m even more aware now, and it’s a good awareness to have. Living small means living lightly, but rather than feel restricted by this, I find it increasingly liberating. Inside the boat is a warm, contained space, outside is everything else, and room for adventures.

I miss having the space to grow plants, and I would like enough room for all my books, and I do occasionally hanker after the kind of kitchen that has a table in it and room to feed large gatherings of people, but there will be time for that in the future. I find I don’t hanker after gadgets, or even furniture that much. I could imagine living in a traditional Japanese style house where beds are rolled up each day and people kneel at a low table to eat. The trouble with ‘normal’ is that we can so easily forget it isn’t necessary, or inevitable much of the time. I don’t need much, and my child, with his one box of toys, his stack of books, a bike and a lot of open spaces, is happier than he’s ever been. He doesn’t seem to miss the gadgets either. His main desire for more space involves room for bookcases and his wish to have his now considerable book collection to hand too.


Taken for Granted

The simplest way to find out what you take for granted, is to not have it for a little while. Spending time in a city recently, I’m ever more conscious of the ways in which cars and electricity are taken for granted by those who have access to them. They make life a lot easier. I’ve never had a car, so I find the idea of being able to hop in one and go where you like, when you like, a bit strange, but for the majority, that’s normal. Electricity is another thing we all take for granted – there at the flip of a switch, all the energy to power the devices that enable our lifestyles. Refrigerators, lights, washing machines, vacuums, irons, computers, televisions, game boxes, cookers, air conditioning, and so on. How often do we consciously think about the power we use? It’s just there, waiting to serve our every whim. Maybe we think about use when the bills come in, or in moments of wanting to be greener, but for day to day living? Not so much.

The way we consume and produce energy isn’t sustainable. But we’re so used to flicking the switch and knowing we can have what we want. How on earth could we change? How could we move away from that assumption of use? Because it’s the assumption that we can have what we want, and should have it, which creates the dependence, and the overuse.

For once, I have something a bit like an answer rather than just more questions.

I’ve done a lot of camping over the years. In a tent, or caravan, there is no power supply. You have to run a generator, which makes you a lot more conscious of what you use, and when. Or you have to go somewhere else to source power.

There are increasing numbers of solar and wind units coming onto the market – some aimed primarily at campers. There are solar units that will charge your phone, ipod and other toys. There’s even solar gear coming in that will run your laptop. I’ve seen some very interesting domestic wind turbines too – with those you charge a battery and run from there.

Sustainable energy is unpredictable. On a still day, the turbine doesn’t work, and at night the solar panels won’t give you anything. Which means you have to figure out how to store your electricity, or you have to use it when it’s available, not when it suits you. Talking to people who depend on generating their own energy, I hear that they use their computers and televisions only when the generator is running, because that’s the most efficient way. They think about energy use in a totally different way from people who are used to it being there. They are not miserable however, and have adapted their lives to fit their resources.

When you have to generate your own power, you become a lot more aware of what you use. It’s a similar issue with running a stove rather than a heater – if you bring in the wood and the coal, you know exactly what you are consuming and it changes your attitude to it. You can’t run that kind of heat source without paying attention to it – they go out – so you can’t leave them on by accident, nor are you going to ‘forget’ and open the windows when it gets too warm.

If we all had to take responsibility for generating our own energy, we would not waste so much. We would consider need rather than whim. We would not default to electronic solutions – especially not for entertainment. This I think, would be good. I don’t think electricity is a bad thing – I’m writing this on a laptop and sharing it on the internet after all. It’s our relationship with energy that needs looking at. I’m starting to explore the options for generating my own, and although I’d say I was energy conscious beforehand, that has taken me forward in radical ways. I’m finding I do not need as much energy as I thought I did. I’m increasingly convinced that a lot of the problem lies in what we think we need, and that given the chance and motivation to test this, it is (I am finding) possible to totally rethink that.

Although I’d like a bit more internet access than I’ve had this last week, but that, as they say, is a totally different story.