We’ve been busy with our collection of carbon reducing projects: changing light bulbs, researching and getting quotes for home insulation improvements, weather stripping and hot water pipe wrapping. We’ve been learning about efficient appliances, on-demand hot water heaters, and pellet stoves. We’ve gotten rid of our old, inefficient cars and replaced them with small, efficient cars, one a hybrid. We’ve built half a dozen large garden boxes in our city lot back yard and are accumulating the compost soil mixture to fill them to begin growing as much of our own food as we can. We’ve eliminated a large portion of our lawn and are getting rid of our gas-powered lawn mower in favor of a reel mower. We’re beginning to look into solar panels. We’ve started planning our meals differently and buying our food differently to support agriculture closer to home and production that creates less waste and uses less energy while giving us healthier food.
Yes, we seem to have quite a few seeds in the ground as it were. We’re also doing a fair amount of reading on the subject to see how others are approaching carbon emissions and energy and to learn in greater detail why we’re doing this project in the first place and what kinds of effects we can have.
We’re nearly four months into what we’re loosely referring to as “the project,” and we’ve learned a few things.
1. Nothing that we’ve embarked upon, no micro-project or element of this yearlong experiment, appears to represent a lowering of our standard of living or even portend significant deprivation. Granted, we’re still early in the process, and we still have to progress far enough to measure our results.
2. This isn’t really a yearlong project. We started out calling it that, because we needed to frame it somehow to understand it and explain it, but what we’re really doing is beginning a shift toward a new way (for us) of approaching our daily living. At the end of this year we do expect to have enough learning and experience under our belts to share our process and story, but we’ll be far from finished by then. This isn’t something that you do, complete, and then move on to something else. This is a way of living and a way of viewing our world that you learn, adopt, and that replaces your old way of living and viewing our world.
3. Our reasons for doing this are continually changing and morphing. We started this project thinking that what we really needed to do was find the best ways to reduce our impact on global climate change, degradation of the environment, and use of energy resources, make those changes in our lives, and then show as many others as would care to see that these radical things we did weren’t so radical or difficult after all.
All well and good I suppose (though more than a few scientists and authors who have long been studying climate change and environmental health are crying loudly “NOT ENOUGH”)
Here’s where we are now: simply cutting back on our current consumption, trimming the status quo, isn’t going to do it, not nearly. What we need is fundamental change in how we approach our lives. That’s a tall order and perhaps an elusive thing to “need,” especially in prosperous countries like ours, because a large portion of the population will say, “we like their approach to living just fine, thank you very much, and why should we change?” History shows us that populations are not quick to adopt new ways when things appear generally to be going well. As long as gas prices are kept artificially low and the true costs of our consumptive life style are kept out of the public’s focus, our population is unlikely to be inspired to change our suburban, commuting, buying and throwing away existences.
So, what are we really striving for then? We’re attempting to retrain ourselves to think differently, to think in terms of low impact, low energy use, high efficiency in every corner of our lives so that we can teach our children that that is what’s normal. Chances are good that they will need those skills just to have what we would consider normal lives. For us, much of what we’re learning and doing to reduce our footprint seems novel, some seems retro, some very high tech. But for our kids, the saving, re-using, buying local, consuming less- lifestyle will have to be normal. High prices, scarcity of resources, and diminished natural world looks pretty certain to be what we’re leaving for them, so we’d better start helping them develop the skills needed to cope with those conditions.