The good old days
Home cooked meals (from scratch) almost every night.
Growing a lot of the households food in the back yard.
Walking or biking to school or work every day, rain or shine.
Putting more clothes on when it's cold.
Showering once a day or less!
Home baked goodies in the cardboard.
One car families.
Three or four changes of clothes, not a walk in wardrobe full.
Taking the bus was fun.
Everything that could be re-used was.
Take away coffees etc, didn't really exist – we all just sat down for one.
We didn't need a clothes drier, microwave, 2 or more TV's, 2 or more computers, 2 or more stereos, a slow cooker, an electric can opener, heated towel rails etc, etc.
How can we still live comfortably, yet decrease of impact on the environment?
I had a discussion with my husband as we were driving to work/pre-school with our 2 year old last week. Before we had our son we had a car each, vans infact – both with beds in them – the single, vagrants dream. We now have one old stationwagon and it's great. My husband commented that we do fine with only one car. In fact he couldn't imagine having another car that he drove to work and left there all day. What a cost and what a waste he said, though reminding me that he didn't used to think like that – my influence. Because he's so used to taking the bus and occassionally riding his bike he just doesn't see it as an inconvience or hard work.
This is what has happened. As people have increasingly been able to afford ever cheaper appliances and cars and marketing has done a fantastic job at telling us we can't live without these things we have come to believe that this is true.
My husbands experience in getting to and from work has become habit and therefore easy. We do have the benefit of being close to a bus route both at home and at work. So all we need to do is change the way we do things and stick them out until they become habit and easy!
Watching Dunedin go through the transition to using cloth bags in the supermarket is an interesting one. I made this transition 4 or so years ago and constantly forgot to put my empty bags back in the car, then forgot to take them into the supermarket and so on. It was frustrating, but after a few months perserverance it became habit and easy. I'm watching frustrated people work at remembering the change of routine now.
We are by no means perfect when it comes to living sustainability. Few people are, but we do a reasonable amount and are very conscious of the decisions we make and how they impact all. We don't own a clothes drier and never have, yet we have a two year old. We raised him 'nappy free' from 6 weeks old, but that's another story. He still has wet pants and dirty clothes and of course my husband and I need to do washing too. Dunedin is by far the sunniest of cities, yet we manage to get most of our washing dry on the line even through most of winter. When we can't we use my husbands designed ceiling clothes rack that sits against the roof near the fire or clothes racks and if something we want to wear is wet, well tough we have to find something else!
We have a eco wood burning fire that has a wet-back attached and we can cook (use a frying pan even) on the top of it. Our power bills in the winter can be as low as $55 and we rarely go over $100 any time of the year. I have applied the fake double glazing to our windows at $25/room and we now have no condensation on our bedroom window sills in the morning. We had to replace our cracked sliding door so we topped up the insurance pay out to get a double-glazed one and most recently we have taken up the Government insulation grant. Unfortunately we can't get under our floor but we able to get two layers of wool (our choice for environmental reasons at a bit more expense) in our ceiling. I'm happy to reveil that we only had to pay $650 of the $1600 it cost as we have community services cards that gave us 60% off with the governments subsiby.
We are not a wealthy family. We earn enough to live comfortably and we only have holidays because we careful about what we spend our money on. Sensible insulation and heating and only 1 car saves us heaps!!!!
I'm an experiential gardener and would hate to have to fully feed my family on what I grow – we'd be hungry!!! But it definitely compliments the huge amount that we spend on food. We eat a lot of organic food, cook meals from scratch as much as possible and buy in bulk avoiding heaps of packaging, though this is defintely what fills our rubbish bin over 3 weeks. Yes, weeks to fill one 65L rubbish bag in a 3 person household. Not bad, but it could be better. I simply refuse in most cases to buy something that can't be re-used as infinitely as possible or recycled or both.
It's not hard or expensive to do little things that will make a huge difference to the quality of our environment. I don't need a heated towel rail, don't even have a heater in our bathroom – it encourages a quick dry and change into warm clothes. I don't need a walk in wardrobe. My op-shop buys see me through and I don't feel bad about passing them on to buy more from the op-shop when I need a change.
As I said, I'm by no means perfect when it comes to living sustainably. The reason I wanted to share some of these things with you is to show you that it's not hard to do, it's cheaper, which means you have more money for things like holidays – or you can simply do less work! Give it a go. Take one thing that you know that has a huge impact on the environment and change it. Stick with it for a few months (convince some others -family or friends/flatmates) to join you and pretty quickly you'll find that it's habit – good habit!! Thanks. Anna :)