Tuesday, August 7, 2007

That's my boy. . .

My son commented on the phone the other evening that he'd read my latest blog post and thought it was cool that we were doing the 100-mile diet. I reminded him that what I'd said was that "If" we were doing that, we'd be able to get sweetener (maple syrup our friends make) locally. While I do try to be conscious of the choices I make, and buy closer if/when possible, so far, I haven't been willing to do without olives, canned tuna, the occasional mango, and above all, perhaps, I'm not yet willing to do without my black tea. Still, Zach was impressed that we were conscious of these choices and I was equally impressed by his attentiveness. He went on to say that he'd told his girlfriend that once they go 60 days without driving, he'll take her out for a special dinner. They started over a month ago, and so far have managed 20 days car-free. The other night, for example, when he went to play tennis after work, he was really tempted to hop in the car but pedalled his bike over instead.

I really like this moderate, positive and manageable approach to lifestyle change. Rather than demand 60 consecutive days, Zach and Joey recognize that for now, driving is sometimes indispensable. But rather than giving up, they do what they can, taking one day at a time. Similarly, I think, although I'm not about to live completely on what can be grown and made within a 100-mile radius (after all, an arbitrary, if useful, parameter), any small changes I can make by being inspired by that goal are worthwhile. Thus I generally choose local and seasonal, but sometimes can't resist mangoes in the winter. I'll pay extra for farmgate local honey and don't mind growers making a good profit on their tomatoes, but I'm going to keep enjoying avocadoes. We have been trying more and more to buy BC wines, but I'm not ready to turn my back on the riches of Italy, France, Chile, California, and Australia as an occasional treat.

I'm thinking I might try Zach's approach to driving this fall -- while I really need my car two days a week to get to my Pilates class, I could walk to work the other two days. It's a 35-minute walk, with a quad-building hill most of the way there -- not so pleasant if it's pouring or if I have a ton of marking to carry, but otherwise quite manageable. I'd probably like my reward sooner than 60 days -- I think I'll make 20 days of walking to work my goal, and I'll have to plan a good reward for myself--by the time I'm done, maybe a new pair of boots would be in order!

Meanwhile, there are a number of other small ways I try to be environmentally responsible, but with some moderation. Living on a small island where we have to carry our own garbage to town for disposal, I compost carefully, and I recycle as much as possible (thanks so much to an enterprising neighbour who collects sorted plastics, glass, tin, and paper, for a very reasonable fee). I'm also careful about how much plastic and packaging I buy, again partly because I'm the one who'll have to carry it "away". Laundry-wise, I use cold water almost exclusively, and trade a bit of brightness for the environmental benefits of low-impact soaps, and I never have used softeners or artificial fragrances. But I keep a stick of stain-remover next to the washing machine and I admit to enjoying the convenience of a dryer. At the same time, I try to keep it reasonably convenient to air-dry by having several racks in the laundry room and I dry many of my clothes this way (much better for them, of course), and if I have time, I'll often stop the dryer halfway through and throw sheets or towels over the shower rod to dry the rest of the way. In the garden, we've gone to a push mower, having reduced our lawn considerably over the past few years. I hand water rather than leave the sprinkler on, and even that, I do sparingly. The garden's been planted, to a large extent, with attention to what can grow in our summer drought/winter rain conditions, so that once I coddle a plant through it's first summer, most of them can manage reasonably well without too much extra help. Pesticides are not something I even consider -- if a plant can't manage without that kind of aid, it gets shovel pruned.

So these are all small things, but they're what I can manage -- they're far from heroic and they don't cost me too much, but they make me feel as if I'm doing something helpful. What do you think? Does this kind of moderate approach seem reasonable to you or are you impatient for folks to make adjustments more quickly to help our planet? I'd love to see your comments about what small environmental lifestyle changes you feel good about. Or if you haven't got time for a comment, perhaps you could take a second to click your vote in my poll on the right.


  1. Every little thing counts. And spreading the environmental "awareness buzz" on this blog is a great way to get more people involved. I think a prize is in order: The person with the best/most unique climate awareness change to their daily life.

    I like prizes. So, Mom, what's the prize huh, huh. Jokes.

  2. Hey!
    Love the entry. About four years ago, when my old car was dying, I decided to buy a hybrid vehicle to replace it with. I really can't do without a car for many things (son's school is far too far away, though we do carpool), but using the hybrid makes me feel like I am doing my best. I also try to carpool whenever possible, and combine errands for one trip. Like you, I try to buy locally whenever possible. Safeway is our closest grocery store, and they are the worst for bringing in imported fruits and vegetables, even when local produce is available. However, there are smaller fruit and vegetable stores, and these generally have a good supply of local produce.

  3. Valerie -- I'm glad you liked the post--once I'd written it, I started worrying about the tone, etc. -- Buying a hybrid is a big commitment! And as for the grocery-shopping, I know when you have younger kids, there's not so much time for searching out local produce. We have a Thrifty's and they're pretty good about having some local stuff.

  4. oh, and zach, I am thinking about a contest for the blog -- watch this space! (well, not exactly this space, but the space up top, you know . . . )

  5. I was car-free throughout my entire university life, even when I lived on Gabriola I would ride my bike! I was very proud of my car-free existence, even though my hair was always a mess and my high heels spent most of their time my closet! With Ava born into the world, it seemed there was no choice but to purchase the family car. I try and compensate, planting a garden, compost, hanging clothes to dry, walking, recycling, but still nothing beats the feeling of self propelled travel!

  6. hey caitlin -- nice to see you commenting here. No question that babies mean a change in lifestyle, but it sounds as if you're still making an effort to leave as small a footprint as possible -- good for you!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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