[ETA: Photos added on the 13th!]
The first topic: "let's hear how you define sustainable living, and how it plays out in your life".
The first caveat: I am a much paler shade of green than most of the other confirmed carnival contributors. But I'm trying.
I would define sustainable living as reducing my footprint until I consume, at the most, my fair share of the world's renewable resources.
From WWF Canada: "As Canadians, we have the fourth highest Ecological Footprint per person in the world - more than ten times higher than that of low-income countries such as Bangladesh. What makes our footprint so big? Mainly our insatiable appetite for oil and gas. The carbon component of our Footprint alone grew from about 17 percent in 1961, to more than 50 percent in 2003. In other words, if everyone on the planet consumed resources the way we do as Canadians, humanity would use the resources of 4.3 Earths by 2020."
I'd like to think that my personal footprint is smaller than the national average. I am already doing the easy things. But to further reduce my impact, I need to start doing the hard things, and encouraging others to do the same.
Everyone's definitions of the easy and hard things will be different. Here are mine:
Easy things (that I'm already doing)
Cycling to work. This is easy for me because I can ride 6km to work, mostly on designated bike routes; have access to secure bike storage facilities and showers at the office; haven't yet got a Canadian driving license (I'm only licensed to drive on the left); hate driving only slightly less than I hate buses; genuinely love cycling; and enjoy the daily fresh air and exercise. However bicycle commuting would obviously not be so easy for someone who lives further from work and has to drop kids or dogs off at daycare on the way.
Recycling paper, cardboard, glass, metal and most plastic. Thank you, City of Vancouver, for kerbside recycling pick-up! My cousin in Columbus, Ohio used to drive her recycling to a central city facility, until it closed down. So she started transporting her recyclables out of town, until that facility also closed and the trip was no longer worth the length of the drive. She eventually gave up when her room mate, who used to take the recycling with her on trips to see her parents in Pennsylvania, moved out. That was a few years ago, so hopefully things have changed by now.
Composting. Again there is kerbside pickup for garden clippings, and I also have my own compost bin that feeds my veggie patch. Which leads me to...
Growing my own food. Who knew it would be so satisfying?! This year: tomatoes, peas, zucchini (Ruchi: learn to say courgettes), hopefully cucumbers, plums, and figs.
Eating and drinking locally, when it's easy. I'll take the local option when available in my regular stores. The local wine is yummy, as is the summer fruit.
Not having kids. Another one that's relatively easy for me, because I just don't have very strong maternal yearnings. For me, the environmental impact of adding more people to a crowded planet is just one of many reasons I don't want to have kids. If I had strong maternal yearnings, this one would obviously be much more difficult. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those voluntary human extinction people, and I'm glad that I know some awesome people who ARE having kids. Someone obviously has to, just not all of us...
I know it's possible to raise kids sustainably, but it takes a HUGE amount of effort. I've heard the argument that it is A Good Thing to raise kids who will be aware of their impact on the environment and go on to influence others to reduce their own footprints, but I think that it would be exceptionally difficult to prevent a modern Canadian kid from being a net burden on the planet. For example, I've read a lot of blog posts about the amount of plastic crap that families and friends give to babies and children, even when specifically asked not to. I'll stick to trying to influence my nephews instead!
My husband and I have already agreed that if we ever change our minds about kids, we'll adopt. Taking someone who already exists and making their life better would, for me, override any biological imperative I might have to pass on my genes, which are dodgy anyway (family history of: cancer (various), heart disease, heart defects, high blood pressure, diabetes, glaucoma, schizophrenia).
Hard things (that I need to work on)
Reducing my car usage. Much as I hate driving, I do like the convenience of cars. So I usually don't put up any resistance when my husband automatically picks up the car keys when we visit friends or go grocery shopping. I'd hoped that Sunday's big sponsored bike ride would persuade him onto a bike more often, but for various reasons (post coming soon) it is unlikely to have worked. I need to do a better job of not taking the easy option and persuading him onto public transport, even if it does mean I have to get out of bed a little earlier and put up with the bus.
Eating less meat. I love meat, but I know it's BAD. I've already started to cut down, but it's difficult when my carnivorous and very hard working carpenter husband is looking longingly at the steaks in the local market. I've committed to cooking at least one vegetarian meal per week, but those meals always take more time and effort because they have to be AWESOME. My husband is a wonderful man, but he is much more likely to miss his meat (and mention it) if the stir fry or pasta or whatever is merely average. I've just bought a vegetarian recipe book and hope to expand my repertoire. I made my very first quiche last week! Onion, mushroom and asparagus. It was pretty damn good, actually.
It's a quiche, honest! I just don't have the right kind of dish. Any meal that has cheddar cheese in the crust and Swiss cheese in the middle is OK by me.
Eating and drinking locally, when it's difficult. Despite the best of intentions, I've only been to a farmers' market once this year. It is tougher when I have to bike there and back (there is a big hill on the way), but I really do need to do better. The same goes for my other shopping habits - if there are no local options in my regular grocery store, I'll just use what they do have. And I am finding it difficult to always buy local wine when I love New Zealand whites and Australian reds so much. I know, I know.
Reducing plastic and Styrofoam usage. Sunday night is just not complete for me without sushi and a movie. Unfortunately our awesome local sushi joint uses Styrofoam for its deliveries. The same goes for our favourite Greek place. I am planning to write to them and inform them that I am willing to pay extra for recyclable or biodegradable packaging. Any month now. Along a similar time-frame, I keep hearing that the Diva cup isn't as gross and scary as I think it is.
I'm sure you can all think of more things I should be doing... can't wait to read the other posts!
Right, I'm going to cycle home now. Then we'll drive to a liquor store, where I will buy local red wine. We will proceed by car to a friend's house, where we will order Greek food (including meat) that will come in Styrofoam packaging. I am sooooo messed up.