Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day

The environment. In keeping with the personal nature of my blog, I will address this in a personal vein. I can do little more but vote where I might, and express myself a bit loudly when it comes to industrial polution and the carbon tax. However, personally, I can do what I can, and influence those in my immediate world. It comes down to so many small acts, hoping they will cumulate and spread to others:

- Turn out the light(s) when you leave a room (and make sure the kids do too).
- Insulate the house better (at least put rolled up rugs at the bottom of my doors to limit drafts).
- wear sweaters and slippers rather than jacking up the heat. - Into bed early in the winter.
- Bake everything I've to bake at the same time, or at least one right after another. For example, the no-salt bread for Isabelle, two loaves of bread for my family and a batch on corn muffins for the kids' afternoon snack.
- Keep driving to a minimum -- group all errands in the same trip, carpool, encourage bicycling or walking where possible and safe.
- Limit hot showers and baths to what is good hygiene but no more (harder said than done with my crew of pre-teens), but I do repeat myself frequently, in hopes that this message will eventually get through.
- One big sink of hot water to wash all my dishes throughout the morning.
- Buy locally from the farm nearby, or friends. And even better, get to the farm on foot or by bike.
- Buy in bulk from my organic wholesaler -- as locally as I'm able, but also, fewer runs to the store by using my pantry-space.
- Grow my own vegetables as I'm able (the dimensions of my vegetable garden are increasing yearly, as I -- ever so slowly -- gain more knowledge and skill in this area).
- Put in a chicken pen and get a couple of chickens from Gaetan's parents -- a project in the offing, we'll see... How would this help the environment? Well, it would help the house budget, and they'd eat up all the stale bread and such that I am also putting into the compost. At the very least, I wouldn't be using more than one egg carton or so by week, and thus would reduce my own personal consumption of cardboard/gas/plastic.
- As soon as winter sets in and I start firing up the wood stove, it will replace (as much as possible) the gas and electric burners as my cook-top.
- Heat off every night, heavy and warm covers for all.
- Efficient "green" bulbs in all the house lamps.
- Mix by hand whenever possible -- ok, I used the Kitchen Aid for meringues and the cereal bars, but all muffins, bread, cookies are mixed with good old-fashioned elbow grease and a wooden spoon.
- Furnish the house (should I still need anything, which I don't) and my wardrobe (ditto) from the flea markets/Goodwill. I've found some gorgeous items over the years that would do a princess no dishonour. No exotic hardwoods from the forests of Indonesia.
- Read, play board games and talk rather than watch TV -- and just don't own one if you can get away from it.
- Hang my laundry out to dry, either outdoors or in my bathroom, over all my house-hold doors (which I've wiped clean before-hand). Yes, this is doable even for those who have 6 month winters! The dryer habit can be broken.
- In keeping with the washing theme: wash only what needs washing: socks, underwear, and much worn jeans and stained or smelly t-shirts, etc., Don't just use the laundry basket as a catch-all for cleaning the room.
- Recycle, compost, re-use as possible, and have a stash of grocery bags and crates for shopping: as necessary, I give classes in this to the kids (yes, little girl, I'm serious, take a look at this bag, what do you see? Ah, so cold lentils don't really go with clean cardboard, plastic bottles, and printer paper, no? Ok, remove them please, you can use this cloth. And next time, please note the three recepticles and use them correctly).

Where do I find it difficult? Where do I continue to consume?

- I do have a dish washer (for 6 kids remember). But I'm trying to teach them to use one glass/cup per day and re-use it, rather than going through 5 per child (breakfast/lunch/snack/snack/dinner/snack) -- not there yet.
- Wean myself off my computer (ouch!), and let the battery fully run down before plugging it back in to recharge it (I can do this at least).
- In my food habits, it is very difficult to deprive myself of the classic triumverate of imported foods: coffee, chocolate and tea, add to this soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, and?. Otherwise, I'm doing pretty well eating locally and seasonally and making most everything from scratch.
- I like shoes -- little boots (perhaps made in China?), tango shoes (designed for my feet in Buenos Aires), sandals (Spain). And my boys live in sneakers (made in China) -- though but one pair per year or till they are worn to bits. And, I do re-heel and re-sole my shoes till they become such an eyesore JP is embarrassed to be seen in public with me.

How more can I or any of us help? Public transportation is great -- for certain routes. Keeping lights off as much as possible requires larger windows than I have in this heavy stone house, and better eyes than I was bequeathed by my myopically challenged parents. As such, I'm sitting here with the kitchen lights on (though no others). I use the I-tunes in my computer as a source of music rather than play the radio/hifi across the room.

I'm teaching as I might. Yesterday evening's discussion with Leo included why I resist purchasing yet more plastic toys for he and his brother and emphasize those that last and those that have a thousand possibilties. And, considering the quantity they already have, Christmas may bring more books than toys this year. I don't like the throw-away culture. Yes, I do go through the house and bring whatever is no longer needed/used/ etc., to Goodwill or the Red Cross every June. But, I cringe as I throw away broken plastic toys. I hate it. What was the point of a noisy, fragile, highly colored object that lasted perhaps two weeks at most as a toy of choice for my children? Why? It's so much more fun to climb a tree, draw, build with bits of wood outdoors.

I teach, I encourage, I berate, sometimes lightly, more often no doubt heavy handedly. Am I wacko? Or just reflecting my own education at my mother's knee and my horror of trash, landfills, the green-house effect (which I'd already read about back in 1980 before graduating from high school), large cars, pavement everywhere, yet more large factories and malls going up where farm land once was, and food that tastes like plastic, ripened by a gas and flown across the world? Yes, I react oddly when served asparagus in the winter (in Provence, if I were in South Africa, this would be normal).

I'm just a bit off-center I suppose. Or not. Think Global, act Local. My mantra.


Zuleme said...

What astounded us was the lovely Volkswagon we rented in France got 60MPG and you cannot buy it in the US.
Here, they are proudly selling anything getting over 30 as great gas milage. It's insane. If we all switched to these kinds of cars here we could cut gas use in half.
I can walk to work unless we have to travel to a shoot but I'm lucky to be able to do that.
We have a large garden, a woodstove and recycle everything. But we also have a lot of electronics for work.

Madeleine Vedel said...

I would so love to own a car with great gas mileage! But that, alas, like solar panels, is not currently in my budget. And with the kids, I can't drive a small vehicle for the near future. But, I dream...

Martha Ann said...

Create a composting worm bin. It's a great project for kids, the compost is fab and your prospective chickens will love the worms. In winter, I keep them in an old camp cooler in my kitchen, feeding them coffee and tea grounds and an assortment of old veggies and leftover oatmeal. Toward end of winter, I fatten them up with corn meal and divide them between three outside bins for summer.

Madeleine Vedel said...

Martha Ann, I'm all for it -- how do I get started? And they don't need much air? if you keep your cooler shut... or don't you? Thanks for your tip!