by Amy Hattan, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Second Nature
My participation in No Impact Week is a bit of a flip flop…I’m using the week to examine if my regular lifestyle fits within the concept of having “no impact”, rather than changing my habits for just one week.
For example, on the topic of food, I attended a screening of the documentary Food, Inc. this week, which was followed by a good discussion between the crowd and Gary Hirshberg of Stoneyfield Yogurt. Afterwards, I checked to see what I have in my fridge. I was glad to see that most of the foods I eat are natural or organic, low in corn syrup (corn is incidentally in almost every food you get in the supermarket), and low in antibiotics and hopefully E-Coli and all that other awful stuff that is in most factory-farmed meat. It also appears that I am keeping Stoneyfield Yogurt in business (again, see photo). The most memorable moments for me when watching Food, Inc. were seeing dead chickens lying among the live chickens in the chicken coops and cows covered from head to foot in their own feces. And we eat this! I learned that because we feed cows cheap corn and not grass, which is what they are supposed to eat, they get these diseases that get passed to us. I could do better and not eat out so much, because who knows where the food originates from that is served in a restaurant.
This week, it started getting cold in New England. And, since I work at home I have control over how much energy is being used to keep me warm during the day. Instead of turning the thermostat up and awakening the oil giant that sits dormant most summer and early fall, I used my energy-saving footrest from Gaiam. Supposedly, the footrest only uses as much electricity as one incandescent bulb but keeps my feet and workspace toasty warm. So, I don’t have to heat my whole house, just the space around where I work. And blankets work well at night. OK, I admit, it sometimes does get cold in a house built in 1800 that is kept at 55 degrees F in the winter, but you do what you can.
As far as trash goes, I was interested to see how much trash and recycling I generate. In the past year I’ve only gone through one package of printer paper for work. The secret is to buy yourself a really inadequate but cheap printer that is a royal pain to use because the paper keeps getting stuck, and it runs out of ink all the time. I never want to use it and will do anything to avoid it. We’re not so great about using cloth napkins when we eat, instead we split one paper towel into two and share it…but for wet hands we use towels. We compost with a black plastic EarthMachine, that we purchased from our local hardware store for about $20. Our downstairs neighbors took to the Earth Machine as well, so now two families are using it. It never smells, although the bugs like it a lot. I use it on my gardens every year, although the chicken manure that I bought this year for fertilizing seemed to work a lot better.
I guess I have my parents and grandparents to thank for their Depression-Era mentality that a penny spent is a penny lost and so I’m not a big consumer. In fact, I don’t like shopping. I buy my of my clothes at the Second Time Around consignment shop, and I get some great hand-me downs from friends who do like shopping. My weakness is plants, I do love shopping for plants! When I buy gifts, I usually go to Novica.com, a site run by National Geographic that helps local artisans around the world to sell their wares or to Ten Thousand Villages.com, where fair-trade items are available. I used to make gifts back when I had time – and I think a lot of the waste in our lifestyles is due to our lack of time – but not recently. I didn’t make any big purchases this week, but I did jump on the cars-are-cheap-now bandwagon and bought myself a 2005 Toyota Prius recently. But, did I need it?
That brings this blog entry to the subject of transportation. My Toyota Prius gets great gas mileage, about 40 – 50 MPG, and seems to get the best gas mileage when I go on long trips rather than during my short trips around town. Which leads me to wonder if I really needed this car since most of my driving is short trips around town. I take the bus to work in Boston, and although it is at a rather steep price ($30/round trip), it saves me the headache of dealing with rush hour traffic and parking downtown. I did consider the idea of walking the 50 miles to Boston for No Impact Week, but I think I would have been late for work.
Oh, and one exciting thing that happened this week is that our water bill was lower than ever before! For this, we can thank our new water saving toilet.