Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back home, and a renewed commitment

Well we're back from our lovely vacation, and back to our daily grind. It's always so nice to get away, but also nice to get back to our regular routines. The kids get pretty out of sorts when they get off their routine. But a rest from that routine can be good as well. It gives us a chance to step back and reflect on our lives and on the direction our lives are taking. An opportunity to re-evaluate that direction, and decide if we need to make any changes. For me, being away inspired a renewed enthusiasm and determination to continue on this path that we're on. For some reason, when we're on vacation we tend to stray from our values a little. We spend a little more freely than we normally would. We buy things that we wouldn't normally buy. We ate fast food several times a day, which was horrible for us, and produced a tremendous amount of waste (but is difficult to avoid on a 3-day long trip). We feel the influence of others who are more into consumerism than we are, and lose sight of what we are striving for. It's also difficult when staying in someone else's home to continue to be environmentally conscious when they are not. You don't want to offend anyone by insisting that they should compost or recycle or NOT clean with toxic cleaners while your children are in their home. As they say, "When in Rome...". That being said, I love my family dearly, and I was also reminded of how much I miss being close to them and having them to lean on. Families are an important network, and will be increasingly more so in the future. I think that it's better to inspire others to change through example, rather than criticism. While we were staying with my Aunt, she had run out of her usual dish soap, and instead of purchasing regular dish soap, she bought some that was eco-friendly. I also noticed she had some organic shampoo in her shower. That could have been purely for my benefit, but it's also possible that I inspired a teeny-tiny change in her habits. It's only one or two things, but as we all know, the only way to get from point A to point B is one step at a time. No matter how small the steps. I know that there are so many people who just don't realize how destructive their own habits are, and what kind of impact they themselves have on our environment. It wasn't so long ago that I was one of those people. I would buy cheap, made-in-China crap, not realizing that I was contributing to child labour, to global warming, to oil depletion, and to our landfills (which is where the stuff ultimately ends up). I didn't realize that what I was cleaning with was making us sick. That what we ate and where that food came from was crucial to creating a sustainable environment. It took a huge awakening to realize the impact I could have on our planet and on our own health- either positive or negative. I have to bear that in mind when I get frustrated that we are working so hard to make our planet healthier, while others are making it sicker. Sometimes I feel like we are spinning our wheels, because others are undoing what we are working so hard to do. In a sense, that's what makes me happy that Peak Oil is upon us, and we are facing an oil-deprived future. For those who won't change out of concern for the environment, they will change for the sake of finances. It will no longer make economic sense to purchase crap from China, because the cost of getting it here will nullify the advantage of cheap labour. Buying things locally will eventually be cheaper than buying things from far away. Petroleum-based chemical cleaners will cost more than vinegar and water (and probably already do). The price of gas will be out of reach for the average person, so riding a bike or walking will look like a much better alternative. Growing your own food will be cheaper than buying it at the grocery store. All of these things are already true, but as petroleum skyrockets in price, the differences will be magnified, and people will start to notice. I just pray that the effects of Peak Oil are severe enough to inspire change before global warming reaches the point of no return.

As part of our renewed commitment, we built another garden after arriving home, so that we could plant some more food. (I'll take pictures soon - we're using the Square Foot Gardening method!). We bought some canning supplies so that we will be able to preserve some of that produce. We bought some books that will help us on our path. Books on composting, on preserving, on sewing "green" (with recycled materials), and one on general self-sufficiency. We are trying to build a library of reference books that will help to learn all of those skills that died with our ancestors. I'll add these books to my side bar as we accumulate them. It's funny that in talking about sustainability, I'm also talking about the things we are buying - but we are buying things that will help us to be more sustainable and buy less in the future. As inflation takes hold, these things will be invaluable to keeping our cost of living affordable. We've started a Wish List of things we want to buy in the future, as finances allow. On that list is things like a bike for me (my husband and kids have one, but I don't). Other reference books we want to get so that we can practice our skills in those areas. More canning supplies, and possibly a dehydrator. And as the cheap things we already own break, we are replacing them with things that can be repaired, and will hopefully last a lifetime. Like good, sturdy kitchen tools. We're planning to insulate this year to keep our heating costs low. We'd like to build a wood shed so that we can buy a winters' worth of wood all at once, instead of buying more halfway through the winter when costs are high, and the wood is not as well seasoned (meaning we burn more in order to get enough heat). These things all cost more money up front, but will pay huge dividends in the long-run.

Many of the Peak Oil blogs I follow have indicated that we have already reached the Peak (in July of 2008), and that we will soon begin the descent. Oil prices, in spite of the economy, are beginning the creep upward, and it won't be long before they surpass the prices of 2008. Is anyone else feeling a sense of urgency in preparing for the future? If so, what concrete steps are you taking to make sure your family is fed, clothed, and has a roof over their heads? Are you concerned that Global Warming might beat it to the punch? Have you tried to influence your loved ones to help make them more aware, and thus become a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem? How have you gone about it?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Vacation & Travel Cups

I'm so excited, we are leaving in two days to go visit my family for a couple of weeks. It's a 3-day car drive, so wish us luck! :) We'll be stocking the car with lots of activities (including a couple of surprises to be pulled out during the trip when the kids start getting antsy), and most importantly, lots of snacks! I'll be making some homemade trail mix, bringing lots of fruit, and some water and juice. On our last trip home, it was right in the midst of all the BPA frenzy, and I was desperate to find some drinking cups or water bottles for the car. I think we stopped in just about every city on our travels, and everyone was cleaned out of stainless steel water bottles. When we finally arrived at our destination, we found some stainless steel bottles, and I quickly snapped them up (at a fairly steep price, I might add), only to discover that they leaked HORRIBLY, and the store we bought them from refused to take them back. We kept them for the year, but I curse them every time I use them, as the water ends up everywhere. Not this time, baby. I've been eyeing these Safe Sippies for quite awhile now. They're $17.99 a piece, so I was a little hesitant, but we decided to go ahead and purchase them. They're fully stainless steel, and have these great rubbery, colourful sleeves on them so that the kids' hands don't get cold. The top is plastic, but it's a completely safe, non-leaching type (#5, I believe), and the only time the water comes into contact with the plastic is when they're actually drinking. I absolutely wanted stainless steel for the trip, because plastic is bad enough under regular circumstances, but you definitely don't want it sitting in a hot car, as that is when the plastic will start to leach. The kids have been test-driving these for the past couple of days, and so far they've been fabulous! Thank goodness. I also love that each kid now has their very own water bottle... and they keep the same one all day long! I no longer have a million cups to wash because I'm not sure who was drinking out of what cup.

The next two days will be spent cleaning and packing, so I doubt I'll be back to post before we leave. We'll be back somewhere around the end of July. So have a great couple of weeks, and I'll be sure and tell you all about our trip when we get back!