This chapter may seem like a horrible dark read, but it has actually brought a lot of joy, happiness and wellbeing into my life! Both for my health physically and mentally. It has also brought me closer to nature and I have learned a lot of great stuff 🙂
I have been worried about the environment since I was a kid. I think that goes for a big part of our generation and will be more and more for the coming ones. But still, I did´t really reflected so much about my own footprint in this world, until the last few years. You know – we expect the worlds leaders to act first. The big oil and coal companies. Until you realize the absurd fact that they are far to slow. They are starting to move, but it is big ships to turn. A lot easier to move one self. Grassroots act a lot faster! – And you are a part of it. The movement is getting big. We are not alone.
It also takes time to get aware all the ways we are entangled in polluting. Every single one of us. To read and really understand that we are all a part of this. That we all have responsibility: The Ability to Respond! It is not only the government that has to change, we all have the opportunity to act and be a positive change. Everything we do counts.
The problems has got bigger and bigger over the years. Getting aware of the devastating impact CO2 has on our climate has been the most scary part. The changes it does to our climate have a big chance to exterminate a huge part of life on this planet. Hopefully we can stop this before it turns out too bad even though it is already well underway. Another wake up call is seeing all the rubbish – especially plastic piling up all over the planet. This material takes forever to break down, and will stay with us for a very very long time. It is also a petroleum based toxic waste, disturbing many life forms hormones and killing all kinds of animals by choking and being indigestible. And it is applied for everything – it is everywhere in our daily life! The last big thing is reading about food and chemicals used for growing / feeding / making it, preserving it, wrapping it, and learning how it affects our health, and the health of our environment. Very many bad bad things. Getting more and more aware it is easy to get more and more depressed. And it does´nt help a bit just to know. One has to act to get rid of some burden!
But how? I guess everyone has their own way to find what suits you and how to change your lifestyle little by little. Here are some keys I used do change mine.
1. Try out a carbon footprint calculator. There are many out there, and you´ll get a lot of ideas what takes the biggest part in your daily life. The main three ones are transport, house – consumption of energy and eating meat.
A climate scientist said that if we all could just slow down the way we live a little and enjoy ourselves more, to take our time- our carbon consumption would also slow down. If it is possible, cut down on weekend- trips by plane, and rather take a long vacation when you are going – it would help a lot. Why not explore your own city – things you´d normally not do, but wanted to – or a near by village or mountain or lake in the weekends instead? For my own part I have decided to not go by plane if I can avoid it. I rather travel more slowly and take the train or bus and spend my time on board for something useful. It is actually very comfortable – not having to go to the airport, through the security control, all the waiting… Just to step on the train and settle down. Perfect for getting work done too.
In our homes. Is there any possibilities to change or optimize the way energy is spent? What kind of energy do you use? The renewable solutions today is getting smarter and cheaper as the days goes by. Even here, as far north as in Norway there are refund solutions (differs from commune to commune. Oslo gives 40 % refund!) to help finance solar panels. This is because they work really well! One of my amazing friends bought a little farm and decided to have solar collectors for heating. It was not expensive to install, and tubes run from the collectors on the roof and down into the floor in the house. This way she got her under floor heating, and warm water. She also installed a big water tank above her fireplace, that is integrated in the same tube system. In wintertime when she lit up the fire, the heat will again float into the floor and heat the whole house. It is a great way to distribute energy! There are so many solutions. We just have to look them up and dare to take new steps into the future.
Remember that even small things add up in the big picture. A small example
2. Getting to know the Zero Waste movement. It was like a fairytale. But how can anyone live like that? I wondered when I first discovered it. You have to change so many things about the way you live! Slowly I understand it isn´t actually so hard! It is just about taking one step at a time. And it really helped to read some blogs about how to exterminate rubbish from daily life. By doing this I also got rid of a lot of products that are harmful both for health and for the environment. This comes to both food and all kinds of cosmetic products. If you read the ingredient list and see there are a lot of chemicals you have no idea what is, – then don´t buy it. There are SO many things you easily can make yourself! This became (and still is) a project where I learn to make a lot of stuff, or to find products that are made with few ingredients and are in a “pick and mix” form – no wrappings. With our global brain – the internet – you can find all kinds of recipes for everything you need. Buy your food and cosmetics in the purest form – with least ingredients. Preferably only one, and preferably organic. Organic food uses 40 % less CO2 during production than the chemically grown. It is also more sustainably grown, and no toxic cocktail for you. Win win win!
The mantra of the movement is: REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, ROT. In this order. To lower your consumption, always ask yourself when you are going shopping: “Do I really need this?” Very often the answer is No, not really. Well, then walk happily away. This is the refuse part. But what if you really need a couple of trousers? What to do then. One thing possible is to a) fix your old ones. Often there is just small defects you have to fix to be able to use them a year or five more. This will take some time, and you maybe have to learn a few skills to be able to repair them, but this is also a fun part – to be able to fix things. Ask for help if you need it! b) You can arrange a clothes swapping evening with your friends. We all have a lot of stuff in our closets we almost never use. Clear it out, and summon them together! The leftovers no one wants goes to the salvation army or something similar(reduce- part). The point is to avoid things being trash, and instead making them into a value. They are no value if they lay unused for years in your closet. Of course your trousers will wear out sooner or later, and then it is time for transforming. This is the recycle part. Maybe you can just cut of the legs, and then you have shorts? The best parts of the left over fabric can always be used for making something else, or at last it can be a cloth. You know these micro fiber cloths that magically cleans everything so easy? They are a great producer of micro plastic. So stop using them, and make your own cloths from worn out clothes instead! For windows and mirrors newspaper is an excellent spotless way to clean. Our grandmother used it, and it works very well. Finally – When the cloth is worn out, it is time for it to rot. If you are lucky / conscious to buy clothes in natural fibres such as linen, cotton, silk or wool, you can put it in your compost-bin and it will turn into soil you can use for your plants! And WOALA! The product has done a perfect circling journey. No waste is produced, only value. And the bonus, as you can imagine, there is also a lot of money to save from this process. Use your money for experiences and adventures instead of things 🙂
Of course – a lot of money goes into finding good quality products, especially food. I guess I have a little below medium income, and I can basically eat whatever I want, so it´s not THAT expensive. It also depends what kind of food you eat. I only eat meat occasionally, and finding sustainably ecologically farmed meat can be quite expensive. But then again – if you respect the animal and uses it all – cook a good broth of the bones, freeze down in portions and use more of vegetables and less meat, it gives you a lot. If you have to buy big quantities or want to so you can save some money, invite friends / family to share in parts.
To make less trash planning what to eat at least for lunch is a good idea. If you have to go to the shop every so often to buy something pre-fabricated like a salad or a yoghurt or just a BLT – even a coffee or a bottle of water! You´ll produce a lot of waste. Of course it is “easy living” – no planning, no cleaning up. Just a big pile of rubbish that unfortunately does´t disappear so easily. At least it is possible to think twice, and take the rubbish back home and recycle it. (If you love soft drinks, here is a great switch – you can make yourself. And it is good for your health as well, contrary to any soda.)Here in Norway bringing your own food for lunch is normal, but to make it into something really good needs a little bit more creativity. I take care of the jars from the shop that used to contain pickles or jam or whatever, and use them for my home made delicious yoghurt with fresh berries / vanilla / honey / nuts or else. The bigger jars I use for salads / rice / bulgur. It is very easy, and beats all pre-fab foods in the store. For bringing sandwich I make my own “bee wrap”: pieces of cotton impregnated with beeswax. Reusable. I bring a thermos for coffee or tea, and (or) a glass bottle for water /kefir. Tap water in Norway is wonderful. if you live in a place it tastes like chlorine, just tap it into a bottle or glass, and leave it for a couple of hours. The chlorine will evaporate, and taste much better. Good thing to do on holiday, fill up som glass and bottles in your hotel room, and you always have it available.
The reason I prefer glass for bottles, is because (as mentioned before) plastic is a hormone disturbing material. So I try to eliminate my use of plastic in my daily life especially for food / drinks and cosmetics. I use the jars extensively in my kitchen, and try to make my own mayonnaise, jams, chocolate-spread, dressings, yoghurt, pesto, mustard, salsa, bean spreads and more. I also use them for making sprouts, which must be some of the healthiest most nutritious and cheapest food you can get hold of. Real good hearty fast-food! Pure proteins in live form. And – even if all you buy is organic and fair trade- saves you a lot of money compared to buy low quality pre-fab. coming with a lot of trash as well. Win win win again!
I still produce some waste. I make compost for the garden of all my organic waste, and I recycle all my paper and cardboard, glass, metal and plastic. But I know, especially for the plastic – that: 1) a lot of the plastic waste is of too poor quality to be recycled. This goes for the thin plastic bags used for fruits and pastries in the shop. So I sewed some transparent fabric bags I bring instead.. There are probably other plastic types not recyclable as well, but it is very difficult to get information about what is good enough. 2) It is used a lot of toxic chemicals to recycle plastic. Bottom line: I try to avoid it in every way. Some things are hard to come around. In our country all the organic fruits and vegetables in the grocery store are already wrapped in plastic. How ironic is that? There are a few shops, if you are lucky to live close to a big city, where you can buy all your organic food bulk weight. Even your flour, nuts, lentils and everything else! Bring you own jars / fabric bags, or buy a organic cotton bag to transport it in. I love the idea, but haven´t manage to visit one myself yet. I will. It is a super way to eliminate trash from our lives, and important to support. In many organic shops in smaller cities they have all the normal wrapped products, but at least it is possible to buy fruits and vegetables bulk weight. Check out your local organic / health store.
For personal care I guess I`ll make a separate post, or this one would go on forever.
-Taking Permaculture Design Course (PDC). There are so many things to learn and develop! Pc started off as a agricultural system to manage crops and animals in the most natural and self-sustaining way, and has developed into a complex system making the way we live and manage our surroundings into being natural and self-sustaining. There are associations all over the world, who teach this. The principles are the same, but of course every place on earth is different and adapted to where it is. So if you live in Latvia, you can take the course where ever you want in the world, but if you go to a tropical place, you won´t learn how to manage in your own climate. Most courses are just 10 days, and it is so much information in short time! I took mine 4 weekends over 2 years. This way we really got to implement the knowledge and also to make our own projects, we all presented at the end. And people have so many different approaches! We can learn so much from each other.
Then you might think: “- But I live in a city. I have no place to grow my own food and no urge to live simple out on the countryside” Well, who said you should? It is no problem to have a pc project in your tiny apartment in the middle of the city. Actually I think it is needed that more city people do! It is all about managing our environment, and getting aware of how things work together. It can be making sharing circles with your fiends or on fb or other social medias. It can be bicycling or walking to work instead of taking the car / public transport. It can be trying out bokashi compost. It can be filling a thermos with the left over boiled water you made for tea, so you won´t have to boil water again for your next cup. It can be making your own soaps. Or putting your eggs in cold water when you are about to cook it, instead of boiling the water first. Wearing an extra sweater or move a bit more instead of turning up the heat in your rooms. It is about observing and finding good new patterns. And I bet you´ll find a whole other set of solutions than I did!
For many people taking steps to do changes in your life because of considerations towards the environment seems like extreme and a big sacrifice. I can honestly tell you that for me it is not! It makes me feel really great! The fact that I as an individual can actually do something important just by making some adjustments (for the better) of my daily routines is meaningful and lovely. It has increased the quality of my life. Living more slow is a luxury more people could benefit a lot from. It might take some practice 🙂 Take your time to find your way, what ever little change it is, it is better than it was before.
And last but not least, if you want to be a part of doing bigger changes into the future and have some ideas -especially if you live in a small commune: Join a political party or organization. Just as a supporting member, or actively. If so it will take some time and energy, but it is fantastic when you realize you can actually be part of making changes happen. And you are going to meet a lot of great people who wants to make good changes too. Good inspiration 😉