Six Month Summary

As of March 5th, this blog was six months old. As of September, I’ve started packing my own lunches, biking to work (when I wasn’t riding the bus), made a shopping bag and “audited” my plastic use, tried out some resolutions to make my holiday season sustainable, culled my belongings, and attempted composting a few times- all in an effort to live better, whatever that means. Biking and culling were the biggest successes. I haven’t started a good composting culture yet, and I have still have an odd relationship with plastics.

The biggest change I’ve made, though, wasn’t due to a monthly goal at all. By moving to Old Town (necessitating the culling and negating the biking to work), I’ve decreased my footprints of all kinds (except the kind that I actually walk with). It’s allowed me to sleep more, get more exercise, and use stairs at home instead of the elevator. After the flurry of move-driving, my car sat unused for almost a week: barring some specific errands and classes, it’ll stay right where it is. Since it’s been sitting, the price of gas has gone up 15 cents a gallon. The closest grocery stores- Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Giant, MOM’s, and the farmer’s market- are all well stocked with organic and/or locally grown foods. Now I have to pay utilities separately, and I can have more direct control over how much energy I use- since I’ll know how much it is. And I have three house mates who are wonderful, and wonderfully tractable, and whom I’m secretly (not very secretly) hoping to inflame.

Inflame with sustainability, that is. Anyway. A while back, I took myself to task for not having defined what sustainability means. I’ve worked on that a bit, and I’ve come up with something round about but better than nothing.

One definition of sustainable living isn’t going to pertain to everyone- and it shouldn’t. Everyone’s got a different pet “green” issue- no plastic vs no cars vs global warming doesn’t exist because it’s cold out vs no nukes, etc. I’m not a zealous environmentalist. I don’t think this problem can be solved with one fix (no oil!). In order to live sustainably, I must first and foremost be an open environmentalist, willing to consider differing points of view, and informed enough to determine which makes sense. Next, I must live practically and thoughtfully, with a view to finances and the human, environmental, and moral costs of my actions. Under this all, though, I must be able to live- work and play and learn and all that stuff. So much of sustainability is seen as limiting- we can’t do this because of those whiny polar bears, we can’t eat that because of the toxic wastes. I think the emphasis should be on how much can we do, individually and as humanity, while still living within sensible boundaries- how much can I do with how little?

The unanswered question there is, how little is little enough? I’ll leave that hanging for now. I suspect it has something to do with “little enough so that everybody can use the same amount”, but given the different ways to measure that (carbon footprint? resource use?), and that merely by living in the US I’m using way more than my fair share, it’s intractable. The answer to climate change and sustainable living is not “move to a developing nation and start subsistence farming”.

I think large environmental issues will only be solved through meaningful government and industry action, and only after we make some big technological innovations. I’m not holding my breath for government or industry help, though, and I’ll do my small part to vote with magic machines and my money (for all it’s still worth) in the meanwhile.

That’s what I’ve got. Muddled, but let me know what you think. I appreciate discourse, after all- that’s first!

Odds and Ends: I never did hang up that biodegradable plastic bag from Harris Teeter outdoors (I forget where I promised this, but I did, and someone asked a while ago, and I still haven’t done it). When I find one, I’ll hold onto it until I get some duct tape, and fulfill my promise. Also, remember that debate I was having with the conservative blogger? It’s been so long since she called environmentalists Nazis and cited the Heartland Institute as a more authoritative body than the IPCC on the question of climate change that you’ve probably forgotten- I had, hurrah for archives. I pointed out certain factual and logical inaccuracies, she responded with silence, so I’ll take the Godwin’s Law victory and let it lie.

Thanks for your time, and your comments, and I’m excited for the next parts.  Keep coming back, but, oh ho, you’ll have to, since I cleverly told you all about the last six months without revealing March’s goal!  Mua hahaha.  Ha.  I’ll let you know once I think of it, or by Wednesday.

Handmade update: Knit scarf, three inches done, one completed stripe.

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2 Responses to “Six Month Summary”


  1. 1 Cameron March 11, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Great work Meg, Im so very proud of you for sustaining your sustainability blog for 6 months!!! That’s a long term relationship if I’ve ever been in one, so keep it up!

    It’s always nice to have a place where you can vent your ideas, and have pleasant, if sometimes heated, discourse with your friends without shouting over the Irish music at the bar.

    I like where you are going with your personal definition of sustainability, mostly because it was how I was raised, and how I try to continue living my life. In the late 1940’s, early 1950’s, the average American house hold ate 1 meat meal a week. The nuclear family stereotype of the mom bringing a pot-roast, or turkey dinner to the table was a cherished, and rare occasion, meant to celebrate a raise, good grades or birthday! Now we feel like we must consume two or three meat meals a day (“beef, it’s what’s for dinner”…EVERYNIGHT!!). The family drive threw the country side was something done once a month, now we wander the highways on the weekend because we’re bored (Gas is forever…RIGHT??). Buying new shoes only used to happen when you wore a whole in the bottom of your old pair, now we need the newest and hottest every season (Same with all clothing)!

    Now Im not a communist, and I do believe in the consumer driven market economy, but I do think we have become a consumer culture. Like you said, we don’t make wise choice, we just make lots of choices! This is NOT sustainable. Why should a market grow exponentially every year, why must we project oil, meat, industry uses out 20-30 years at steady growth? What is the problem with a steady, and level economy (with the inherent ups and downs we’ve seen through history)? When the DOW went over 100 in the 80’s, people didn’t think it would go higher, when it broke 10,000 in the 90’s, we felt it could go no lower! Changing this mindset, is the true task of Sustainability!

    I’ll get off my high-horse now, Im getting a nose bleed up here!

  2. 2 biking person March 12, 2008 at 10:16 am

    okay, sorry in advance that this is off-topic, but it’s a funny story and I thought I’d share.

    Catherine and I went down to Richmond on Sunday (and on the way paid $50 for 15 gallons of gas) to see her grandmother (Yaya). It was a fun trip and we went to a steakhouse and a couple of nurseries to get some plants for our backyard. We’d brought her some home-cooked food (yes, she got a slice of the strawberry-rhubarb pie too), and we had leftovers from lunch at the steakhouse (I can go into HUGE portion sizes later) so Yaya gave us a bag to carry it home in, so she opened her closet and fished out a re-usable grocery bag from her stack! She kept saying how great they were and that they were “only a dollar!”. When I asked her if she took them back to the store with her to get groceries, she said “of course not, they’re only a dollar”. Apparently she gives her friends little gift bags in them though, so I suppose it’s still way better than plastic, but I thought that the mindset was just about the funniest ever!


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