Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Back to Basics

As you know, I have joined up with "That Little Bit Greener" and the topic for this week is 'tips for greener living'.

I'm afraid that when it comes to being 'green', I'm a bit of a fundamentalist. My (estranged) birth family consider me to be a militant bean-eating hippy with socialist tendencies, which is pretty horrific in their materialistic view. Clearly, as you can see, I do not fit this description - at least on the outside. Too many people see being 'green' as being 'boring' or 'crusty'. or 'weird'. It's not true. Anybody can be green, and the best place to start is in the way you think. So my tip for this week is to read this book:

(I've said it before and I'll say it again!)

What's the point of reading this book?

Because being green is more than just recycling our plastic containers and consuming greener goods. It is about changing our values radically to encompass a greener lifestyle.

In order to do this, we must understand and take responsibility for our actions. It's not about simply choosing 'organic' over 'mass produced' or absolving the guilt of buying heavily packaged goods by recycling. It is about questioning both the nature and volume of our daily consumption and re-assessing our role as individuals in transforming the fundamental inequalities in today’s world economy.

The best quote from this book that I can give you to illustrate the point goes like this:

"Each and every quarter pound of hamburger is handed across the counter after the following production costs which i've searched out precisely: 100 gallons of water, 1.2 pounds of grain a cup of gasoline, greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to those produced by a six mile drive in your average car, and the loss of 1.25 pounds of topsoil, every inch of which took five hundred years for the microbes and earthworms to build. How can all this cost less than a dollar, and who is supposed to pay for the rest of it? If I were a cow, right here is where i'd go mad."

Living a less clutter-filled, more simple life means quality not quantity and most importantly, it means being able to assess the difference between what we really need over what we simply just want. It is therefore about having less impact on our own environment and in doing so, the wider environment, inspiring ourselves and others to ask what is really important: our convenience or the future of the planet? It is about not taking more than our fair share and ensuring that life remains worth living for future generations.

The Government is very good at blaming us for the impending ecological crisis and as consumers we are largely to blame, however, supply matches demand and we can challenge government and industry to adopt greener policies by voting with our pennies to ensure that we buy, and therefore demand, more compassionate and ethically sound products.

In short, being 'green' is a form of self-empowerment based on choice not denial and for me personally, it is a practical commitment to the earth itself.

"Small Wonder" is a collection of brilliant and insightful essays covering topics which range from genetic engineering, and world poverty, through to motherhood, sustainability and conservation and although written from the perspective of an American, the issues discussed can be applied to a lifestyle anywhere in the West. Although I was already writing about environmental issues by the time I read this book several years ago, the lessons I learned from it were life changing for me and I have read it many many times since then. The reason I recommend it over all other 'eco' books, is because of the way it is written. It doesn't preach, it doesn't evangalise, it doesn't tell you what to do and the writer does not proport to be perfect or expert in any way. She simply puts forward her opinions and ideas in a down to earth manner which every woman/wife/mother can relate to and take action upon. In her own words:

"I'm skeptical of evangelism so I'm not going to have a tent revival here. But if you've come with me this far, you are in some sense a fellow traveler and I'm glad for your company. In this congregation we don't confess or sit around chanting "we are not worthy"; we just do what we can and trust that the effort matters."


dottycookie said...

Thanks for this thoughtful post. I'll have to see if the mobile library can get hold of that for me. We've (well, mainly me since I'm the one who plans the meals and shops and cooks) been hugely reducing the amount of meat we eat here for both economical and environmental reasons - I'm not sure my husband has even noticed yet!

monica said...

how true and thought provoking.


Pomona said...

I agree with you entirely! And most people I know think I am a lentil-eating hippy! I haven't read the book, although I have read her other book on a year of eating only local, seasonal, home-grown food - which is very good. Have you investigated permaculture at all? I have done a PDC, and permaculture is about this sort of thing - not just growing your own, but as a set of principles for living your life in a sustainable way.

Pomona x

Anonymous said...

sounds like the book to read... i agree that we have choices and it is a question of attitude... taking only what we need, being responsible and respecting our environment for future generations really is the key and as always you have put it so perfectly... i like your attitude of not seeing it as going without but quality versus quantity... am so with you on that.. i am also with for the journey for sure mrs marmalade. xxx

Gina said...

Fabulous thought provoking post Julia. Must look out the book as I though Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was brilliant.

dubgirl said...

Thanks for the post, I had never heard of the book before, but I really like the last bit of the second quote about doing what you can and then hoping/trusting that it will help. I guess if we all did something, it would probably make a huge difference.

Tracy said...

Amen to all that, Julia! Very much enjoyed this post which echoes a lot of my own feelings...I've not read this particular book, but have read much on these topics. But I'll be adding this book to my list. My own dear loving family consider me to be something of a lentil-eating-nature freak...LOL! I've not eaten meat in 8 years...I wonder how many cows I've saved? Going green with you, my friend! Happy Day ((HUGS))

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the book recommendation, my library can reserve it for me, so I have put the request through.

The last part of your post is right. I spend a lot of time feeling that Im not worthy on my green efforts, which can make me want to give up. I have to try to keep on going a little at a time!

I have just started (this week) blogging about my journey, mainly as a way to keep myself on track!

Diane said...

I loved this post Julia, but now - thanks to your description - I have an image of you stuck in my head - Milly Tant from Viz!!
I'm much happier doing simple things but friends and colleagues do think I am a nutter! The best bit about being almost 50, is that I don't really care what anybody thinks anymore.

Primrose Corner said...

Brilliant and thoughtful post. It's obviously a book to get hold off. Apart from my son's nutritional issues the rest of us are veggie - but I don't fuss too much about cheese (rennet).

This lady seem to have similar views - about sustainable living... growing and the like

This last 18 months has been quite an adventure for us as a family towards living a more sustainable lifestyle.... hopefully we're moving in the right direction. I'll have to get that book and see what else she says. Have a good weekend. :)

Emma & Rachel said...

Brilliant, well writen post, Julia. That last quote sounds like just what TLBG is about. I'm going to ask my library if they can get that for me. Thanks again for taking part.

Jessica said...

I just read her book Poisonwood Bible which is also excellent. I recommend checking it out.