Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thoughts on the Changes at Hand

Yesterday was Transportation Day in the No Impact Project. There wasn't too much I could do about it yesterday, since I had an appointment for my dog to be groomed and it is a necessary drive to do that. But it did have me thinking that I could call around to places nearer to me, say in biking distance, and see how the prices compare. My dog is fine to ride in the trailer we had for the kids and now use primarily for grocery runs. I'll need to look into it.



Overall, though, I am looking at ways of riding more often and taking the bikes whenever we can. The kids and I have been biking every morning, sometimes joined by my husband (he works second shift, so he's not always completely awake or ready to go when we are), to increase our endurance for longer rides as well as windy days.



Today is Eat Local day. I don't know how well this one will work out for me immediately, because I'm not going to junk the food I already have and purchase something different just to eat local today. That said, we will be visiting a CSA farm this weekend and are likely to purchase a share. You can learn more about CSA farms at LocalHarvest.org.



There, you can also find out about farmers' markets in your area, co-ops, and more. I noted our downtown farmers' market hours and read some reviews - all good! I've never been because it has been an off and on thing and seems to have been revamped of late. So, I hope to visit it soon (by car, not bike... still too far...sigh).



Another thing I am doing food-wise, to not only eat more whole foods and boost our immune systems, but also decrease the grocery food bill with an eye toward more fresh food, is to make breakfast 6 days of the week for my family, cutting out all cold cereal, save for Saturday mornings. Even the "healthy" cold cereals at average grocery stores are loaded with high fructose corn syrup. They may be cheaper, but at what other cost? I decided I wanted to purchase the cereals at Whole Foods that are actually made from whole food. They are, of course, more expensive. But when we have it only once a week, the cost evens out. Yes, it's more work for me, but I am looking at it in a couple of ways:



First, living intentionally simply takes planning. It doesn't always take more time, but you have to be prepared. The time is taken in the planning so that you're not caught off guard missing a necessary ingredient or something of the like. This week when I planned for tofu scramble breakfast burritos, I took the tortillas out of the freezer the night before. Likewise, I prepared the dry ingredients in advance for Tuesday's morning muffins. Menus are essential. While I rotate meals for lunches (that is our big meal of the day, since Paul works evenings), breakfasts will be different each day, but the same breakfast for the same day, i.e. breakfast burritos every Monday, muffins on Tuesday, pancakes on Wednesday, etc. There is variety within those things: different muffins, different hot cereals, but it takes the guesswork out of planning.



Second, I feel like I'm practicing for the future. The years of cheap oil are fading fast and even if we don't completely wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, the oil that remains will be - and is already becoming - harder and harder to acquire. I don't believe that a year-round variety of all the fruits we currently see on grocery store shelves is going to be a reality for too much longer. We won't be eating food from New Zeland and Chile when it's not in season in this hemisphere. Seriously, we won't. And if it's not our generation that sees these changes, then it will be our kids or our grandkids. Wouldn't you rather practice and be prepared, be equipped to know how to operate in a future that is surely going to happen?

Like the current economic recession, I feel that making these changes now - trying them on for size, tweaking them and getting used to them while there is still room for error is going to benefit myself and my family in the long run. For example, we have been living debt-free (save for our mortgage) and frugally now for almost the entirety of our 14 years of marriage. Despite the fact that my husband was unemployed for 3 months in the summer of '08 and then found a job that pays him substantially less, we have still managed to save money this year. I'm not trying to toot my own horn; I was actually pretty surprised! I think I was surprised because, while for a few months there we really tightened our belts, our style of living did not drastically change. We are used to saying, "no" to certain things. We are used to saying, "no" to unnecessary conveniences. By the same token, I want to get used to shopping locally and get used to using alternative forms of transportation and get used to not relying on convenience foods. I want to get used to this before I have to get used to it and I'm ending up reacting to an emergency-type situation. I believe that is how some people who believed they could live their lives on rotating credit feel now. I don't want to feel that way when these energy choices are going to be made for us.

And I want my children to know how to do this too. I want to prepare them for the kind of future they very likely will face. Can anyone do that with a constant stream of Healthy Choice frozen dinners, or other packaged "foods", or even meals made from whole foods, but that are shipped literally thousands of miles to make it to my dinner plate?

It is hard doing this now. While I have always had an affinity for voluntary simplicity, I think that I am beginning to learn that time is limited for the actions to remain voluntary. Now don't get me wrong; I don't necessarily see a bleak future. While I do think things may be challenging, they will be challenging because they are new and different and not what we're used to, but I don't believe it will be all bad. The very fact that there will simply be others joining in the effort (by that time, perhaps, by no choice of their own) will ease the growing pains. Learning to work together for the benefit of all the planet - its people and its resources - together and for each other could make the future I see one that is very rewarding. I simply want to be able to walk confidently into that future with my family and be prepared to lead, at least in some way, rather than to follow.
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