Almost a year ago to this exact day I realized I was being something of a hypocrite. Here and in my personal life with family and friends I talked 24/7 about living a "green" lifestyle. Having a small carbon footprint. Well I might have been doing a lot more than most people, but to be honest I wasn't doing much.
So I came up with this novel idea. Instead of telling people how they should lead their lives, maybe it would be a good idea to just show them by doing it myself. So I did. This is my one year report card on that experience.
Grow My Own Food/Compost
One of the things that is nice about living in southern Illinois is I can throw a rock in any direction in the summer and hit a farmers market. But why not grow my own food? I went with the square foot garden method and made my own soil from organic stuff. It wasn't cheap, but it worked. Not a single chemical of any kind was used.
If anything, it was too successful. I figured I'd kill a lot of stuff, so I planted stuff close together. Far too close. Nothing died.
By the end of summer I was giving away food to anybody that would take it. I spent $287 on the soil, lumber, and plants. I estimate I got close to $400 in produce. This year, and the garden is going in tomorrow (I am behind), that will be all "free" food. I am going to double the size.
Note: I also just found out I can have chickens on my property. Since i could eat eggs like three times a day, this is something I am pondering.
Don't Drive/Park My Car & Leave It
Now this was something easier for me then most, since I work out of my house. But I felt I should just give it a try. I've not driven a car in more than a year. I don't even miss it. I spent $179 to put some bags on my mountain bike, learned my local bus and metro system, and not looked back. I admit the first month was hard, but to be honest it quickly became kind of easy. My family thinks I am crazy (not a first), but honestly it was one of the best things I've ever done. I often find on my mountain bike or walking to the store, is when my mind is most clear, and lucid. I literally have had a few ideas that have made me tens of thousands of dollars, I don't think I ever would have thought of in my car. I've lost a few pounds, to finally get at the exact weight I want to be. My $40,000 German sedan sits alone. Not touched in a year. Heck the thing long ago won't even start.
Cut My Power Usage
I have way, way more house than I need. Single, never married, with a five bedroom house. My power bill averages right at $200/month. I wanted to cut that in half. I have. Last month I paid $105.27. I have become almost manic about turning off lights. In the winter I wear layers. Heck I kid you not at one point last winter I was wearing a knit hat in my house. In the summer I use fans. Vents are only open for AC in my home office and bedroom. I had an antic fan installed I use in the spring and summer. I am saving around $1,500 a year in power bills. That is a vacation. A kick ass new computer. That is "real" money folks.
Folks here helped me out a lot with this. I mean in hindsight I can't believe I didn't think of this myself a lot sooner, but I live in fucking rural IL. With just a few phone calls I found I could get any meat I wanted. I mean anything, all local. Often the food I eat I've held and/or feed. I've even found, buying like a quarter cow, if you can afford the one-time purchase, is actually cheaper than buying a pound of hamburger or a steak here or there. This was stupid simple. Also one of the best things I've ever done. I am only about 70%. I still might pick up a pack of pork chops or a bag of chicken breasts, but I'll get to 100% soon.
I've cut my trash down to maybe less than one pound a week. I no longer use a printer. I don't get any paper or magazines. All bills are online only. I don't buy anymore soda, just use tea bags. I compost almost everything. When I buy meat or eggs, well most of it is put into containers I provide, not plastic. Veggies I might have bought in a can, well usually come from my garden or a farmers market. I no longer buy kitty litter in bags, but plastic bins I can refill at Pet Smart or use to store stuff like charcoal or rock salt. Outside of a few things, like plastic when I buy something at a "regular" grocery store, my waste footprint is almost zero.
If there is one thing you can take away from this, and clearly I could do more, it is this. This stuff isn't hard. It isn't rocket science. There have been many studies that show if you can just do something for 30 days straight, it starts to become a habit. Something you continue to do and don't even really notice it. That is exactly what I found here.
That some of these things, although not easy at first, just became habits I don't even notice. And they are habits that serve a dual purpose. They are good for the world I live in and they SAVE ME MONEY!