Lifestyle Report – as of Mar 2015

This is my fifth Report (usually once/twice a year) as a way of assessing my successes, targets, improvements and areas I need to be more vigilant with when it comes to simple, ethical, environmentally sustainable and community living.

It might not be an interesting entry to read but it’s a way to keep myself accountable and constantly improving my lifestyle.

I’ve highlighted positive changes in green and backwards steps red. So, as of today:

ETHICAL/SUSTAINABLE LIVING

• grocery shopping (with % of how often I do it)
— observing a vegan lifestyle (due to my work and my beliefs, I allow myself some leeway but am committed to greatly reducing or eliminating meat and dairy everywhere possible (90%)
— local green grocer for veg (75%)
— leftover bread free at end of baker business day (0% – though eating less bread in general);
— skip-dipping/dumpster diving (0% – slack but they are hard to find and I’m not really looking)
— major supermarket for all else (30% – Coles/Woolies, 70% – Foodland (local);
— Fair Trade where possible (tea, chocolate, recent clothing)
— organic where possible/affordable (15% – food, soap & shampoo; some research suggests organic isn’t necessary for many things. Will have to check more on this))
— use Ethical Guide to boycott bad companies (20% – need more vigilance here as I’m going off older info at times);
— boycott GMO foods (50% where possible; as above, using old info)
— boycott food with known cruel processes (90% where known)
— food miles, locally produced (50%)
— meat consumption (0% of meals)
— dairy consumption (5-10%)
— toilet paper from Who Gives A Crap (50% of proceeds go to developing countries with poor sanitation to help built toilets) (100%)

• grow own food (10% – tomatoes, eggplant, herbs)

• household shopping: I only buy new from store if I can’t get from op shop or build myself;
— purchased new in past year:
—– furniture (0%)
—– clothes (10%)
—–accessories (15%)
—– car (0%)

• home energy:
— electricity: (house-sitting and traveling for next 6 months so we’re not contributing excessively to power consumption, plus there are mixed resources)
—– solar/renewable = some
—– aircon/heating (15%)
—– computer (off at night)
—– fridge (borrowed)
—– dryer (0%);
— water:
—– rainwater tank (50% – places we are staying)
—– grey water for garden (15% – washing machine only)
—– shower avg. duration (5 mins)
—– garden (10%)
—– dishwasher (0%)
—– washing machine (top loader 2/5 star rating)

• waste:
— food scraps (100% goes to compost);
— wasted food (5%);
— recyclables like glass, paper, aluminium cans (95% to recycle bin, 5% kept for food/household storage);
— wasted paper (minimal use of printer, kitchen & recycled toilet paper)
— wood (not saving wood at the moment as we are without a fixed address)
— white goods, electronics, equipment (0%)

Areas to Improve: fewer food miles; support local; buy organic if it makes sense & affordable; grow more of our own food; continue to consume less energy & town water. As it gets hotter, it is tempting to use aircon but we generally don’t succumb until about 35 degrees or more.

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SIMPLE LIVING
• “homeless” for the first time since backpacking years ago. Housesitting and WWOOFing for next 6 months at least.
• buy nothing that isn’t essential to the trip or work
• work less, spend time with hosts, wife and friends
• spend money on essentials, friends, charities;

Areas to Improve: this is about as simple as it gets so just keep expenses (like eating out) to a minimum

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ENVIRONMENTAL
• approx. annual carbon footprint (avg. based on lifestyle as of today): 4.0 tonnes of CO2 (Australian avg. 16.3 tonnes; world avg. 4 tonnes). SOme success to finally reach the global average!
• car usage per month – approx 400kms ; mileage (approx 10kms/L) – this will go up when we start our forthcoming road trip
• bus instead of drive (20%)
• ride/walk/skate instead of motor transport (20% – 3min skate/ride to shops)
• return flights in past year – domestic (1), international (1); This year was a flight for business.

Areas to Improve: take fewer flights; walk/skate/bus more rather than car; use less electricity; aim for 4 tonnes/yr CO2 including travel

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COMMUNITY
• I live with my wife and dog; most friends are the same distance or closer now though
• intentional community living (share house or close living) = YES on this trip for next few months
• share property or resources with community = on this trip, all resources will be shared, including meal-time
• collect hard rubbish from neighbourhood (not for now, but usually, when we have a fixed address)
• engage in conversation or help with mentally/physically challenged people in neighbourhood (0%)
• give to charities (monthly to: 3 x global aid, 2 x animal, 2 x activism organisation, 1 x community fund )
• volunteer with some friends’ and charitable projects
• community gatherings for shared weekly meals and social activities

Areas to Improve: aim to achieve closer and more intentional community; share more resources; give more to charities; get more involved with meaningful & helpful projects

MAR 2015 SUMMARY: I’m still struggling to directly engage in the areas I want to see change (other than lifestyle – vegan, simple living, low-impact, recycle/reuse/repair), namely animal protection and climate-related. I guess it’s hard to know how to make a living while doing it. I’m not one who is big on studying so that’s one problem. If I can meld my interests in filmmaking and other artistic pursuits with my activist desires, I can probably make a big go of it. The follow on to that would be hanging out with a more like-minded community which would likely include lowering environmental impacts further plus be a better group to live with from the point of view of emotional connection. We’ll see how our forthcoming trip to visit intentional communities and like-minded groups fares!

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Trading fairly is easier than ever

Fair Trade – the acquisition of goods from sources where people have been paid a fair wage for their work in a sustainable way – is an idea that has been around for 50 years but has become an organised movement over the past 20 years. fair trade woman2

When it comes to certain products like coffee, tea and chocolate there is no excuse for everyone to be reaching to pick up anything but Fair Trade-produced goods these days as there are many options. It only takes a slight bit more effort to seek these options out and then you can feel good about your purchase.

Other than these items, there are heaps of fair trade options for clothing, health & beauty products, rice, oils, sweets, sugar and many more items. When combined with organic farming practices and even animal-free ingredients, then you really know that what you’re eating/using is truly healthy and cruelty-free.

Here’s a good service called TradeAsOne.com to help you out. I think it’s a clever video and they offer quite a selection of goods:

We have to be aware that the products we purchase from big corporations often come at the expense of someone else’s well-being so to start using a bit more care when buying items we commonly use, we will all be able to reduce the amount of people enslaved or farmers being bullied into providing their goods at below reasonable rates.

Have yourself an ethical little Christmas…

christmas pig

As Christmas approaches, I am feeling very passionate about reducing the amount of cruelty-created products in my life and the lives around me, so I’m hoping you’ll take a PLEDGE to try to do this yourself this season.

Christmas represents a time when people gather for meals, share gifts and eat too much chocolate. All I am hoping is that you’ll consider reducing your intake of animal products and if you do, then source Fair Trade or ethical/humane options (see options below). And with the gifts you purchase, please consider where it came from and reduce the likelihood that it was procured using slave labour.

Some suggestions:

— chocolate: please avoid milk chocolate as the milk comes from antibiotic-filled, tortured animals. Especially the cheaper chocolate which will also be using cocoa beans picked by slave labour. With cheap chocolate, you are usually also supporting a multinational company that cares nothing about welfare and only about bottom-line earnings. Aim for dark chocolate with the Fair Trade logo on it http://fairtrade.com.au/  If you think you can’t afford to pay a bit more, chances are you should just save your money altogether and not buy ANY chocolate as neither you, nor the planet, can afford the cost of this luxury!

— meat: try to find alternative options to meat altogether. With everyone ramping up with their traditional of consuming a bounty of meat they usually eat this time of year, the number of animals slaughtered reaches an epic and horrifying high (Kill Counter: the moment you open the following web page, it tells you how many creatures have been killed from that moment on to deliver you the range of foods that humans have come to expect. I challenge you to watch it for 1 minute and then honestly assess how you feel about the totals you see: http://www.adaptt.org/killcounter.html )

If you MUST have some meat, please don’t buy the cheapest cuts which will definitely come from abusive factories. It’s not just how MANY animals are consumed, it’s how miserable they lived their lives. Why would you want to eat something that was terrified, miserable, orphaned and murdered? Look at the Humane Choice website ( http://www.humanechoice.com.au/ ) as an example of where to get ethical meat and eggs. Remember: every creature on this planet has the SAME RIGHT to be on this planet as YOU DO.

— consumer products: here’s a great guide to why it’s important and what/where you can buy to ensure a better chance that you’ll be getting stuff not made by slaves: http://www.ethical.org.au/consumer/christmas/christmas-gifts.htm There are also lots of charitable organisations like TEAR’s Useful Gift catalogue ( http://www.usefulgifts.org/ ) where you get to give something that actually helps someone else in a life-changing kind of way. It is after all the season for GIVING, right? 🙂

I try to live by these examples but none of us are perfect. However, if we all pledge to try to eat 50% less dairy, 50% less meat and be wary of where are other ‘stuff’ is coming from, that will already represent a positive change.

Will you take this pledge?

Lifestyle Report – as of Nov 2013

This is my fourth Report (usually once/twice a year) as a way of assessing my successes, targets, improvements and areas I need to be more vigilant with when it comes to simple, ethical, environmentally sustainable and community living.

It might not be an interesting entry to read but it’s a way to keep myself accountable and constantly improving my lifestyle.

I’ve highlighted positive changes in green and backwards steps red. So, as of today:

ETHICAL/SUSTAINABLE LIVING

• grocery shopping (with % of how often I do it)
— observing a vegan lifestyle (due to my work and my beliefs, I allow myself some leeway but am committed to greatly reducing or eliminating meat and dairy everywhere possible (90%)
— local green grocer for veg (75%)
— leftover bread free at end of baker business day (0% – though eating less bread in general);
— skip-dipping/dumpster diving (0% – slack but they are hard to find and I’m not really looking)
— major supermarket for all else (20% – Coles/Woolies, 70% – Foodland (local);
— Fair Trade where possible (tea, chocolate, recent clothing)
— organic where possible/affordable (25% – food, soap & shampoo)
— use Ethical Guide to boycott bad companies (50% – need more vigilance here);
— boycott GMO foods (70% where possible)
— boycott food with known cruel processes (90% where known)
— food miles, locally produced (50%)
— meat consumption (0% of meals)
— dairy consumption (5-10%)
— toilet paper from Who Gives A Crap (50% of proceeds go to developing countries with poor sanitation to help built toilets) (100%)

• grow own food (10% – tomatoes, eggplant, herbs)

• household shopping: I only buy new from store if I can’t get from op shop or build myself;
— purchased new in past year:
—– furniture (0%)
—– clothes (10%)
—–accessories (15%)
—– car (0%)

• home energy:
— electricity:
—– solar/renewable = no
—– aircon/heating (15%)
—– computer (off at night)
—– fridge (2/5 star rating)
—– dryer (0%);
— water:
—– rainwater tank (0% – no longer have one)
—– grey water for garden (15% – washing machine only)
—– shower avg. duration (5 mins)
—– garden (10%)
—– dishwasher (0%)
—– washing machine (top loader 2/5 star rating)

• waste:
— food scraps (100% goes to compost);
— wasted food (5%);
— recyclables like glass, paper, aluminium cans (95% to recycle bin, 5% kept for food/household storage);
— wasted paper (minimal use of printer, kitchen & recycled toilet paper)
— wood (90% saved for building material); haven’t built much now that I have what I need!
— white goods, electronics, equipment (0%)

Areas to Improve: fewer food miles; support local; buy organic if it makes sense & affordable; grow more of our own food; continue to consume less energy & town water. As it gets hotter, it is tempting to use aircon but we generally don’t succumb until about 35 degrees or more.

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SIMPLE LIVING
• build most of my own furniture (lounge daybeds, coffee table, office desk, outdoor tables & seats)
• other furnishings have been donated (bed, futon, tv & DVD) or secondhand (kitchen table & chairs, office chair, rug);
• buy nothing that isn’t essential to the household or work
• work less, spend more time connecting with friends & family; (has been a very busy past 3 years. Trying to find that work-life balance again)
• spend money on essentials, friends, charities;

Areas to Improve: connect more with real (not virtual) people

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ENVIRONMENTAL
• approx. annual carbon footprint (avg. based on lifestyle as of today): 4.5 tonnes of CO2 (Aus avg. 16 tonnes; world avg. 4 tonnes). This is not including my poor flight behavior below 😦
• car usage per month – approx 400kms ; mileage (approx 10kms/L)
• bus instead of drive (20%)
• ride/walk/skate instead of motor transport (10% – 15min walk to shops)
• return flights in past year – domestic (2), international (2); Unfortunately, the past couple of years have been baaad. This year was a flight for personal and one trip for business.

Areas to Improve: take fewer flights; walk/skate/bus more rather than car; use less electricity; aim for 4 tonnes/yr CO2 including travel

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COMMUNITY
• I now live with my wife so no more commuting to see one another; most friends are the same distance or closer now though
• intentional community living (share house or close living) = no
• share property or resources with community (some household items, driving, food with my wife’s best friend; borrow from other friends occasionally)
• collect hard rubbish from neighbourhood
• engage in conversation or help with mentally/physically challenged people in neighbourhood (0%)
• give to charities (monthly to: 3 x global aid, 2 x animal, 2 x activism organisation, 1 x community fund )
• volunteer with some friends’ and charitable projects
• community gatherings for shared weekly meals and social activities

Areas to Improve: aim to achieve closer and more intentional community; share more resources; be more accepting of minority/disadvantaged; give more to charities; get more involved with meaningful & helpful projects

NOV 2013 SUMMARY: overall, doing the right things still but still not socialising much due to workload. Some areas I can still be a bit more green. Would love to get more friends to jump onboard different aspects of sustainable, ethical or green living but am still trying to take the approach of “be the change you want to see in the world” however it is not always easy not to promote/preach, be judgmental or not be hypocritical. Involving myself in a great deal more research, protests and campaigns and becoming more politically aware. Taking a strong stance against animal cruelty and using social media to regularly drop hints to friends/the public. Trying not to become overwhelmed or too despondent about the current state of the world and others’ apathy to change!

Defeating my cravings

Yum!! No, no...naughty...

No matter how much great-tasting healthy food I eat, I never crave it like I crave junk food: chocolate, hot chips, ice cream, potato/corn chips. Why does stuff that tastes so good have to be bad for you?? (I know there are healthier versions of all these items, but I don’t crave those versions either!) Naturally, you don’t have to be a health-food Nazi to live simply, but I suppose as you start living ethically, all these things follow suit as it seems that so many of the companies that produce junk food are also unethical in their business practices (I wonder why this is? No really, I want to know why!).

I got a craving tonight for ice cream. I told myself that I could supplant this need with salt & vinegar chips if the ice cream was unattainable. It was 10:30pm. I had my car keys in hand and I thought “what are you doing? You don’t need this right now, at this time of night. And, all the companies who make what I want are evil!” I was so very right! Sitting down at the computer and looking online (ah, the Internet, how I love thee…), I found that my second ice cream choice, a McDonalds hot fudge sundae, comes from a company voted several times as the world’s most unethical company. From destroying rainforest to building farms for their cattle to illegally underpaying staff, they are a wasteful and shameful company from a respectable business point of view. I knew their food was fatty and unhealthy, but this will seal the deal for me never going there again.

My first ice cream choice, Streets’ Magnum series, I found listed in the great iPhone app “Shop Ethical!” which is a searchable database that tells you all about most food products sold in Australia and rates them for their ethical behavior. Streets is a Unilever subsidiary, and Unilever have a poor ethical score due to animal testing and human rights issues, and generally poor ethical practices, shameful for one of the largest companies in the world.

The backup plan of potato chips would have either come from Doritos (owned by Pepsico who sit near the bottom of several responsible shopping guides and ethiscores; though I could’ve gone with CC’s who get a decent score) or salt n’ vinegar ones from Smiths (also Pepsico; Samboy or Kettle would be ok). There are some alternatives to the unethical companies but you have to know who is owned by whom. For example, between the infamously dubious Nestlé, Mars and Kraft companies, there are hundreds of subsidiaries that you probably don’t realise have these irresponsible umbrella groups controlling them. When I was looking for dog food in Coles today, every single bag of dry food was owned under Mars & Nestlé even though there were all of: Purina, Lucky Dog, One, Beneful, Pedigree, Pal, Chum, My Dog, Good-o, Optimum and Supercoat. In addition to boycotting these companies, best to write the producers and suppliers and tell them what you think as it’s the only way they’ll know that we want some change to take place. I wrote Coles today to tell them this.

Anyway, at the end of it all, I safely convinced myself that I was doing the right thing by denying myself of these treats (which in itself is very good practice) and instead had some fresh bread dipped in balsamic vinegar & fresh, local olive oil. ‘Twas tasty for my tum too; better yet, it was tasty for my conscience! 🙂

Green Smart Pots

I was in South Australia’s McLaren Vale wine-growing region recently and met a lovely gentleman and olive farmer named Tony who sold us some tasty homemade olive oil and then proceeded to show us some of his organic veggies. He had this amazing veggie patch with beautiful, healthy herbs and veggies all growing in these plastic tubs. He mentioned a business that his uncle had started called Green Smart Pots which were what we were observing here which have a clever self-watering system especially designed for Australia’s strict water restrictions. Little “wicks” draw the water up from the base and keep the plants healthy without over or under-watering them. This sort of thing has been around for awhile, but these were excellent designs that we could see working beautifully with our own eyes.

This is something I have been putting off due to being in a rental house situation and not wanting to alter things too much. That, and also not wanting to put a lot of effort into a garden only to leave one day and not be able to take it with me. This system definitely solves both problems and gives people with even the most modest amount of space a way to grow their own food and steal back from the big grocery stores the expensive, chemical-covered, food-mile laden and generally poor excuse for fresh veggies and herbs that they peddle!

Not Buying It

I’ve just been going through a mini bout of poverty: no jobs rolling in, Christmas costs just past, bills to pay, etc. So I’m down to a few cents in the ol’ bank accountaroodle. But it’s all good. Great actually to be firm with myself about delving into credit just so I can live comfortably rather than tightening up and just doing less, spending less and eating what’s left in the cupboard Not Buying It book cover(it’s surprising how many meals you can make when you think the cupboards are empty! In fact, during my housesitting period, I chucked out countless boxes worth of old food from people’s cupboards that could’ve saved them $$ heaps on buying new stuff when they didn’t need to…anyway, that’s another story!).

Coinciding nicely with buying less and just dealing with it, Heidi and I have started reading a book called Not Buying It by Judith Levine. It’s started off a bit doom-and-gloom as many of the books I’ve read of late about climate change and unsustainable practices are, but it looks to be an interesting read as she chronicles a year of her life not buying anything that is “non-essential”. She keeps a chronological journal that shows how she does through a whole year of reducing her consumeristic behavior.

In general, but especially when money is hard to come by, I like this thinking. I’d love to try doing a whole year of buying only “essential” stuff but I imagine it’d be hard. With less income rolling in, I guess you’re forced into that kind of action anyway, made even more obvious when you see how homeless and under-developed nations live like this all the time. Of course, this sort of “experiment” is the extreme as most of us don’t choose to live such a hard life, but I suppose if we all pulled back just that extra bit and reconsidered the true necessity and impact of every non-essential thing we buy, we’d be making some headway with the global crisis.