Urban Adaptation

Sustainable urban living, rural dreams, and daily change for a homemade life.

Archive for the ‘Conscious consumption’ Category

Resolutions

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…of the somewhat loose variety.

Despite not generally going in for resolutions, this year I sat down and drafted a whole long list of them.  A too long list, I think, and probably a list that was just made for failure.

So, I scrapped much of the list, and now I’m keeping it simple with three general resolutions (in no particular order).

One: Take care of me.

I’m kind of lousy at taking care of myself, so this year, I want this to be more of a focus.  Less anxiety.  More sleep.  Less stress.  More exercise.  Less crap food.  More whole food.  Less TV.  More meditation.  Less stuff.  More space.  Less spending.  More saving.  All the stuff you’re supposed to do, really, for a healthy mind and body, but not really in any set ways that require tracking.  I simply more want to be in tune with what I need and try to work with that.

Two: Take care of work.

Basically, this translates to finishing the dissertation.  I want to be done by the end of the year, and I think it’s do-able.  That said, I also need to do some job-searching, apply for courses for next year, and generally keep on top of things, but I want work to be a significant but manageable focus this year, with a PhD in hand by the end of it all.

Three: Take care of the world.

I plan to keep up with making my life as sustainable as possible, and adding in a few new things as well.  I want to keep cooking, baking, walking, bringing my own bags, reducing my consumption, recycling, using public transit, biking, knitting, growing, turning off lights, taking short showers, and buying used.  I’d also like to add in some composting, additional growing, and sewing to the mix.

Now, I know I’m breaking the cardinal rule of goal- making – other than taking caring of work and the culmination of the dissertation, this is all rather not-measurable (therefore making it difficult to tell when, say, I’ve actually accomplished something.)  But I want things simple this year.  I want to go largely on gut reactions.  I want to get a sense of when things are working, change them when they’re not, and have the flexibility to do so.  A lot has changed last year, a lot will change this year, and I look forward to seeing what it all brings.

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Written by Jenn

January 1, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Full disclosure

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In the interest of full disclosure, on my first full day of TGAAD, I shopped.  Not for clothes – I’m good there – but I happened to be by the used bookstore today.  And they happened to have “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire“, both of which I’ve been wanting to read (and have checked the used bookstore for no less than 12 times).  So, they came home with me, along with a copy of “Trees: The Green Testament” and “The Poems of Tennyson” (I love me some graphic novels and some Arthurian-themed poetry).  $12 for the lot.

Also, in order to get my Christmas gift order of one CD up to the free shipping amount, I finally ordered “Alabama Studio Style” which has been sitting in my cart since before it was released, (I did use gift cards entirely for that, so I’m actually not out any money).  Not a necessity, but I appreciate the focus on homemade things, sustainability, storytelling, local food, and tradition, not to mention the fact that this one has the dress and tank top patterns that I’ve been coveting.

So, more books.  And more shopping, I suppose.  This should be the last for awhile, though, since the two earlier books were the last stragglers on my wish list (although I will likely have to keep my eye open for the third, and it strikes me that I have more gift certificates, and that Ashley English’s books on chickens and preserving have been in the queue for a long time as well).  I’m trying not to be too hard on myself over this, especially on the first day of the diet, and seem to be succeeding.  I’m also trying not to focus too much on supplanting clothes shopping with other forms of shopping either, justified or not, especially with books.  That said, there will be a new focus on reading what I have around here, and I’m still hoping that TGAAD will help change my rleationship to shopping in general, and not just with clothes.

Written by Jenn

December 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm

The Great American Apparel Diet

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I found out about TGAAD a few months back, but it didn’t really cross my mind to jump on board. Then, a few days ago, I was thinking about the New Year and resolutions (in the loosest sense) – wanting more time for the important things, thinking about getting my finances tightened up even more, and trying to declutter further – and it hit me that now would be a good time to get on board.  And, after a month of not shopping, this felt at least reasonably do-able as a project, and it seemed to fit well with my hope for a low shopping year. So, no new clothes (or new-to-me used clothes) until the end of August, 2011.

I don’t really spend a lot, mostly because I shop almost exclusively at thrift stores. But as a grad student, I’d rather be saving than spending, and given how little I currently make, it’s still a higher percentage of my budget than I’d like. Because thrift stores are cheap, I also have a lot of clothing – nice, good quality clothing, but certainly enough, and probably more than I need – and I could use the room. Finally, I spend more time shopping than I would prefer, looking for just the right things at just the right price.

So, for TGAAD my goals are four-fold. Spend less. Bring fewer things home. Have more time for the important stuff. Get creative with what I have (and get rid of what just isn’t working). Pretty simple, I hope.

When I was considering joining, I found myself nervous. Could I really do this? (As a side note, I think the fact that it felt so monumental at the time is probably a sign that this is a good thing to be doing.) Now? I feel excited – not just as though a big decision has been made, but also as though many months of small ones have too. For the next eight months and change there are no more decisions about shopping or not, buying or not, or even just what to get. It feels freeing, which is a pleasant surprise.

Right now, I’m considering whether I need to plan out an exception or two.  A suit for job interviews is at the top of that list, and my pj pants are about to go, I think (although there’s some lovely flannel and a sewing machine in the closet that could probably make short work of that particular need).

The only other question left, I think, is whether I try to further extend this diet to other elements of my shopping which, while also not hugely indulgent, add to the time, the expense, and the clutter of shopping (books and housewares, I’m looking at you).  While TGAAD is focused largely on clothes, I’m hoping that my perspective not only shifts with respect to this kind of shoppng, but also transfers to other elements as well.

Written by Jenn

December 16, 2010 at 8:51 am

The Low Shopping Year

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I’m not much of a New Year’s resolutions kind of person.  I do, however, like a good challenge (could you tell?)  And so, with the coming new year, I’m taking on a new one, and one that fits rather well with some of the other projects that I’ve got in the works.

Here comes The Low Shopping Year.

In my efforts to save some money, prepare to move, clean out the clutter, and just generally sort out my life, shopping isn’t helping.  As I’ve said before, I don’t shop a lot, and I certainly don’t spend much, but it still means that things are making their way into my home here and there, money that doesn’t have to is making its way out the door, and the clutter and finances are all the more difficult to deal with as a result.  Also, because I almost always buy used, even spending a bit of money can bring in a lot of stuff ($10 at the used book store is usually good for three or four books).

The original thought was that I would start what I called “The No Shopping Year”.  Unfortunately, “The No Shopping Year” sounds a bit grandiose.  And, given my present situation, there’s no way I can go an entire year without actually shopping for anything, since I like to eat, need medication, and may require an academic book here or there as I plow through the dissertation, so the name’s a bit of a misnomer, cool as it sounds.  So, in the interest of accuracy, I’ve reconsidered the No Shopping Year in favour of the Low Shopping Year.  (More accurate, but sounds less cool, no?)

The plan?  Seriously reduce (my already rather reduced consumption) in much the same way as with my No Spending Month.

The benefit?  Less money going out.  Fewer things coming in.  Less clutter to deal with.  Less clutter to move.  More time for whatever I want.

There are still details to work out.  I need to figure out what’s allowed and what isn’t, whether there should be any exceptions, and if there’s anything else I should be figuring out.  I’ll probably wind up working out a new budget to reflect (and possibly reinforce) these changes.

Written by Jenn

December 15, 2010 at 10:05 am

November in review

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With a bust schedule, I didn’t quite accomplish everything that I wanted, but I did pretty well, all told.

With my little 10×30 project, I got the requisite number of things boxed up and ready to go out for donation.  There’s still a lot more to do, but a box of books and many bags of clothes later and the apartment feels a bit better.  I’m looking forward to doing more, and am considering having a repeat performance this month.

For The Anyway Project, I had a few successes as well.   The kitchen was cleared out further, and some clutter was removed from the apartment.  We had the landlords come in and do some weatherproofing, which will hopefully make it less draughty in here.

Financially, I managed to save about 45 percent of my income this month, up from the 20 percent that I was aiming for.  This won’t be possible every month, but this was a good start.  I cut back even the limited shopping that I already do to accomplish this, and I’m pleased with the results.

Tracking resource consumption has been somewhat more difficult than I thought, so I’m still trying to figure this one out, and considering ways to lower it even when there isn’t an actual measure available to work from.  I’m also still a bit stumped on taking on extra work, both in terms of what to do and how to fit that in right now, but I’m looking into some opportunities.

Family and community took a bit of a beating this month as I didn’t get out that much for various reasons.  On the up side, though, I have been more focused on spending money locally, which I hope is helpful from a community perspective.

I’ve managed to keep outside commitments to a minimum in order to keep focusing on the most important things right now – dissertation, teaching, and job search.  I have started a few of my own projects that mesh well with my values, though, so that’s a nice break at the end of the day sometimes as well.

And finally, in terms of time and happiness, I’ve been working on eating a bit better, exercising more – I walk to campus a few times a week now – and taking more time just to rest and relax.

Up next?  Planning out what I want to work on for the next month.  While December’s usually interrupted by holidays and a visit home, I’m considering ways that I can keep up with working through this life that I lead a bit more.

 

10×30 update

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As the end of the month approaches, I’ve been trying to catch up a bit with my 10×30 progress – I figure even if the business of November hasn’t let me purge 10 items a day, by the end of the month I can at least do 30.  I actually finished up a bunch of work this week so I can spend part of the weekend working through the stuff.

That said, after the first week’s 70 things, I’ve managed to get rid of another 70 articles of clothing. 30 t-shirts, 10 belts, and the rest pants, skirts, sweaters, and jackets are all on their way to the thrift store the next time I can find myself a ride.  Happily or sadly, depending on how you look at it, there’s far too much for me to carry over in any reasonable time frame.

It feels good knowing that it’s out of here – I’m aiming for at least 20 percent of my wardrobe gone by the end of this – but there are still too many clothes, and there’s more to work through over the weekend.  I’ve also put together a box with 24 dishes, all ready to head to Goodwill too, and there are plans to start tackling the books (which I have to admit that I dread a little bit) soon too.

In the meantime, I’ve also cut down on my consumption, so a lot less has been coming in.  Trips to the bookstore have yielded a book at most, rather than a pile of them.  Thrift store visits – I’ve been heading over a lot in search of Mom’s beloved dishes, which are the only gifts she wants for the holidays – have generally ended empty-handed, or with only a single item of clothing in very rare cases.  I picked up a light to use to try growing some veggies indoors this winter for only a few dollars, but other than that, the consumption has been negligible (and the amount left even within my budget is proof of this.

While it’s still tough in some ways (getting rid of things still means fighting against the “I might use that someday!” battlecry), it feels good to be getting things in order again.  They’re not great yet by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re getting there, and this afternoon, hopefully another garbage bag will join the donation pile, ready to go out the door.

Written by Jenn

November 26, 2010 at 8:34 am

Riot for Austerity

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I’ve been considering the Riot for Austerity recently – partly as a possible project, but perhaps more generally as a baseline of something to work towards in the long-term, and to keep improving at as I go.  I think it’s incredibly important to do, as tough as it might be, and on some level we just don’t have a huge amount of choice in the matter anymore.  I can’t say I’m going to follow this completely to the letter.  Right now, trying to track all of these different elements is sounding daunting if not flat-out frustrating.  But I’m going to do my best to see what I can do about getting my consumption of resources down to 90 percent of the American average.

Now, for the specifics.  The goals:

1 – Gasoline: 50 gallons (189 liters) per person, per year / 4.7 gallons (17.8 liters per month).
2 – Electricity: 1,100 kwh per household, per year / 90 kwh per household, per month.

3 – Heating and Cooking Energy: These both fall under electricity for me.

4 – Garbage: 0.45 lbs of garbage per person, per day.

5 – Water: 10 gallons (37.9 liters) per person, per day.

6 – Consumer Goods: 1,000 dollars per household, per year.

7 – Food:  70 percent local and organic, 25 percent dry bulk, and 5 percent wet goods.

Given that there are a number of metrics here that I simply don’t have access to right now, I feel like I might be living by the motto “if in doubt, CUT!” for the next little while.  If I’m not sure I’m where I should be, the best solution for now, I think, is to go as low as possible.  It’s not going to be perfect – like I said, taking on this level of detail right now is feeling like more of a burden than a challenge – but so long as I know where I am and where I’d like to be, I can keep working towards a 90 percent reduction as I go.

Written by Jenn

November 9, 2010 at 7:37 pm