Tuesday, November 17, 2009

365: no impact week, days two + three

Yesterday's theme was trash.

I'm the sort whose house is incredibly cluttered because I keep thinking: I could probably use this for... I have tons of mailers from etsy purchases that I'm hanging onto, waiting to mail out my own set-of-letterpress-cards-shaped mail. I have handouts from all my classes. I have fabric and yarn and books I need to read and give away. But I think what I need to do is begin to learn how to de-clutter. A messy house is often the source of my anxieties, getting ready for guests, or even just sitting down to getting something done--not possible when every surface has a stack of books, a half-finished knitting project, the holiday gifts in sorted boxes, waiting to be wrapped and tucked away. (Speaking of which, some people are getting holiday gifts in wedding bags this year; I saved mine, of course, and I am desperate to get rid of them.) I don't think I'll ever need to or will buy another gift bag or wrapping paper; after this, I'm going to use other resources for clever wrapping, and I have enough friends and family who don't mind the re-purposing of bags, so we often see the same ones over and over. Fortunately, we have people like Kelly, who introduce adorable bags into the cycle.

This kind of consciousness is exhausting because it's easy to always second-guess yourself. I grew up in comfort, where we didn't scrutinize packaging, and thus, I'm not used to thinking overtly of the layers we protect things in. I think my solution is less to scrutinize the garbage a product creates, and I think I'm mostly thinking food here, as that is the product we most often bring into our home (with books coming at a close second, and they require no packaging), and if I'm eating "better," then I'm automatically eating with less garbage created--TV dinners, highly processed meats, these are the objects I think of when I think of large amounts of garbage, and they're no longer entering my home with my own purchasing.

Of course, with food, I can proudly add that Ryan and I will soon be the new owners of a CompsTumbler, the little back porch sort, and I am also a vermicomposter. We homebrew, we garden, and I truly can say I love making with my hands.

A little follow-up to the shopping post: I found this blog post via Stephanie Congdon Barnes' blog about the ways in which building community becomes a factor in purchasing. It's fitting since yesterday I went into her shop, and I cannot help but love those pine cones. (Can you blame me?)

Today's theme is transportation, which is a bit of a shameful subject for me. I commute an hour to campus.

The story is this, for those who don't know it: Ryan and I had been dating forever. We knew we were going to continue to do so, and we were sick of the long distance relationship. When he had a job in Winona and I got my first teaching job in Lakeville, places two hours apart, we decided to find somewhere halfway and instead of commuting one weekends to one another, commute daily to our jobs. Ironically, a few months after we bought our house at the halfway point, he got a new job in St Paul, which is close to Lakeville, a suburb of the Twin Cities. We've owned our house for four years now, love our community, and both don't particularly feel like leaving. I also don't know what will happen to me when I am done with graduate school--I may teach closer to home, I may try finding a job in the community, I may get lucky enough to simply write at home (yeah right, I hear my husband humming). As I write this, I am on campus and my husband is a few miles away in his cubicle at work; because of our dogs and our schedules, we don't get a lot of opportunity to carpool, so we will both be driving the hour home separately. I have a sneaky feeling Angie, who is doing this challenge as well, can easily brag that she has put no miles on her car these past three days, whereas when I parked my car this morning, I glanced down at the odometer (the trip one, which I started at zero just for this challenge, so I could report in the exact miles at the end of the week) and I was creeping up to 300. That's right, in three days I've put three hundred miles on my car, and I have one more campus day left for the week. Of course, this week is a bit unique in that I had to come up on Sunday for a reading party for the literary magazine I am poetry editor for, but generally speaking, three days a week with an occasional extra (book club, knitting group, poetry collective, literary reading, etc.) thrown in. My car, which is eleven years old, is at nearly 200,000 miles and chugging along (it's a Toyota Camry, in case you are curious, and according to the family-owned mechanics I've taken it in to, they swear it probably has another 100,000 miles left, which is fortunate, because I'm passing it along to a friend in the next few months as my mother is passing along her hand-me-down, a 2003 Toyota Camry). At least the little-impact here is that the cars we drive are driven to their last mile and then some. And the graduate student in me is grateful for the reliability of a car that can do that and can make it fifty plus miles in the dark after class with nothing but corn fields and corn fields and fallow fields and maybe a few cows.

When at home, most of what I need is accessible by foot: the library, the post office, the book shop, the health foods store, and I can say, if it's not stopping on the way to or from campus, I do manage to walk the dozen blocks to downtown, to the Mississippi River. Walking has that added bonus of meditation, I believe, and thus, it's a peaceful act for me to travel by foot to run my errands, my favorite canvas sacks tipped over my shoulder.


Angie said...

You are correct, my lady. I have not put any miles on my car, but that will not be the case by the end of the week.

EWH said...

Some things are unavoidable, my dear. I commute to work also, because right now, it makes sense. You can't compare yourself and your habits to others. You do what you can when you can, to make your own world better. I [heart] you.

(A side note: this morning, my dogs performed one of their favorite acts of savagery (okay, their only act of savagery), and killed a squirrel. My husband has left town for the weekend, so I had to take care of it myself. Lucky for me, they actually killed it, as opposed to injuring it beyond repair like they've done twice before. But I had to bury it. Little squirrel funeral. I am a sensitive idiot, so I cried. Then I start reading blogs. I go to yours, and that damn squirrel is looking at me! Thanks a lot...)

Rachel said...

I'm really loving your posts on low impact...and how you are trying to change your lifestyle bit by bit.

There was a 2-3 year period in my life when I was more of a 'consumer' than was/is typical for me. And so lately I've been looking at those excesses and trying to figure out how best to get rid of it. I refuse to trash it. Thanks for making me continue to think about these issues!