“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels… the troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. Because the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world… are the ones who do.”‘
I’ve always felt like a bit of a round peg in a square hole and I’ve never doubted that I see things differently. A quick stroll through my blog will out me on that fast enough. And having spent time living in some interesting places like Salt Spring Island, I guess I also qualify as a bit of a hippie chick. It was while living on Salt Spring that I first got seriously into the three “R”s of sustainability – reduce, recycle and reuse. At the time there was no garbage pick up on Salt Spring for the simple expedient that there was no garbage dump on the island – if you want to dispose of a bag of garbage, you had to take it down to the local market and meet the off-island truck that came over once a week and actually hand over your hard-earned cash to have it taken away – at the time it was $2.00/bag.
Couple the inconvenience with the cost and most island residents learned really fast how to reduce their garbage output. I can recall my mom coming to visit me and being at best bemused and at worst horrified that I washed out plastic bags, tins, bottles and then took them to the recycling depot. Blue boxes are common now, but even a few years ago recycling was a novelty. I started my first compost bin there and have had one everywhere I have lived ever since – even here in my townhouse. It works like a charm, it’s not smelly and doesn’t attract animals and the output keeps my garden glorious.
What got me thinking about all this was an award-winning eco-comedy (as it bills itself) called How to Boil a Frog that I watched recently. It caught my attention for a couple of reasons: it was shot in my hometown of North Vancouver by a local guy, Jon Cooksey, it was really funny and it was really sensible. One of the basic premises of the movie is that we simply use too much stuff and we can’t buy or shop our way out by buying “green” or “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” stuff. We have to just stop producing, buying and using more stuff. Here’s the trailer – you can appreciate Jon’s humourous style and sensible approach – you don’t have to become a tofu munching vegetarian – just give up beef. My little hippie girl daughter decided to try out a vegetarian lifestyle about a year ago and convinced me to join her and we have been quietly and happily reaping those benefits for the past year. And who knew that a condom was one of the best ways of saving the planet!
The film got me thinking about how to simply consume less – not just keep consuming “better” or “greener” stuff, but just to simply buy, use, own – less. That’s where The Compact comes in. The Compact is a movement that started in, of course, San Francisco, whose goal is to:
1) go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism and to support local businesses, farms, etc; 2) to reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er); 3) to simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact).
I don’t think I’m committed enough to go the Full Monty – signing up and agreeing to buy nothing new for an entire year. Exceptions are made for things like food, toiletries, medications, but everything else has to be bought second-hand, or traded or bartered for. Think of living your whole life for a year off Craigslist. Intriguing, but difficult. But I am seriously all about reducing that amount of stuff that I have and simplifying my life. I’ve started thinking of “stuff” as an ever-hungry beast – you have to keep working to feed the beast. We stop owning our possessions and they start owning us and the only way to get off that treadmill is to just have less. Less stuff = more freedom. And I like freedom, a whole lot.
And even if I can’t make that sort of whole life commitment, I am trying to be mindful of the decisions, small and large, that I make every day: commuting to work (I take the bus), lunch and dinner choices (think local and sustainable – no strawberries from Chile in December) , buying coffee, choosing a vacation spot, and cleaning my home and clothes. Or better yet, stop and ask myself “do I really need that” and maybe decide no, what I already own is just fine. I don’t need more stuff, what I really need is more time, more experiences, more life. So while reduce, reuse, and recycle is good, rethinking the way I act and live every day to simply consume less has so much more appeal.
At the same time, I won’t save the world on my own by eliminating all the conveniences of my everyday life in one drastic sweep. I love to travel and I’m not ready (at least yet) to give up flying, even if I have a twinge of conscience every time those jet engines fire up. I’m hooked on my electronic gadgets – I’m not going without my smartphone, my computer or my iPod, although I don’t rush right out to buy the latest gizmo and the computer I’m working on right now is at least 7 years old – practically neolithic. But it still gets the job done, so I’ve stopped thinking about that shiny new laptop and I’m just going to keep plugging away with this one till it dies completely.
Those are the sort of small, everyday decisions I’m working on. It will take time, but small adjustments will add up. So before you buy, use, consume, throw away or waste your next item, maybe rethink your choice and consider if there is another alternative.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world…”
A really interesting, thought-provoking online magazine I’ve been reading for a while is Urban Times. Check it out, I love that it bills itself as not only forward-thinking, but optimistic, which is a rarity.
Soundtrack for this post . . .hmmm reaching waaaay back and exposing even more of my hippiness . . . I was watching PBS a while ago when the James Taylor/Carole King “Live at the Troubadour” concert came on. It’s an amazing show, even if it’s not your usual taste in music. Their obvious love of the music, of each other and sheer joy in their craft is just infectious. And there is a harmony that James does on this track, whose lyrics are timeless, that gives me goosebumps every time. A couple of true craftsmen doing what they do best, just a pleasure.