Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Living Simply, Consuming Less

Anyone else notice that the concept of "Green Living" is turning into a big money maker? Everywhere you look someone is using the concept to promote their product. It's no secret people are leaning towards more sustainable living and corporations big and small know that the trend means big business. Their goal is to keep you feeling good about consuming their products so that they can make more money. I believe that simple living and cutting our consumption are two components that must be incorporated into our lives in order to live both frugally and green.

Here are two examples of what our family is doing to live more simply and consume less:

*One of my husband and my goals for 2009 is to abstain from purchasing brand new clothing for one year (with the exception of undershirts, bras and underwear - aren't you all relieved :). So here we are at the end of April and we haven't purchased anything brand new for ourselves. A couple of things that this has resulted in:
- We realize that we are fine without new clothes. We already have PLENTY.
- We have saved money by not purchasing items we don't need.
- We look for ways to extend the life of the items that we already have.
- We have a new picture or "necessity".
- We realize that in order to live more simply and consume less that sometimes it means resisting what is popular, or not always having the latest and greatest and we are ok with that - actually, we're happier that way.
- When you resist the urge to buy, buy, buy, the result is a sense of power and the good feeling that you are not at the mercy of corporations!!!
- In consuming less we do good for our world - Cotton crops pollute. It is estimated that in the Third World, half of all pesticides used are used on cotton fields. When you recycle a single gently-used T-shirt and one pair of jeans, you help save a full pound of chemical fertilizer and pesticide from being released into the soil, water, and atmosphere. "Cotton accounts for only 2.5% of all agricultural land use, but for 22.5% of all insecticides applied in agriculture." (guardian.co.uk - very interesting article by the way).

*The second area that we have chosen to live more simply and consume less is in the food arena. We eat a lot of beans around our house and because of that, we have chosen to stop purchasing cans of beans and instead purchase bulk beans. The result has been:
- We save a lot of money on beans -dry beans are cheap.
- Our waste consumption goes down as we do not have to dispose of the container that we purchase the beans in (by the way, did you know that the inside lining of cans, if coated, contains the all-too-familiar chemical BPA. I just found this out the other day - Booo Hissss!).
- We are in control of all the ingredient that cook our beans (canned beans are particularly high in sodium and they also usually contain some kind of preservative).
- Soaking our beans releases all the nutrients and health benefits available.
- It takes time and forethought to use dry beans - I consider this a bonus and part of living simply - many might not think the same:)!
- As a side note here is a informative blog post that explains how to soak and cook dry beans in great detail: Kitchen Stewardship you can also fine a ton of information on the internet.

So there you have it - just a couple of little things that we have been able to incorporate into our lives. Sometimes the effort seems small but the benefits have been great for us. So what about you? I'd like to hear of the changes - small or big that have allowed you to live more simply and consume less.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Reel" Mowers

A couple years ago our family made the switch from a gas powered mower to a reel mower. Some consider the reel mower to be an ancient tool of the past :) but we are finding that there are many benefits. Ironically, as I am typing this I hear someone mowing their lawn two doors down.

Here are a handful of reasons we made the switch:
*Rotary mowers tear the grass - reel mowers cut grass like scissors, leaving a fine spray of clippings as mulch for your yard. Additionally, the way that reel mowers cut helps the grass maintain moisture and keeps diseases out.

*Less noise pollution - instead of the roar of a mower, you hear the quiet mechanical sound of the blades and the chirping of birds (or in our case the squawking of chickens).

*My husband doesn't stink when he is finished - Instead of the smell of gas exhaust, you have the smell of fresh air and fresh-cut grass.

*Mow early or late - we don't have to worry about waking the neighbors or interrupting someone's afternoon nap. The temperature will be cooler!

*Per hour of operation, a gas lawn mower emits 10-20 times as much hydrocarbon as a typical automobile (1).

*Reel mowers offer a great work-out. The new designs are definitely easier to use that those 30 or so years old but using a reel mower is not an effortless task.

*You don't have to worry about starting up your mower and having it break down on you. The pull chain won't snap and you'll never run out of gas.

*Gas powered mowers cost more: you have a higher purchase cost, a higher maintenance cost, higher fuel costs and a higher cost to our environment.

*Reel mowers are light enough to lift and store on a wall in your garage.

Some drawbacks:
- They do take some effort, but they aren't any harder to push than an 80-pound gas mower that isn't self-propelled. You are your mowers engine!

- It does take a bit longer to mow with a manual mower than a power mower.

- Manual mowers are harder to push when the grass gets too tall, so keep your lawn mowed weekly.

- Your lawn will look cut but not manicured.

-Blades should be sharpened every two years (i think this is the same for a gas powered mower).

- Reel mowers don't chop up sticks.

- You will have grass clippings left on your lawn - we feel like this is better for your lawn as it provides natural mulching but some may be bothered by it.

All in all, our family has enjoyed the benefits of using a reel mower. So next time you're in the market for a new lawn mower maybe you'll consider a reel mower!!!

(1) www.eartheasy.com