Saturday, April 16, 2016

how to be alive

This was a really good read! I first became aware of Colin Beavan after watching No Impact Man a few years ago. I definitely wanted to read How to Be Alive when it came out. I keep meaning to borrow the book about his experiences trying to live a year with as little environmental impact as possible, but the documentary was really interesting and I highly recommend it! Sure, there were moments I questioned his sanity (as did his wife) and I'll admit I thought he was cheating a bit when he started getting ice from his neighbor to avoid using his refrigerator/freezer after his failed attempt at a DIY, non-powered solution for food preservation, but I really do admire his efforts to have less of a negative impact.

After that experience, he realized how much his daily decisions impacted not only his own life, but the world. Rather than challenging people to have no impact, a huge undertaking for anyone, this book puts more emphasis on each of us making smaller changes we can sustain. Colin discusses how being more true to ourselves and our own beliefs and passions can also have positive impact on others and our environment, but also urges us to focus on what we can do ourselves and not as much on the bigger picture in order to keep ourselves from feeling paralyzed by the size of the problems and doing nothing. Not being able to change everything shouldn't stop us from making changes we know are right.

The thing is, if you worry about the gigantic machine instead of fixing the small cog, nothing at all gets done. When your concern ranges beyond the things you can control, your influence shrinks to zero. (How to Be Alive, p76)

I've made a lot of changes to how I do things. Yes, there's more I could be doing. That doesn't mean what I am doing has no positive impact. I pretty routinely reexamine the choices I've made to determine if I'm ready to make more changes. One thing I'm beginning to feel a lot more pull toward is going car-free. I'm not quite ready for that change, but I'm getting closer.

from How to Be Alive
Yes, intellectually and in my heart, I know not owning a vehicle is better in many ways. First, of course, would be the health benefits of more walking and riding my bike. Not having a car would also mean less financial cost to me. A bus pass would run me $540/year max, though I'm pretty sure I could shave another $100 off that cost by using daily passes a couple times a week instead of a monthly pass since I work from home. But even the max out of pocket? Still less than my vehicle insurance alone. Not to mention gas, regular maintenance, any repairs needed and heaven forbid I get in an accident and have a deductible to pay on top of that. Then there's the environmental impact of driving personal vehicles. Sure, my Jeep doesn't spend nearly as much time on the road as most cars, but it still pollutes more than if I rode the bus or my bike. It's size does come in handy at times... like when I bought fruit trees for my yard. But how often does that need arise? It's not like I'll be putting in any more trees in my teeny yard. The home improvement store even rents trucks at reasonable daily rates to haul anything I'd need for my home. And in these days of Uber and Lyft, getting a quick ride door to door isn't hard to come by even if a willing friend isn't available. So many options!

So what's stopping me? Convenience. The ability to hop in my Jeep and run across town on my own schedule without waiting for a bus. Planting more food-producing plants in my own yard will help cut back on my weekly trips to the local farms to pick produce in Summer and Fall. Expanding my own garden and shopping more from the co-op (same produce, less commute) could replace those trips. I'm honestly really thinking about the possibilities. This has been a very expensive vehicle year which is certainly helping push me in that direction. Multiple repairs and then a fender bender thanks to another driver chatting away on her cell phone rather than paying attention to driving and nearly running down a pedestrian have added up quickly this year. And I still need to replace my tires too. I put away money every month and can cover the expenses, but life would sure be nice without those added bills! For now, the Jeep stays... Next year, we'll see.

What changes have you made? What have you been thinking of changing? What's stopping you?

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