Not shopping for two weeks!?

25 10 2009

This should have been the easiest part of challenge 2. We have everything we could possibly need! Roy and I basically agreed that we would stick to purchasing food only and items for a new sustainable garden and walkway we were building outside (part an effort to minimize the amount of grass in our yard that needs to be maintained and watered). We also agreed to make as few trips as possible to the grocery store and garden store. 

This challenge was hard for me. There is something exciting about shopping, searching for the perfect item and then getting it for a great price! I certainly had my work cut out for me. Luckily there was very little time for shopping over the two weeks, making it a bit easier. I am here to say we survived the two weeks!  I do not feel like we missed out on anything except for the exhilaration! I do not feel like it freed up much time as I have concluded we do most of our consuming via the internet, not running around town. This is in part because we have very little time. 

The exercise did make me realize that we are typical American’s and consume far too much. I used some of my spare time from this exercise going room to room, decluttering, identifying items that could be donated and were no longer in use. This part of the challenge was liberating! Post the challenge, I was discussing the exercise with girl friends and which method was more environmentally conscious–shopping on-line and having packages delivered to your home versus actually visiting a store. We concluded that, as long as you did not replace the time you would have spent shopping in stores with some other energy consuming activity that on-line shopping  was actually more environmentally conscious. Our reasoning: there are multiple steps and more packaging involved in getting the product to a store, greater energy consumption in maintaining a retail establishment, and energy spent by consumers driving around  to what may be multiple locations to retrieve the desired item than in e-commerce where the consumer searches for the best price for an item and orders direct from the source’s warehouse. 

The other  part of our theory was that delivery companies were going to be on the road already–Fed Ex, UPS and the postal service. The idea of one truck with 100 targeted deliveries was more efficient than 100 cars on the road searching for the desired product. I did a little research and found a study from Carnegie Mellon University’s Green Design Institute:
They found that shopping online via an e-commerce driven  model reduces the environmental impact with 35 percent less energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions than what is produced in the traditional retail shopping model. I am sold. I will try to make a bulk of my purchases on-line!

Climate Pilots Jane and Roy Rathbun


Jane and Roy reflect on challenge 2

20 10 2009

We chose a pretty calm week–one in which there was spare time–to observe the kinds of things we do individually and as a family in our spare time. 

Before we started we did a little assessment of what we considered spare time?  We decided to define it as any time outside of work, school, homework, sleeping and reasonable food preparation and consumption (we love to cook and could spend a day preparing a meal so anything longer than an hour for food preparation, we considered spare time).  We considered housework, yard work, laundry, shopping, errands,  cooking and baking, volunteering, reading, playing games, entertaining, watching television and surfing the net spare time.  Lillian’s extracurricular activities–cello lessons, scouting, horseback riding, swim team, birthday parties, weekend events at school.  I think you get the picture! 

 The first thing we realized is that we do a lot of running around for all this stuff–two cars and a lot of driving.   The second thing we realized is that there is a hierarchy of spare time  those activities that are up to us when they happen and if they happen but must happen at some point.  These were considered spare time activities because the need to do them was a result of choices we made (like buying a house with a large yard).

The second tier of spare time activities were those that are truly optional.  Most of Roy’s spare time is spent taking care of the yard and house projects. Most of mine is spent getting Lillian to events and activities and planning for them, and food shopping.  In the truly optional category which probably averages about 10% or less of our week we opt for things like exercise, Roy rides his bike (a very environmentally sound activity) I opt for the gym or use powered elliptical trainer at home. We love television and movies on the weekends, we try not to watch TV on the weekdays. We use our computers and “surf the web”, play games with Lillian, and do crafts.  Sometimes we go out to dinner, but not very often.

We have been talking a lot about reprioritizing spare time activates, making more of them home based and minimizing the number of activities Lillian participates in outside of school and home.  I realize that Roy carries a lot of the home management burden and that I should be spending more time on this.  While we did look at the environmental impact of our spare time choices and how we could reduce them.  The greater value of this exercise was looking at how crazy our lives are–90% self imposed, or as Roy would say 90% Jane imposed– and identifying lifestyle changes that could free up more time for truly optional spare time activities and bring more balance.  

Spare-time activities with less pollution:
Giving up TV and computer time was no problem, and instead of going to the gym and using powered exercised machines, Roy road his bike and I went for walks and hikes. One beautiful and completely unscheduled Sunday I gave Lillian the choice of going for a bike ride or going on an adventure walk along the Billy Goat Trail which follows the Potomac river. She would have preferred to stay inside and watch television, but since it was not offered as an option she opted for the Billy Goat Trail, and she loved it. We saw snakes, salamanders, turtles, ducks and caterpillars. The trail was very rocky and challenging and she did great. As we were eating our trail mix that we brought from home and sipping water on a sunny rock next to the river, Lillian exclaimed that this was the best day of her life. As I write this it  still puts a smile on my face! That day was the farthest she had ever hiked without a complaint and it was great mother daughter bonding time. Best of all it was free!

This challenge happened to coincide with two planned camping trips, one with the Girl Scouts and one with friends and family. Both trips were weekend long endeavors.  We used no electricity at the campsites and made sure to carpool. Everyone had a great time learning new skills, hiking and enjoying the great outdoors! It poured rain all day long during our Girl Scout camping outing, but the kids were troopers and found ways to entertain themselves by searching and collecting the abundance of earthworms floating around! We brought ours home and put them in the garden.

What was great about this challenge is that the simpler pleasures in life–being outdoors, enjoying the surroundings, and spending it with people you care about are the best forms of spare time activity. We need more of this and will work to put more in our lives.   

By Climate Pilots Jane and Roy Rathbun

When the Cat’s Away…

17 10 2009

uke…I will play! I will play the ukulele, that is. Isaiah’s been out of town for work, so I spent the last part of Challenge 2 entertaining myself on my own. I took advantage of the empty rooms to work on a few projects that required no driving, no purchasing (beyond initial purchases made years ago and the gift of a ukulele), and allowed me to hone a few skills.

I practiced plucking out Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (hey, I never said I was good at the ukulele!), and I used my beloved sewing machine to work on a few fleecy jackets and blankets. Those will help me stay warm when we turn the heat down this winter to minimize our utility use.  I worked on a vintage (some might say outdated) cross stitch pattern, and I read piles and piles of books.  All in all, it was lots of productive, eco-friendly fun!

by Climate Pilot Mya Akin


15 10 2009

apple-1Hello out there! It’s been a while since Isaiah and I have written, but we’ve certainly taken time to reflect on our discoveries and challenges as we explored green leisure activities. 

It’s been hard for us to find recreation that requires absolutely no driving as the Metro transit system is somewhat limited outside of DC limits. That’s not to say it’s impossible to have fun without a car; we love to talk long walks with our dog, and balcony gardening can be rewarding. I managed to learn to read a bus schedule and with some false starts, I discovered a way to take the train and bus to a museum, but I also discovered that the bus runs only once an hour! (Isaiah takes public transit to work daily, I should mention, but my experience is much more limited.) By the end of this challenge, we realized that planning ahead really was the key to this challenge for us, if we wanted to be completely eco-friendly.

When we wanted to be a bit more spontaneous, we did buckle and drive at times. We tried to moderate the effects of driving on the environment by 1)doing it only when necessary, 2)coupling it with a leisure activity that is green, and 3)carpooling with friends.  Once of my favorite autumn activities was visiting an orchard with friends and picking pounds and pounds of apples. We saved money, we got some exercise and enjoyed nature, we got to catch up with pals, and we found that we’d created another climate-friendly leisure activity for us when we got home: making and freezing applesauce!

by Climate Pilots Mya and Isaiah Akin

Tricky 2nd challenge about spare time

15 10 2009

Finding ways to minimize our carbon emissions in our spare time activities was not easy. How could we possibly minimize our use of the car in getting around and minimize our use of electricity in our spare time? Are there any “big” changes we can make in how we use our spare time?

We determined that there aren’t any “big” changes – at least, not changes that will reduce emissions as much as eating no beef and eating meat fewer nights a week. Nonetheless, we did make some easy changes that will certainly help.

Carpooling: I planned ahead a few days w/our kids separate camping trips. For my daughter’s “Brownie” camping trip, I drove two other families in my mini-van. For my son’s Cub Scout trip to Gettysburg Pennsylvania (over 100 miles from home), my son and I rode with another family. Using fewer vehicles for the trip saved on emissions and the cost of gas, and honestly, it was much more enjoyable. It was nice chatting with the other families on the ride, and when I was the passenger, I even had time to catch up on reading.

Errands: Errands seem to be endless, but with a little advance planning, I was able to plan where to go, when, and in what order to accomplish errands with less driving. When my daughter is in gymnastics, I visit a department store for odds and ends, a bakery, pharmacy and grocery store, all within 3 miles of her gymnastics practice. This saves emissions, gas and time!

Use of electricity: Our family doesn’t watch TV on school nights and the children only use the computer for homework, which keeps our energy usage down. We have minimized TV on weekends to no more than 2 hours/day. Rather than watch TV, we ride bikes, read books, the children play w/their friends and play sports, we work on projects around the house and take walks in a nearby park. The kids have re-discovered some toys they hadn’t used in years.

When we want to watch a movie, rather than driving to a theater or movie rental store, we are taking more advantage of our digital video recorder (I love my TiVo!). Also, our cable TV provider offers movies on demand, at home, with no advance planning needed.

So, although not as many “big” changes on this challenge, we have started better habits that are reducing our CO2e. Every little step can help, especially these easy ones.

By Climate Pilot Kathy Harman-Stokes

Reflections on non-consumption

8 10 2009

When we did the challenge about non-consumption in Sweden last year, our family decided to go for a three week period of non-shopping. And we did almost succeed.

However, on the second day our 10 years old TV broke down and we just have one TV in our family. We took an old TV from the summerhouse instead. But there was a childrens party we hadn´t planned for. I did buy a present as it would have been to difficult to explain to my son why he couldn´t bring a gift…

We didn´t save a great amount of money, because normally we don´t have a great amount of money to spend. The time we saved not running around shopping and looking for the best bargain was what we gained. However I find it to hard to have one year of non-consumption, but it`s a good lesson to start reflecting a bit before you shop things.

Karin Svensson, Climate coach in Kalmar