Monday, 18 January 2010

Inspiration crashing down to earth

So, as you may not be surprised to hear, I've been reading again. This time The Self Sufficient-ish Bible by Andy & Dave Hamilton, and Do Good Lives Have to Cost the Earth? which is a series of essays by various learned people, edited by Andrew Simms. As always, these kind of books are really inspiring and make you want to get out there and make some redical changes! And then real life kicks in and I'm deflated.

Okay, we don't have a car to get rid of, we never fly, we're vegetarian and we try to grow as much of our own food as we can in the garden and allotment. We use public transport and cycle and walk. We buy second hand clothes or strictly fair-trade if new. We buy fairly traded tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar, bananas, rice and everything else we can manage to. We buy as much from our local farmer's market as we can. We don't buy lots of new 'stuff'. We have 1 small, old TV and 1 computer which was second-hand. We turn everything off stand-by, have low-energy light-bulbs and try to conserve water. We have a water butt in the back garden. We use only environmentally household cleaners, ditto with the minimal toiletries we use.

But I'm not saying all this to be smug - I know there is loads more we could do (there always is unless you live in a yurt in a field in total harmony with nature), but right now, I can't see how. And this is depressing. I look round the house in a fresh zeal for getting rid of stuff and clutter, and for reforming the way we live, and come up against a brick wall. What could I get rid of - PC, no I use that for working. Cookbooks? No I use them for cooking. Printer? No. SAD light? Definitely no. Table? No. Kitchen cupboards? No. Books? Maybe. We do have a cull every now and again and are quite strict about getting rid of stuff but the ones we keep are ones we read again or refer to. Similar with CDs - we try to download individual tracks mainly these days, and have culled our CD collections as much as we can right now, considering that music is a big thing for both of us.

Obviously, we do have a fair amount of kids' clutter, but looking at it, most of it is fairly harmless, if widely spread - paper, paints, penicls and crayons and pens, scrapbooks, works of art (!), worksheets, packaging recycled into craft creations, glue, scissors, lego, train track, toy cars, books. We're not talking high-tech consumer hell here. Upstairs - can't get rid of stored bedding, or clothes, would be foolish to get rid of sewing machine. Downstairs - tool-box is vital, sewing box, felt, wool, other crafting stuff, bicycle helmets, play pop-up tents, vacuum cleaner, clothes horse, crockery, cutlery, baking tins, string, seeds, matches, candles. All of this stuff is pretty basic day-to-day stuff. Of course, if we lived in an African village, we could and would do without it. But living here, in the UK in the 21st century, this stuff is fairly low tech and basic.

So, where do we go from here? Well, we just used the last possible spare money we have in replacing a window which was (according to the man who replaced it) in severe danger of falling out, with a new, A-rated double glazed and properly vented one which hopefully will help eliminate the black mould on the bedroom wall (eww) and add to the insulation of the house overall. Given that other windows are also in a similar state, it would probably be eco-friendly to replace them too but we can't afford it. I'd like to try and convert our toilet to run mainly on collected rain-water but that again takes money and know-how, neither of which I have right now. Apparently we can't do solar hot water as we don't have a water tank, but other PV panels might be a possibility. If we had the money which we don't. We could maybe add to the loft insulation, but it's pretty thick already, and we don't have any more money.

So here I am racketing round the house alone (kids asleep, husband out earning the cash we don't have), keyed up with righteous inspiration and no-where to expend it. Am I just deluding myself that there's nothing we can do right now? I don't see the point of getting rid of stuff for the sake of it, especially not stuff that we actually use and is constructive or harmless or both. Now I just feel depressed.


Carolyn said...

I have a similar feeling at the much I want to try but neither the money or situation to try it. I could make a few more changes here to where we buy the food from, and buy more organic and fairtrade stuff, but we do our best. Mainly using our local shops. But yes. I want to do more!!!! But have also hit a bit of a brick wall.

Liz said...

We don't really have any local food shops apart from Waitrose! Just the monthly Farmer's Market. I was going to try to cycle every now and again to the nearest Farm-shop which is a fantastic place, but it is also 8 miles away and I thought I should get back into cycling more before attempting a 16-mile round trip with a trailer on the back, loaded up on the way home.
I suppose every little bit helps. Have you signed up to the 10:10 campaign to try and cut down energy use by 10% in 2010? I'm watching our daily average use on our bills like a hawk, it's quite exciting to see if we can cut it down further. If you want to do it with me, I've got all the figures for our gas, electricity and water uasage and we can spur each other on!
Congrats to Tom and his car, by the way! So exciting!

Big mamma frog said...

Hmm...I think if I got rid of the kids I could be much more ecofriendly. But I don't suppose that's very ethical is it?

Liz said...

Ha! I know what you mean though! :D

Ash, Gina, Mia, Tarka and Willow. said...

I know exactly what you mean Liz, I always feel like this after reading inspiring books. It seems harder when you are renting a house as there really seems to be a limit to the big changes you can make.

Gina x

San said...

Wow, no need to feel depressed you are doing heaps! Even if there is stuff you want to do but can't as yet, at least you are thinking about it. It can be very easy to go around with blinkers on, I'm guilty of that one! I try to be an eco warrior and my hubby has 2 environmental degrees and yet we still got hammered with huge gas/electric bills recently!!
Will try and loan those books you mentioned they seem a good read.
Keep writing you have got me thinking!! San x

Jax said...

Started to comment, but it turned into a blogpost, so I'll write it on my blog and then link back :)

Jax said...

Wibbling reply now posted on my blog!