We humans are a highly successful species, we have utilised the earths resources far more than any other species and we dominate the food chain and the planet. If we carry on doing so at the rate we are I wonder how long we as a species will last and what it will do to the earth's resources. If we are to ensure that they are around for future generations to make use of we need to be wise in our usage, but how do we measure what is wise.
Forty years ago recycling was virtually unheard of in the way it is now, there were not recycling banks or places to take materials that could be reused, repurposed or recycled. Forty years ago consumption was totally different. Promoting recycling is a great idea in principle, if it means that less raw resources are used up then it should be a winner but is it not actually better to buy less, just what we need rather than what we want. In our consumer driven societies this does not sit well. We do recycle as much as it is possible to, to the extent that we only put a rubbish bag out for collection every six to eight weeks but we are also mindful shoppers. We only buy what we need and we are conscious of packaging when we do purchase, especially food. We don't buy clothes that are only worn once, we make careful purchases which will last many years.
The food we eat is not only purchased with packaging in mind but also the season. I remember as a child what a treat it was to eat oranges at Christmas time, this was the only time they were available to buy in the shops in the northern hemisphere. Similarly strawberries were only available in the summer, apples in the autumn now we can buy all these products and more all year round. They are shipped, air freighted and driven hundreds of miles around the world before they get to our door. We grow as much as we can on our small patch of land, this provides us with a small amount of vegetables and fruit for some weeks in the summer and autumn. What we cannot grow we have delivered from a local farm co-operative once a week. We look forward to the change in the seasons and the new fruit and vegetables that this brings. The rest of the food we buy is bought in a local town, we use small independent shops as much as possible and buy as locally produced food as much as possible. I write a menu for our lunches and suppers based on the vegetables we have in the garden and delivered. Our food shop is based on the ingredients to cook the menu and we have virtually no food waste as we don't buy anything we don't need, we are not tempted by the reduced bargains unless it is something on our shopping list. I cook every meal from scratch with mostly raw ingredients, we do buy a few processed items such as pasta and mustard. We are mostly vegetarian, I am but the rest of my family do eat some meat, what meat we do buy is always direct from the farmer at a market.
When we moved into our house over ten years ago it was the middle of a very cold winter. We had a basic central heating system that relied on a open coal fire being lit to warm the rest of the house which took some heating as it was poorly insulated. Our coal bill was really high that first winter and we knew we needed to do something about it to reduce the cost and our reliance on coal. We replaced the open fire with a wood burning stove which we heat with scavenged wood, branches that have fallen from trees, in our local area. We have installed solar water panels to heat our water, and improved on the insulation in our house in the cavity walls, the loft and under the floors. We also have a gas boiler which we rarely use. We have a warm and cosy house and very, very low energy bills. We would love to take our house off grid one day by installing a wind turbine we are in the process of researching this to work out our options particularly for storing energy for the (rare) windless days.
We live in a small rural village which has a bus service. The village has good services such as a small library, a shop, a post office, an outdoor pool in summer, a sports hall and a school. We are home educating as a family and there are no other families, known to us, in our village who are doing the same. All our home educating friends live some distance away, none on our bus route. Currently we have two cars, one my husband uses to get to work the other we use to get us out of the village. If we are going some distance we often use the train. I would love us to only own one car but it would hamper our ability to get to home ed events, there are six buses a day and if we miss one it is often a two hour wait for the next! We have home ed friends who don't have cars they all live in big towns with really good public transport networks, we have a train line at the end of our garden but the three train stations near us all fifteen plus miles away. We try and mix our use of the car and public transport as much as we can as a compromise.
All our decision making in the past and in the future has been and will continue to be mindful. We carefully consider our options, the impacts they may have, the cost to the environment and our bank balance. We have not made them because they are what we should be doing but because we believe in them and we hope will leave the world as a healthy place for our children's future.
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