In the 1930s, people had to make do with less. My grandparents started an auto wrecking business and junk dealership. The shop and the house were made from salvaged wood, with windows made from truck windshields. These people were seriously into reuse and recycling, way before it was cool.
In Portland, there are tons of food carts that sell cheap, delicious food to go.
Since it's all take out, the food is served in disposable containers with plastic utensils. Many of the carts in downtown Portland put the disposable containers inside plastic bags, so people can easily carry the food back to the office or to the nearest park bench. Some sustainably-minded people won't eat at food carts for this reason. I solve the problem another way, by bringing a reusable sack, pyrex container with a lid and my own fork. Foodcartsportland says that this is a violation of Portland health codes, but I've never had a vendor turn me away.
Some regular restaurants will accept reusable containers, as well. Just ask - its worth a try.
Is it possible to have a good life without wasting so much? This is the question Colin Beavan and his family try to answer in the documentary No Impact Man. The average American family creates 1600 lbs of trash per year. Colin's goal is to reduce that to zero. So, during the course of a year, they learn how to live without using electricity, motorized transportation or toxic chemicals and without buying anything other than local food. Colin doesn't mind, but his wife is addicted to caramel lattes, reality TV shows and fashionable footwear, so its a struggle for her.
I'm not as dedicated as Colin, but I try to minimize my contribution to the landfill. I compost kitchen scraps - mainly fruit and vegie peels, coffee grounds and egg shells. Then I use the compost in my vegie garden.
It's fairly easy (at least in Portland) to recycle paper, glass, aluminum cans and plastic containers. Here are some other easy ways to reduce trash output:
* bring reusable bags for shopping
* buy fewer clothes, and buy them at Goodwill or consignment shops
* choose items with less packaging (like bar soap instead of liquid soap in a plastic bottle)
* call companies that send junk mail and ask to be removed from their list
* bring a reusable container when you eat at a food cart or takeout restaurant
* freecycle items you don't need anymore, rather than throwing them away
By making these small changes, I've reduced my contribution to the landfill substantially. Mainly what goes into my trash is dog poops. I know pet waste is hard on the environment, but dogs are such good friends and help reduce our stress levels. They also encourage us to get out and take walks, even when we don't feel like it.
If I want to work less and be more financially independent, I need to reduce my monthly expenses.
Other than my mortgage, my biggest expense is utilities - gas, electric, water, sewer/trash, internet, phone and an alarm system. I don't need the alarm system, because I have security doors and a dog. So, I've discontinued that, which saves $40 per month. I've also eliminated the landline phone, saving another $40. If I had cable TV, I'd cut that, but I don't have it.
Water is really expensive in Portland - my water bill runs about $100 per month. I used to keep bricks in the toilet tank to reduce water usage, but last summer, I got a dual flush toilet. It's a Toto and it works really well.
Eliminating lawns is another way to reduce water usage. And, if you replace the lawn with vegie beds and fruit trees, you can grow some of your own food and reduce your grocery bill. So, last week, I ripped out the back lawn. OK, I hired someone to do that. Regardless, I'm saving $80 - $100 per month in lawn maintenance fees.
By eliminating the alarm system, landline phone and lawn mowing, I've saved about $160 per month and I'll have fruit and vegies as a side benefit during the summer months. Its a good start.
about this blog
Hi, my name is Diane and I live in Portland, Oregon. I'm learning how to reduce my expenses so I can spend less time working to pay the bills and more time doing things that are meaningful to me, including volunteer work. I'm finding that it's not easy - our economy is designed to keep us trapped in a "spend more, work more" cycle. In this blog, I explore these issues and share insights from experts about the new economy, social justice, sustainable living and related topics. I hope this information is helpful and interesting to you.