Want to use less? Make a list.

Vatican, Rome

School started again last week. That means that Morgantown is now impassible with the traffic, and I find myself going down to Fairmont State University every Thursday for class. I love going to school and was so glad for it to start up again.

Last semester I read Tom Bender and his piece on Becoming Slaves to Energy. In honor of a busy fall, I thought I’d share what I wrote for class last spring.

Tom Bender states: ‘Our consumption of existing goods and services is frequently, for all practical purposes, compulsory.’ This caused me to evaluate what I buy, what I get rid of each week, and what I need.

I made a list of where money is spent each week. The mortgage, restaurants, and travel expenses are costly, but utility bills and grocery items are where money is spent most often. Being aware of electric and water use allows me to cut back or be conscious of how I might conserve by taking shorter showers or line-drying the laundry. Most of my grocery items are unprocessed food, except for the pasta and cheese which I could make. I spend more money at the grocery on expensive items because a $4.50 box of cereal is the same price as a coffee shop muffin. I’ll be inclined to eat at home if I buy things I enjoy. My typical purchases have become compulsive.

The amount of recyclable glass and paper products I place on the curb has been cut down as I filter tap water, refill growlers, bought a soda machine, and make my own bread now. Making cheese, having a local milk source and not eating refined cereal could help more. During the summer I am able to have less recyclables because of the produce available through a farmer’s market and personal gardening. I often bring my own reusable containers and enjoy when I have the option to buy items per the pound. Many unrefined products such as apple cores and broccoli stems are great compost.

The amount of waste I produce is related to how busy I am and what type of prepared food I consume. Last week our class discussed money buying happiness and I talked about the importance of free time for me. Vacation days are more important to me than salary increases at this point in my life. I realized I could do more with my time and less with money when I was laid off part-time in 2008. When the layoff happened I was able to move from an apartment alone in with another person so we could share the expenses. I became active in an environmental book club, and began studying for the architectural exams. I had time to grow a productive garden and cook healthier meals. The time spent tending the garden taught me how much I enjoyed working in the dirt and how rewarding the labor was physically and mentally.

Gardens Online Photo

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