In honor of No Impact week, my husband and I watched the documentary No Impact Man. I have to say he has many advantages living in New York. Although it seems counter-intuitive, I have to admit that when I lived in New York, my impact was much lower than it is now living in a rural community. In Manhattan, I lived in a small apartment, kept it cold, took the stairs, ate mostly salads from the Union Square farmer’s market, and walked or took the subway everywhere. Things were expensive, so I rarely ate out, and found ways to get into plays cheaply (last minute tickets) or for free by ushering. The city’s parks are endlessly entertaining, and there are great museums.
Now, even though we live surrounded by agricultural areas, we shop at Albertson’s (sorry La Tienda—you’re not unionized) and we don’t know where most of our food comes from. There is a farmer’s market in the summer, but most of the produce is gone by the time we get there. We have a large house and even though we’ve replaced the windows to low-E and beefed up the insulation, it still is not terribly energy efficient. We don’t have $500 utility bills like we did in Japan, but I know we could do a lot better.
Sometimes I think most of us should live in cities, so that we could all use public transportation and consolidate services. But then, cities like Sao Paulo, Brazil that had good subway and bus systems have become so congested that people now get around by helicopter.
I know that by developing rural areas and suburbs, animal habitats are displaced. In spite of our interference, I really like having wildlife around—in our yard, we have squirrels and box turtles, lots of birds, and an occasional raccoon, hawk, and skunk. Deer lurk in orchards just up the road.
The downside of a quiet, rural area is that everything here is spread out, so we drive frequently. Most destinations are no more than ten minutes away, and I have an efficient Honda Fit, so I don’t burn much gas, but I do feel guilty sometimes for the number of times I start and stop my car driving from one location to the next to run errands. Unlike many of the residents here, we don’t leave town on weekends very often. But traveling for work means a very long drive to the airport.
There aren’t many locally-owned stores, so I do most of my shopping on the internet. Probably too much shopping. I like to think this has a lower carbon footprint than driving to Roswell or Midland to shop, but I could be wrong.
The recycling program here is growing, but nowhere near where I’d like it to be. We create about two kitchen garbage bags of waste a week, most of that cat litter. We have a large yard, and even though we are xeriscaping, we still use water for the garden and we fertilize the pecan trees. I’m proud that we don’t use any insecticides on the land, and that I “mow” by using an electric weed whacker around my various plantings. We’ve turned off most of the sprinklers.
We compost by dumping leaves in a large wooden box out back. We’ve left a small layer of dirt and worms/bugs, and pile in the fall leaves and then toss kitchen scraps on top. Composting instructions say you’re supposed to turn it frequently and maintain certain balances of different elements. We don’t do this—too much dirt is too heavy to try to turn over. We water it occasionally and by spring we have nice dark dirt. It’s probably not perfect, but I figure it’s better than store-bought soil, and we cut down on garbage. So, I have to say that composting doesn’t have to be as complicated as many make it seem.
So far, this No Impact week hasn’t been too hard. No temptation to stop into stores to browse. I have had the temptation to look for things online, but I’ve prevailed. The only garbage I think we’ve created is cans of cat food. One of our cats is diabetic and is not allowed to eat dry food. The canned food he likes of course only comes in very small cans, which our community doesn’t recycle, to my knowledge (it’s not on the official list I cut out and posted on the fridge). Okay, I just realized I ate a granola bar, so the wrapper is in the garbage. I wonder if that was compostable?