Monthly Archives: August 2013

from where we are

bbatmarina

Before I begin to respond to the epic eco adventure planned for this chapter. I would like to take a small step back and reflect on the overall theme of the month that inspired Andy’s sustainability challenge. “The environment”

The term itself may mean different things to different people, but when I chose this theme as one of six for the Living Chapters year, I secretly hoped that I would be challenged in two areas: 1. How I engage with my physical environment (natural or man-made) and 2. How I consume the resources that our environment provides us.

We all experience our physical environments very differently therefore we also engage and consume in different ways. Coming from different backgrounds, and living in different places we all begin at varied starting points.

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So before diving head first into the compost bin, I’d like to take this first week to focus on becoming more aware of my immediate environment and my direct consumption patterns. Understanding where we are coming from and what we consume seems like it should be the first step in this “Eco-Awareness Game”.

So here is a quick snapshot of my own starting point:

My home/residence: I currently live in Annapolis, MD. For the past 5 months, I’ve lived aboard “Chasing Gwian” a 30-foot sailboat. On that boat my electric bill never went over $28 a month. I also did not have running water to use or waste. In some aspects, I was living relatively simply and efficiently. At the beginning of this month, I moved onto “Meridan Summer”, a 31-foot sailboat with running water, a somewhat working galley (kitchen) and much more space to heat or cool. Moving up in comfort definitely means moving up in energy usage.

Energy Consumption: My primary source of travel right now is by car. For my job, I luckily can do most of my work from a laptop computer from any place. However, I am asked to commute to a Baltimore City office once or twice a week (30 miles one way) and the majority of my work this month will be at on-site events and activities in Southern Maryland communities (50- 100 miles from Annapolis). I also commute to Mechanicsburg, PA (120 miles one way) to see and help with family at least once or twice a month.  Since I left my last long-term leased apartment in Baltimore (over 2 years ago now), let’s just say I have been on the road. Even though I have a very gas efficient Toyota compact car, my use of fuel is astronomical! I may have spent more money in gas than I have in rent in the past two years!

Water consumption: I use toilet and shower facilities in a shared marina. Before moving into the marina, I had given very little thought to my water consumption.  I love long showers and hot baths! Since making the choice to live aboard  I have become more aware of both my water and electricity usage.  The change of lifestyle directly changed my habits whether I wanted to or not.

Food consumption:  I have no set patterns of where I purchase my food and I often eat out as I have not lived with a proper kitchen for more than a year now. Currently I do have a small garden bearing only some herbs, bolting greens and one thriving pepper plant (not enough food to sustain myself on) I enjoy going to farmers markets but often feel like I can’t afford to shop at them but have occasionally treated myself to the better food and more eco-friendly choices.  The bottom line is this: choosing the right food has always been a mystery for me… organic, local, free range, sustainable… can someone help me out?

At first glance this game looks like its going to be ridiculously tedious and hard. But I KNOW this will be rewarding if I can come up with some fun and creative solutions.

So please, if you will – join Andy and I in this game – go here and sign up to play. Or illuminate me with some creative and fun solutions to all these enviro-friendly challenges. Post to the blog or on the Living Chapters Facebook page – Cause like Kermit and Andy have said “It’s not easy being green”. We need your help!

Last month I learned that simple logic tells us less is more…I am going to try to stick to that mantra as I move forward.

8/3/13

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

To get a taste of what it would be like to live on a boat yourself check out Sleeponaboat.com Greg, who runs this website, rents me the boat I am on and would like to connect both boat owners and individuals looking for a weekend stay or live aboard experience. I can only endorse this idea. I LOVE IT!

Chapter Three

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

Terms like ‘green’, ‘sustainable’, and ‘eco-friendly’ have become increasingly common in our day-to-day lives.  We see them on packaging, menus, in TV ads, and in the speeches of our more progressive politicians.  It may at times be dismissed as trendy, but overall this is a good thing.  It means that as a society, the environment is on our minds.  But as the terms become more commonly tossed about, they run the risk of becoming diluted palliatives, geared more towards making us feel better about ourselves than inspiring real change.  Your dishwasher detergent may be phosphate-free, but your dishwasher still wastes a lot of water.

The fact is, leading a sustainable life can’t be simply a matter of informed purchasing.  After all, the term sustainable really means never-ending, which in this context means a complete independence from non-renewable resources.  Striving towards such a goal requires transformative changes in how we live our lives.  In this month of Living Chapters, I encourage Beth to approach this goal through introspection and advocacy.

PART ONE

Take A Position, Make It Known

I’ll start with advocacy since it’s shorter.  Beth has spent the last few years doing some impressive work around environmental issues in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore.  In Western Maryland, she organized community events to discuss natural gas extraction, and on the Eastern Shore, created a series of videos and community events highlighting different perspectives on the health of the Chesapeake Bay.  Both projects inspired much-needed dialogues in their communities, but lacked one thing: Beth’s own voice.

Now that she has spent time in these places learning about these issues, Beth has become if not an expert, at least a well-informed citizen when it comes to natural gas extraction (fracking) in the Appalachians and water quality in the Chesapeake.  By now, she must have opinions about what should be done in these communities to move forward.

During the month of August, Beth will create two ‘opinion pieces’, one on each topic.  The pieces can take the form of her choosing (written, audio, visual, etc) and must be shared in a public forum (newspaper, radio, gallery, etc). The pieces will be timely, responding to current events in the realms of fracking and Bay protection, but will be grounded in her experiences working with the stakeholders in both places.  The pieces will be clear, concise, well-researched, and heart-felt.  Should she choose a medium that requires jurying (for instance an op-ed section in a newspaper, or a curated show at a gallery), actual acceptance is of course out of her hands, but submission is required.  They also must be posted to the Living Chapters blog and Facebook account.

PART TWO

Cap and Trade For The Rest of Us

The EPA first tested the effectiveness of a ‘cap and trade’ system for the abatement of acid rain in the 1990’s, by restricting the amount of sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions allowed by industrial polluters.  It proved effective enough that they’ve expanded the system to cover carbon emissions, a move that has been replicated internationally,  creating a global carbon market and reducing emissions in many countries.

How does it work? Very simply put, the government established an emissions limit that polluters must adhere to (the cap).  If a polluter manages to pollute less than the cap, the company earns credits, which they can sell to other polluters who cannot or do not meet the limits (the trade).  The system rewards innovations that reduce emissions, but still allows some flexibility for industries to comply.

During the month of August, Beth and I (and any of you who want to join in) will participate in our own cap and trade game.  This is where the introspective part comes in: this game will require close attention to the actions in our own daily lives.

Using the point system I’ve devised (below), we’ll tally our wasteful practices against our sustainable practices.  At the end of each week, we’ll have the opportunity to trade credits, hopefully balancing our collective point consumption under the cap.  At the end of the month, anyone whose points are still over the cap must donate the equivalent amount in dollars to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  There is no reward for having the fewest points; we’re all in this together!

A few notes about the point system:

1. The goal is to have as few points as possible. “+” points are bad.

2. I’m not a numbers person and this system has very little to do with any kind of accurate metric.  It’s just a game.  But if you happen to be someone that knows a lot about measuring embodied energy, please feel free to suggest amendments.

3. Additionally, if readers want to suggest other activities to be counted in the game, feel free.

4. Participants will have to track their point count daily in this Google spreadsheet.To join the game, email Beth at livingchapters@gmail.com.

5. I’ve divided the point system into four categories: Food, Air, Water, and Waste

FOOD

Eating a meal whose origins are unknown = +1 (vegetarian) +2 (with meat)

Eating a meal that is sourced locally (100 mile radius) = 0

Eating a meal at least part of which was grown or harvested by you or a friend = -1

Throwing away food (not composting it) = +2

Eating food that’s going to be wasted (either your friend’s left-overs, dumpster diving, etc.) = -2 

AIR (assuming non-renewable electricity and fuel sources)

Driving a car = +1 per 20 miles

Taking public transit = -1

Carpooling = 0

Riding a bike = -1 per 2 miles

Flying in a plane = +5

Charging your phone = +.5

Charging your laptop = +1 (if a desktop user, equivalent to 7 hours of use)

Lights and other household appliances = +1 per hour used

Hanging clothes in the sun to dry = – 1 point/load

Converting your BGE/energy supplier to a partially or entirely renewable source (solar/wind) = 1 time applicable – 20 points (some energy companies now offer the option to pay a bit more and have your power sourced from these options).  People can contact their supplier for more information.

WATER

Taking a shower = +1

Flushing a toilet = +.5

Running a dishwasher or washing machine = +2

Other faucet uses = +.5 per gallon

Re-using water (i.e. dish or bath water) = -1

Installing rain water catchment system at your home (or a friends) = -10 (one time only)

Using harvested rain water = -2

Bathing in a natural body of water = -1

WASTE

Producing 1 cubic foot of garbage = +1

Producing 1 cubic foot of recycling = 0

Producing 1 cubic foot of compost = -1

Creative re-use of anything (for instance, wine bottles, shopping bags) = -1 per use

The weekly cap for each participant is 56 points (8 per day) (note: this may be adjusted at the end of week 1 if that is way too hard or too easy).  Credit trading will happen on August 10, 17, 24, and 31 (August 10 will be a ten-day point tally with a total cap of 80).  Participation will require fastidious attention to all your activities (it may even require keeping notes).  Hopefully it will also require all participants to rethink their consumption habits and make changes for the better.  It may be difficult, but in the words of Jim Henson as sung through a frog puppet:  It’s not easy being green.

lc andy beth

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

protagonist parting words

VOILA! Its done! (IT, being the online portfolio that I thought was an impossible task to accomplish 10 years and 30 days ago). It’s not entirely finished or polished – the site needs some major editing and design work – but I am never quite finished or polished myself so I would say that my online portfolio suits me well. At least now it lives and breathes in it’s own virtual space where anyone can scroll through and trace the path of my career if they so choose to. Go ahead – take a peak and see if you get as lost as I did while making it. www.bethbarbush.com

I had no idea that this month’s theme of “Logic and Order” would bring a literal tangible outcome along with so much heady self-reflection. I thought that somehow I would be asked to study up on the stock market, reading consumer reports or learning theoretical mathematics…. I have to say I am really relieved about escaping that this month.. but geez… staring through this microscope on my deepest and sincerest goals and ambitions past present and future is harder than any mathematical equation I’ve ever tried to figure out!

Diving in and dissecting my past, looking at what I’ve done, where I have been and who I have become was something I thought might happen with this project (but not so early on!). Just looking at my portfolio makes me a little tired, I’m not quite sure how I actually did all those things. It seems as if I have been running for a long time now – jumping from one project into another. Gabe was right – the most logical thing to do at this point was to stop, pause and reflect upon all of this.

Anita’s last unanswered wildcard question came to mind when resurfacing this flow of experiences and energy I had in my twenties,

“Knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given yourself ten years ago?”

As I said before, I really would not have changed anything or made different decisions, but I would have told myself two things. First – ambition really is overrated. And second – there are more than a few ways to lead a successful and happy life.

I think we sometimes spend way too much time worrying about who or what we want to become rather than focusing on who we are and what we are doing and accomplishing in the present. This ambition I had about “being someone” or “being something” in retrospect is something I would have liked to let go of a bit sooner.  I use to spend a little too much time worrying about not making traditional decisions. From a very early age, I would wonder, “Why do I seem to want very different things than those around me?” “Are my tastes, thoughts and dreams wrong? Should I be doing something else that would make more money? Be more stable?”

Trusting myself more than the external influences around me, I found my way from one experience to the next.  It often felt like walking a tight rope though – constantly questioning myself and wondering if I would fall.  If I could only have sent this portfolio to my younger self to show her what she could do if she trusted herself without fear!

Luckily, I do have a strong will and instinct and have had the great support of my only real mentors (my friends and my mother).  I have never looked up to famous writers, artists, or public figures. I find public figures talented and interesting but have always been more inspired directly by the people in my immediate life. These mentors set extraordinary examples for me to follow. I grew up with a mother who raised two kids on her own, had her own craft shop, got her masters while working a full-time social service job and still budgeted time and money to take my brother and I on vacation. Gabe, my best friend of 17 years has been a successful screen writer, a movie accountant, Peace Corps volunteer, chocolate salesman, social worker, and now 3rd grader teacher.  Take a peak at the Players page on this website to see what other amazing people I have been lucky enough to have in my life. They all have also been great mentors to me in some way.

So… last logic lessons of the month:

Trust yourself. You know what’s right for you.

(and if feel you need a second opinion…)

Ask your mentors! They can only help you learn more about yourself and who you want to be! The amazing people in my life have really helped me thus far and are continuing to do so by helping me live out some incredible chapters.

7/31/13

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.