Monthly Archives: August 2013

August Writer Response: Andy Cook

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Hello again LC readers, and welcome to my writer’s comment period.  After twelve days of playing Cap and Trade with Beth, I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking not only about my personal consumption habits, but about consumption trends in the world in general.  I’ve no doubt this has also happened to Beth, perhaps causing some of her frustration with our fun game.  But after a few clarifying conversations, I think we’ve got the hang of it. In the next dozen or so paragraphs, I’ll subject you to some of my thought topics and some of the tactics I’ve adopted to mitigate my own wasteful behaviors.

But first, an invitation:

Join the Cap and Trade Game!  Like most games, learning the rules is a bit of a pain at first, but once you get the hang of it, it ain’t no thang.  Plus, if you’re good at it, at the end of each week you get to make other players do eco-friendly things.  This week, Beth got to make me read an environmental book and plant a tree (photos forthcoming)!  Regardless of how well you do, playing along is bound to make you examine your life and existence on this planet.  Who doesn’t want to do that? Find the game here.

My Experience Playing Cap And Trade

I began the first week of Cap and Trade on work-cation in New Orleans, which made playing the game pretty tough.  For one, the heat index in the city was over 100 degrees every day I was there, meaning I wasn’t about to sleep without air conditioning.  This wouldn’t have been a problem back in Boston (where I don’t even have air conditioning), and immediately got me thinking about the relationship of energy consumption to where we choose to live.  I’ve been known to scoff at the types who live in places where the weather is always beautiful (I’m looking at you, Californians), but I can’t deny the fact that such a choice means using far less heating and air conditioning (if not more driving).  When I think about climate change, and our dwindling non-renewable energy resources, I wonder:  will humans ever become a migratory species again? I pondered this while biking all over the city of New Orleans, which thankfully balanced out my air conditioning points quite nicely.  It didn’t, however, mitigate the points I got for flying in a plane, which is probably why Beth beat me this week!

After twelve days of playing this game, I can already say that some things have changed for me.

1 (WATER):  I now shower with a bucket.  Forcing myself to track my water usage and seek out opportunities for re-use has made me painfully aware of how much water I typically let fall down the drain.  It shouldn’t be surprising; we citizens of the developed world with plumbing and hot water heaters take the stuff for granted.  But the fact is, we can only do that because massive dams have been built, towns flooded, hundreds of miles of pipes buried beneath the earth, testing and treatment stations created, hundreds of experts trained and employed to treat and monitor, and millions of dollars spent annually to keep the whole system running.  And that’s just to get the water to our houses.

What do we do with it once it’s there?  We shit in it.  We leave it running while it heats up.  We let it rain gloriously over our bodies for minutes after we’re already clean, simply because we dread going to work.  And then that water flows through sewers to treatment plants (if it’s lucky) where it gets cleaned up and spat out into the ocean, where it becomes saltwater, unusable to us.  The least we can do as grateful citizens is try to make the most of it while we have it.   My shower bucket catches much of the water running off my body.  I then (don’t get grossed out) use it to shave.  Then I use it again to water my garden.  It’s a small gesture, I know (a drop in the bucket, you might say).  But it’s gotta start somewhere.  And speaking of small gestures…

2 (AIR): I turn my phone off frequently.  And it’s so satisfying.  You may have read the article on energy use of phones and computers I posted to the Living Chapters facebook page (or maybe you didn’t, so here).  As the article explains, charging a cell phone only requires a tiny amount of energy, but when you multiply that by everyone using cell phones in the world, it really adds up.  The bright side is, using a phone requires less energy than a laptop, and far less than a desktop, so I’m happy to shift my web browsing to that device.  But then I start to wonder: how much energy does the internet use?  I mean, the whole internet: all the servers, towers, satellites, and devices that connect to it?  I imagine the answer is hard to fathom, and likely not sustainable in the long term.

3 (FOOD): I eat less meat.  Particularly when I’m out at a restaurant and don’t know the provenance of the meat on the menu (did the chicken have a name?) This is something I’m constantly saying I’ll pay more attention to, but frequently don’t.  If a friend invites me to a new, awesome BBQ joint in the neighborhood, I’m there.  But with the incentive of competing for points with my good friend Beth, I’ve been opting for the salads and pasta primaveras.  And why shouldn’t I?  Conventionally raised meat is, quite frankly, a terrible thing.  Raising animals on factory farms uses a massive amount of water, supports a highly problematic corn subsidy system (because that’s what they’re fed), and dumps unhealthy amounts of antibiotics and feces into our watersheds.  If you’re interested in learning more about these issues, please check out the Food Systems And The Environment website I helped author last year in a class at MIT.

4 (WASTE): I’m composting again.  I was lucky enough to grow up with a hippy father who had me recycling and composting clear through high school (if you’re reading this, Dad, thanks!).  But as an adult, I haven’t composted unless I had a garden, which has only happened for two years so far.  I have a garden again at my home in Somerville, but since I’ve known I’d be moving in September, I haven’t bothered with the compost part.  WIth the incentive of the game, however, I’ve been saving my food scraps and donating them to my neighborhood community garden.  It’s easy, it’s satisfying, and it does a tiny bit to help fight back against the erosion of soil.

Ok. At this point, it’s taken me over three hours to write this response, and I can’t help but think about the points I’m racking up by having my computer on.  So if you’re still reading, thank you.  Please turn off your computer now, and go take a walk.                                                                                                                                                         Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

checks and balances

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I have never been a numbers person. Honestly, keeping track of anything in a formulaic way has always been  counterintuitive for me.  I’ve just finished week one of this “Cap and Trade” system and am finding that balancing my actual environmental habits to be less difficult and than balancing the points on the scoring card. I am now wishing I had been asked to brush up on some mathematical equations in my last logic chapter; it may have helped me create a tool for tracking all the miles of driving, cubic feet of waste, gallons of water, and hours of electricity I am using this month.

I have never even balanced my checkbook technically, but I also have never overdrawn. It may not be logical but I usually sense when something is off balance and then adjust as needed.  I just make sure that I keep to my moderate spending habits and try to stay on the frugal side of things. I have tried to adopt this mode of operation to this game. So I’m not sure what my point results will reveal in the end, but one thing has become extremely clear. I am now more aware of everything I do on a daily basis more than I ever thought I could be (or wanted to be!). I mean who tracks how many times they flush a toilet in a database?

Within days, I  determined what my highest point scoring habits include: driving my car, charging my laptop/phone, eating food that has an unknown origin and showering daily. Some of these things were easy to scale back right away. (like cutting back on my amount of showers and length of them) But others can not be changed overnight – giving up my car would mean giving up my job and giving up my computer would also mean giving up my job. I decided to avoid unemployment and focus on the areas in which there was potential to shift. Food and Water. These two things I have direct control over changing in my daily life.

Or do I? Even these decisions, in which I thought I had ultimate control over, are a lot more complex than I originally thought. I didn’t make it past my first meal of the month before I became tangled up in the logistics of how to “score” my eating habits.

Dinner number one:  I had a salad with greens from my own garden, a tomato from a neighbors garden, some packaged baby carrots, a non organic cucumber and some salad dressing (with a ton of random ingredients) all from… the “local” grocery store, along with a turkey burger bearing a label saying it’s meat was “distributed” in near by Landover, MD Hmmm… something harvested by me, something locally harvested – other veggies from unknown territories and meat from where? If “distributed” means raised and processed, I think less than 100 miles away?  So how many points is that?

Things got pretty complicated even after examining one meal.  Knowing I got my food from the local food store was not knowing where my food is from.  Living in Annapolis, I am privileged to have access to many places that sell locally grown food, but I did find, after checking, that those stores and markets are actually scattered around the area and are a farther drive away than my local Grocery Store. I would also have to go to several different places to get all things locally.  Would the miles in my car out weigh the choice of the food? Hmmm… I had to check out the point system to find out. After checking I still was not sure.

While focusing on water consumption, this different dilemma surfaced:  I’m in a pubic bathroom in my favorite coffee shop remembering that every time I flush a toilet I am essentially wasting water (and gaining .5 points). I am wondering how the proprietor and other customers would feel about me implementing the, “if its yellow let it mellow” motto. I never opposed this idea but I had also never really fully adopted it. This was the first time I actually found myself pondering this predicament.  Do I do what’s considered “rude” and leave pee unflushed in a public toilet or do I waste the water and enable this water wasting habit we have all taken part in for years? I caved that time and succumbed to the “avoid doing what is rude rule” that my mother taught me long ago.

It’s ridiculous that I even have time or head space to think about such a “dilemma” as this let alone ponder it for the rest of the day. Later that evening I brought it up again in a phone conversation with “Logic and Order” chapter writer Gabe DellaVecchia. “Do you leave pee in public toilets?” I asked.  He lived in Portland Oregon where he said that the “if its yellow let it mellow motto” is the norm, not only in personal homes but in public places as well. He said you may get labeled a “hippie” for letting the yellow mellow but heck that seems  a lot better label than being called “rude”.

Is it rude to save water? Are we still being labeled negatively for trying to conserve? Well I guess we all have opinions on the right and wrong ways of doing things and we all feel differently about what’s important (in this case our etiquette  or our conservation habits). But we can only make decisions for ourselves in our personal lives… OR do we need to work harder as a culture together to make these changes acceptable?

This game has filled my head with an overwhelming amount to think about and its only week one! Not only am I now thinking about how my personal choices are impacting everything and everyone around me but I am also pondering how and why we have come to make the choices we do and what kind of support we may or may not have for trying to make those changes toward a better outcome?

It seems like we are up against a lot of different obstacles when trying to do something like lower our personal impact on the environment. Beyond just the system in which we track our habits, there is the structure of the city we live in, our culture, our economic status and our upbringing.  These are just a few of the factors that I haven’t even touched on yet.  What were you taught as a child about how to make your decisions.  Were you raised to conserve water or conserve money? Did you grow up on fast food or grow your own food?

I am curious about finding a system that could help us all shift our habits while taking into account our different starting points.  (does this exist?) And are we even in a position to be able to make the changes we want to or will we have the access to do so? These are some of the bigger questions I’ve been wrestling with this week along with the “pee in public toilet dilemma”.

What do you think? How can we assess and accept the path where we have come from to get to a new place of balance where we’d all like to be?

8/9/13

Please join Chapter 3 writer Andy and I in the Cap and Trade Game and track your own habits! You may learn something about yourself and the possibly the environment in which you live and where you came from. Just click here and add your name to play.

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

lifestyle: liveaboard

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In the past few days of tracking my habits and assigning them point values, I have realized that there is one major thing that has given me a slight advantage with this eco-challenge chapter.

I live on a sailboat.

I know I mentioned this in my last post but I feel that it’s relevant to return to and reflect upon this singular choice. The Cap and Trade game has asked me to look very closely at the multitude of choices that I make every day and how they all effect our environment greatly but I have realized that making this one larger lifestyle choice has really given me a head start on easing me into making more enviro-friendly choices.

Months before starting Living Chapters, I decided to move aboard, free of any writer’s demands or suggestions, I wrote this particular chapter myself not knowing at the time that it would change the fate of my future chapters.

Unlike most liveaboards, I did not make this choice because I am a sailor, or have any attachment or history with boats or the sea. Although I have a strong love for being on and near the water, my reasons behind this decision were pretty practical. We all have our priorities and make mental lists of what we want when choosing a home. This is what my list looked like when making my last move.

What I would like in a home:

1. Affordable rent

2. Walking proximity to a downtown with local coffee shops and a farmers market

3. Shorter commute for work

4. Lack of drama (meaning: living without multiple roommates was preferable)

Trying to accomplish these simple requests in Annapolis is nearly impossible with a non-profit part-time salary. And after a month into my Craigslist housing search, I was almost ready to give up. I had seen way too many over-priced apartments and condos and met a large cast of potential future restraining orders – I mean potential roommates. The idea of living on a boat did not really enter my mind until I answered yet another random ad on Craigslist. This one was advertising a motor boat for rent, $450. Hmm..? Sounded like an interesting idea. Well it was an interesting idea but not a good idea. After arriving at the marina, I found that the guy who placed the ad and owned the boat, Jerry, wanted me to pay him $450 to live with him on his musty, rusty 35ft boat. Anyway, not to get off track here, telling my house hunting horror stories, but I had to give a shout out to Jerry because he may have changed my life forever. I did NOT end up moving in with Jerry and his collection of fishing gear and old boat parts, but meeting him did solidify two things. I definitely wanted to live alone and I was even more curious about living on a boat than ever.

I knew living on a boat would change my lifestyle but didn’t really consider how it could change my environmental habits.

I have to start off by saying I really know very little about the liveaboard lifestyle. I’ve only been aboard 5 months now, which is long enough to know that there is A LOT to learn and there are a million different ways to choose how to live on the water (as there are on land). What I do know is this – I had to change quite a few things to adapt to this new home and the predominant theme for me was reduction.

“Less is more” is the mantra, right? Well let’s count the ways living on the boat has helped me practice this.

Less space = less stuff = less waste. The first thing I adapted to, was living in a much smaller physical space. It really wasn’t that hard. With less space, I just prioritized and brought aboard the things that I really needed to live with along with a few things I really wanted. I quickly realized that there were a lot of belongings I thought I needed but really didn’t. Isn’t this alone the crux of so many of our consumption issues? We think we need more than we really do? Desire more – use more. Desire less – use less. It seems simple but sometimes hard to put into practice.

For example: at the grocery store – I now, choose things with less packaging. Why bring home the extra foam, plastic covering, or extra plastic bags when there is really little room to store or dispose of these things when returning to the boat. Do I need an extra plastic bag to put my ears of corn in or loose vegetables – no dont think so? My trash bin on land was twice the size of the one I have aboard so keeping extra trash was not a big deal in my personal life.  I also don’t have ample space for recycling now – so I just try not to bring back any excess packaging when I don’t have to.  I also have gotten into the habit of buying only what I need to eat for the day that I am going to eat it (with a tiny fridge there is no room to keep excess food) This has helped me eat fresher food and also reduces my food waste. I eat what I have on board before going and buying more.

Less space also = less energy usage. On the first boat I lived on, I used a refrigerator smaller than a dorm room fridge, a hot plate, a toaster oven and a small space heater when it was cold. I used no more than two 12 volt lights to light the space. I also learned that I could only use so much electric at any given time without blowing a fuse. I needed to make choices of using one appliance at a time and turn the others off when not using them.

OH and lets not forget water usage.  Living on land my 1 bedroom apartment provided me with free-flowing hot water at my fingertips whenever I wanted it. I never had to think about if I would run out of water, so I didn’t think about conserving it. After moving aboard, water was the first thing I had to think about.  On the first boat, I didn’t have running water – I used dock water from a hose and filtered it or brought on bottled water. Visually being able to see how much water I had aboard definitely helped me conserve my use of it.

So what do these reduction adaptations add up to? A  much lower electric bill and possibly a lower negative impact on the environment. I have, whether I’ve intended to or not, fallen into a these new patterns just because of my lifestyle choice. If I observe and examine these habits a bit more closely and intently, (like the Cap and Trade asks me to) I may be able to make even more of a difference.

As a newbie novice living on the water, I just skimmed the surface of the many ways living on a boat can be a sound environmental choice. I encourage and ask the experienced liveaboards, sailors, and boaters to comment and share their conservation tips and experiences while on the water.  I really hope I can continue to live on the this lifestylefor a bit longer. I have become really fond of this choice and feel like there is so much more to learn.  I am renting this boat till the end of the month and am hoping to find a new one in September so that I can stay on the water. Wish me luck!

8/6/13

Thanks to Barbara and Jack Donachy for reading and commenting on my last post and sharing their fascinating life experience of living aboard. Very inspiring!

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 now. He 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!

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

from where we are

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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.