Monday, October 15, 2007

On lifestyle changes and Blog Action Day

It's October Fifteenth, also known as Blog Action Day!

As mentioned yesterday, I've been working on changing certain aspects of my life. Throughout the course of the day, I'll be going over some of the changes, and why I've made them... depending on what my workload is like today! (Which, as I write this at 7pm, was bonecrushing.)

So, what have I done? How have I, in my own misguided little way, set out to become an environmentally sound and responsible citizen?

Originally intended as a plan to save myself some money (you didn't think I really cared at this point, did you?), I bought a manual push-mower this summer. I got tired of constantly fixing my gas powered mower (not to mention fuelling up) that I bought the push mower in protest of planned obsolescence and poor design... and to stick it to the money-grubbing, capitalist oil companies!

After a while, I really enjoyed using the push mower and preferred it to the noisy, smoke-belching machine it had replaced. Eventually, my lawncare routine became an excuse to be outside, and I'd mow every weekend, raking up the clippings, and generally taking care of my yard instead of having it look like the setting for Children of the Corn. The fact that I was getting exercise was the icing on the cake!

Exercise... something my routine had been lacking ever since I was promoted from Warehouse Manager to Inside Salesman at my job. I used to work a ton of overtime while in the warehouse, usually going full-tilt from 7am to 6pm (or later) with little rest, for six (sometimes seven) days a week. When I was promoted to Inside Sales, I was working what most would consider more "normal" hours (8 'til 5), and really did nothing but sit on my ass, answering the phones, and entering orders into the computer. I went from a slim-but-muscular 190 lbs to a hefty 210 lbs, replacing muscle tone with a beer gut... In other words, a little exercise couldn't hurt.

For that same reason, I reclaimed my old mountain bike from my parents' place. Hadn't rode it since I was sixteen years old (I'm thirty-four now). The poor thing was in such poor shape - someone had stolen one of the gear shifters, the chain was stiff, and the brake pads were dried out and crumbling. With a little chain oil here, a bolt there, a bike pump, and four brake pads bought entirely with Canadian Tire Money, my bike was back on the road! I use it mostly for riding through Kildonan Park on Sunday mornings, with a cup of coffee in my hand and a smile on my face!

It dawned on me a few weeks later that what I was doing was not only cost effective and healthy, it was also easier on the environment. "So", I thought, "what else could I do to help the environment? And how can I do it without becoming some tree-hugging fuckin' hippie and attracting "liberated" vegan feminist womyn who wear tank tops, army pants and combat boots and don't shave their pits?". The answer lay at my favourite bookstore - McNally Robinson at Portage Place. I discovered a book entitled "The Ten Minute Activist" by The Mission Collective, and it really, honestly changed my life.

Some of the changes I've made so far:

Transportation: I haven't owned a car in years, and as such I typically walk or take the bus. Now that my bike is in working order, I use it whenever possible, avoiding a bus trip or cutting down on walking time.

Household: I've cut down on the amount of waste I produce (both as a consumer and, er, metabolically), recycle anything remotely recycleable. I typically buy things in bulk wherever possible, and use cloth or canvas bags when I go to the supermarket or the LC. I've been buying what are billed as "environmentally friendly" household chemicals (or simply doing without in some cases). I'm very conscious of the electricity I use, and in this respect, I've switched over to Compact Fluorescent bulbs in all the outlets, I rarely watch TV (1-2hours per week tops), leave my computers off when not in use, and even ditched some of my appliances for manual versions - such as a manual coffee mill, milk frother (mmmm, homemade cappuccino!), hand-crank paper shredder, hand crank drill (old school, man!), and I've even invested in a few candles, solely to establish a mood or when I just want to relax on my couch, listening to music and having a few cocktails. I use (rechargeable) battery power whenever possible, and have been dutiful in recycling the dead ones wherever possible. I've stopped using paper wherever possible, opting to jot down notes, messages, and memos on my Palm Pilot as opposed to a regular ol' notepad... a practice I've carried over to my professional life! I'm also looking into the viability of solar power, whether or not it's feasible in Winnipeg's climate...

Office: As mentioned above, I've all but stopped using paper in both my home and professional lives. My Palm M105 serves as my notation device at home or on the go, whereas my laptops serve me at work or when I need something more while on the go. I'm also working on sharpening my memory more, so I don't need to rely on either electronic device!

The credo I've adopted is summed up as this: Muscle power and exercise instead of convenience and supposed time-savings. Natural methods and solutions for cleaning, yardwork, etc as opposed to using harsh/environmentally unsound chemicals and processes. I'm better for it in the long run, and it helps the Earth out a bit too.

I'm not so naive to think that any of this will make a huge difference, but what the Hell, it can't hurt!

So, that's my Blog Action Day post. Not much, but I feel I'm a better person for it... personality notwithstanding.


- Incidentally, as an aside, I've put together a plan with an acquaintance of mine to start our own non-profit group that will take donated computer equipment, rebuild and refurbish it, and give it away to those who truly need it. It stays out of the landfills, and might make a difference to someone who otherwise could not own one... More on this later.

- As a further postscript, I really have nothing against tree-huggers, hippies, vegans, feminists, liberated women/womyn, or anyone with poor hygiene and worse fashion sense. I just really and truly enjoy being a jerk.