Hardcore Ways to Go Green

I saw an article on The Atlantic a few days ago  called ‘The Most Hard-Core Ways to Go Green,” and frankly, it was a bit rubbish. The suggestions were either not very low impact or not very hardcore. An expensive shower that forcibly ejects you after a few minutes? Unnecessary. DIY cleaning supplies? Check. A menstrual cup? Pfft.

Let me translate what hardcore seems to mean here: further than the writer is willing or able to go right now. In other words, hardcore is in the eyes of the beholder. Some of my lifestyle choices that seem very ordinary and do-able to me, like not eating meat or line drying my clothes, might seem hardcore to people more entrenched in a standard American lifestyle. And some choices that I haven’t wrapped my head around yet, like going car-free, no doubt seem very normal and unexceptionable to people who have been living that way for a while. Wherever you are on the green spectrum, hardcore is a moving target.

As it should be. Nonetheless, here’s a fun thought experiment: How far is too far for you right now? Here are a handful of changes that I consider hardcore. I have two basic criteria: 1) It has to be something with a significant impact on my environmental footprint, and 2) It has to be something that I haven’t done already. Ask me again in five years, and I hope I’ll have moved on to new standards of hardcore-ness!

Jennifer’s Hardcore Ways to Go Green

Switch to a composting toilet. Even with high efficiency toilets, we use gallons of clean, potable water to flush our toilets every day. If you don’t have a high efficiency toilet, it’s likely your biggest indoor water user.  A composting toilet takes water out of the equation. I was incredibly grossed out by the idea of one until I realized that the simplest ones were basically litter boxes for humans. Although I’ve never used one personally, I am in regular contact with a litter box. It doesn’t smell. It’s not a big deal. But my current home has flush toilets that I’m not intending to switch out.

Go plastic free. Beth Terry has my sincere admiration for remaking her life in a plastic-free form. When I look at how pervasive plastic is and how much time and knowledge is needed to avoid it, I feel a little daunted. I’ve cut down on my use of plastic greatly and choose plastic free options when available, but the issue doesn’t reverberate with me the way it does for her.

Swap my car for a bike. My car is one of the least environmentally friendly pieces of my life. I don’t drive very much, and I could theoretically bike or car share for the errands I need to run. I’m reluctant to; I have a completely irrational affection for my old ’97 Taurus and an equally irrational fear of biking in a busy street. Actually, it’s not totally irrational. Drivers here aren’t used to bikers and frequently don’t look when entering the bike lane. I’ve seen enough close calls to be worried.

Never fly again. As an acknowledged shut-in, I take about one round trip plane ride a year. In May, I’ll be heading back to the Big Island, Hawaii. According to the TerraPass carbon calculator, this equals  1,857 lb of carbon dioxideOuch. I don’t even like flying, though I do like looking at new and different plants and have favorite spots several places around the world. I’d be sad never to visit Durham Cathedral again, but I might eventually give up flying.

Get off the grid. Solar thermal and solar photovoltaic panels, rain water catchment system, composting toilet, the whole nine yards. I’m interested, but not quite going for it. For anyone who knows me, the thought of my voluntarily roughing it is laughable. I’m a suburbanite in the early stages of recovery.

Eat the pet. I came across this chillingly rational idea a while ago and was utterly revolted. I have a carnivorous pet who can’t fend for herself. Brie’s meaty diet has a significant impact; I acknowledge the fact that it makes ecological sense to have pets that double as food, but I absolutely refuse. I won’t do it. I can’t. And if I could, I think you should be scared to know me.

Boycott the grocery store. I used to enjoy looking at supermarket ads. Now, on the rare occasion that I have a flip through, I find that they rarely advertise anything that I buy anymore — it’s all high profit processed and packaged food. I’m not quite to the point where I get everything from the farmers’ market and the bulk bins, but I’m inching closer.

Grow most or all of my own food. I haven’t been bitten by the gardening bug yet. Partly because I live in a condo with no land, but partly because I’m just not that motivated. (If you want to see how another apartment-dwelling green blogger gets around her restrictions and grows tons of food, visit Living Lightly in a Wavering World.)

Buy nothing new. After I was patting myself on the back for going all of March without buying anything, I came across a year long buy-nothing-new challenge. Hardcore? Harder core for sure. I was getting a little antsy at the end of the month, although the terms of my challenge (buy nothing, including used items) were a bit stricter. I’d be up for a longer challenge, but a year or more is intimidating.

Reach out in my community. If you’re an extrovert, reaching out to, you know, actual people instead of words on a screen might not seem very hardcore at all. I’m on the extreme opposite end of extroversion. I hate talking to people I don’t know; I haven’t got the faintest idea how to network and make a difference for the people I actually live among. I have vague ideas of volunteering to be a naturalist docent at my local open space, or doing something with our urban tree organization, or helping promote scientific literacy. Instead, my volunteer work is currently limited to socializing cats, which involves — you guessed it — zero interaction with humans.

Get sterilized. This might seem like the hardest core action the list, but honestly, the only reason I haven’t gotten myself sterilized is that low cost spay/neuter days are limited to quadrupeds. Apparently humans don’t qualify for the discount, even though I’d argue that human overpopulation poses far more problems than cat or dog overpopulation. If it were only a matter of shelling out $50 to ensure that my carbon legacy ends with me, I would do it tomorrow. Or on Earth Day. I can’t think of a more effective way to ensure curbing my total impact.

That’s what hardcore looks like for me. What about you? What’s pushing your green envelope?

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37 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by EcoCatLady on 04/16/2012 at 23:37

    You’re totally cracking me up with the low cost spay and neuter stuff!

    But once again, you pose a very interesting question… and I’m also curious to hear what things people are already doing that others might consider too hardcore.

    Anyhow… there are many places I haven’t been willing to go as of yet… here’s a small sampling.

    1) Keep more reasonable hours. I know that I would burn a lot less electricity if I went to bed and got up earlier. Ideally, I’d be up with the sun and in bed shortly after dark. As you can guess from the time stamp on this comment, my schedule is far from ideal.

    2) Give up Netflix and my 50 inch plasma television. I know it eats energy, and I shouldn’t waste so much time watching movies, but I can’t help myself.

    I justify both of the above by paying a premium to get all of my electricity from wind power… which brings me to…

    3) Generate my own electricity. I actually have very mixed feelings about this topic. Solar and wind sound like such good options, but if you read about the rare earth elements required to make photovoltaics… I dunno… Plus, I read somewhere that it takes more energy to build a home windmill than the thing can generate over its lifetime, so there doesn’t seem to be much point. I have considered some sort of solar heating system… but since the house doesn’t have a radiator system it would be a major job to install a water based system. There are solar “space heaters”… which are essentially just a big glass covered box that heats up air and sends it into your house… but I’ve calculated the payback on a commercial one to around 15 years…. I dunno… I end up wondering which options are really “green”.

    4) Upgrade the insulation. I’ve got pretty good insulation in the attic, but not in the walls. I almost did blown in wall insulation it a few years back when I qualified for a government program that would have done the work for no charge… but here’s the kicker… they would have drilled holes all over the INSIDE of the house to blow in the insulation, meaning that you’d pretty much have to redo the entire interior of the house afterwards. Not ready to go there yet.

    I dunno… the more I think about this sort of stuff the more ambivalent I become. I mean what’s the point in a few people going to extremes when the whole society is going to make up the difference in the blink of an eye? It’s not that I don’t think that individuals can make an impact, but I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t be better off putting our energy into working to elect candidates who will enact green legislation, and lobbying for better regulations rather than killing ourselves trying to claw our way from the 95th greenest percentile up to the 97th. So maybe I should…

    5) Get political. I often feel like what I REALLY should be doing is volunteering for candidates and causes that will push to enact green legislation… but I just don’t like it.

    OK… there’s my meandering list… Oh, and the thing I do that most people would probably consider to be over the top, is that I only use toilet paper for pee. I tried going completely TP free, but it was just too gross for me where poop was concerned. But for pee… a quick rinse and a dedicated towel and I’m good to go. There. Now you know!

    p.s. – Are you from Hawaii? I was actually born in Honolulu… which must mean that I’m really a Muslim born in Kenya. :)

    Reply

    • Posted by EcoCatLady on 04/16/2012 at 23:39

      OK… I said that last paragraph wrong… I meant I only use TP for poo…

      Reply

      • Posted by EcoCatLady on 04/16/2012 at 23:42

        Wait… I meant second to last paragraph…

        I think I should go to bed now.

        Reply

    • Hi Cat!

      Reusable toilet paper almost made it on the list. I’m slowly becoming more open to using cloth for, um, liquid excretions. But I’d rather not go for cloth for everything. I admire people who cloth diaper and deal with alarming explosions of fecal matter, but…nope, not for me.

      I also get pretty ambivalent about going greener when I see my neighbors pitching plastic single use water bottles in the trash. But I keep telling myself that I am responsible for my own impact, and I do things that don’t feel like real hardships or sacrifices. Giving up the cat would be an unbearably high price for me. Switching to a composting toilet would not.

      I’m not from Hawaii — I’m a California girl all the way through. I do like it there and could be persuaded to spend some time there, but I love my redwood forests and golden poppies and am pretty well rooted.

      Reply

  2. I did a post like this once, “how far are you willing to go green”… here are my “no ways”. I will not give up toilet paper either, although I frequently tease my children that we will give that up the way we’ve given up paper towels. I won’t take my own containers to restaurants for the take home leftovers. Lastly, I tried the “no shampoo” challenge with the baking soda paste and vinegar rinse. I won’t do that again. But I’ve switched over to a bar shampoo instead of liquid (no plastic waste). I’ve actually thought about the composting toilet, but like you, won’t switch.

    I think the key is to find something that we are very comfortable doing and something we are a little uneasy doing and trying to adopt both behaviors simultaneously.

    Reply

    • Hi Kim,

      Please post the link to your post! I am also a drop out of the ‘no poo’ movement. I tried it for a few weeks until 1) my hair started to feel sticky and gross because the baking soda wasn’t doing a good enough job of getting it clean; and 2) Kevin said the smell of vinegar was nauseating. Not worth it. I also tried shampoo bars, but they seem to be way too heavy for my already oily hair. So I use regular shampoo, but I get it in the big family size container that lasts half a year. I’m intending to refill it at Whole Foods when I run out because all that plastic is a bit silly.

      I love your approach to change. Mine seems to be to initially be completely squicked out, and then think about it often and educate myself until I’m OK with trying it. I don’t think squick is a bad state unless you get stuck in it. :-)

      Reply

  3. Posted by Laura on 04/17/2012 at 06:51

    Okay, thanks to all of you for a wonderful morning chuckle!!! Jennifer, you crack me RIGHT UP and I only just met you yesterday! Here is my take on things

    We have used a compost toilet……..and its very uncomplicated. Will I switch? Maybe….but not yet.
    A friend of ours lives on a houseboat, on a lake, in the middle of Vancouver Island, in BC. Its BRILLIANT. The toilet is upstairs, and the holding tank is down below under the house on a float all its own. When said tank is full, the tank is taken up the hill from his float home, via a pulley system, and his left there to SIMMER for 6 months. A secondary tank that has already simmered is emptied, washed and taken down to replace the full one. The stuff that comes out is basically SOIL AMENDMENT. He then spreads it around the perimeter of his property and feeds the forest with it. The tank takes a while to fill with his PERSONAL DEPOSITS, along with peat and sawdust. The ONLY thing about the toilet that I dont approve of, is the peat. Peat bogs are disappearing fast, all in the name of gardening and now, compost toilets. Hope they figure that one out……….or, maybe they have?
    Eat my pet? I dont think my cats would appreciate it. But, when my dream property happens, hopefully in 5 years, I will have my egg laying chickens that I will hang out with and name and train to be carried and cradled and they will all be free of pestulents. And they will ALL be my Squishies (remember Nemo?). On the far far side of the property, away from me and my heart, will be THE chickens. The ones with no names. They get fed with my head turned away so that I can see them. They will still have a wonderful life pecking at things in the dirt, and eating bugs and grass, and will eat a vegetarian diet, and then one day a man will come, WHEN I AM NOT THERE, and load them up HUMANELY into his nicely appointed truck, and then in HALAL fashion they will meet their maker and come back wrapped up in brown paper and go into my freezer. At least, that is the plan. And this is when the composting toilet will come in to play……on my little farm.
    Plastic? HATE IT……..I will, for the most part, not buy ANYTHING that is in plastic now. Hashbrowns? Nope. Will make them from scratch. Olive oil…..in a glass bottle. Milk? Carton. Veggies are FRESH and organic. This year though, I am planting a garden as we have a fairly large lot, and with the removal of a Maple tree this spring, we now have TONS of sun. Plastic bags are for the BRAINDEAD. Toothpaste is a drag…….its ALWAYS in plastic. But, what can you do? I buy my shampoo by the GALLON, and refill small containers.
    My eggs are from a local farm. My meat is all from another local farm and its all antibiotic and growth hormone free. Chickens are certified HALAL. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, google it. The chickens are blessed for giving their life, and the processing is extremely humane.
    I tell my friends that when they buy poultry from Canadian Superstore or any other large grocery chain for that matter, they are buying TORTURED UNHAPPY MEDICATED CHICKENS whose feet never touch the ground. I will leave it at that……….it REALLY angers me the way they treat our feed animals.
    I am currently in the process of trying to find an alternative to CAT LITTER. Clumping is great, especially when you have 4 furry kids, but it makes me shudder every single time my husband cleans out the three boxes and puts it in the garbage, which is what we are supposed to do in our community. I am thinking of using sand……..and putting the boxes out on our deck (our cats are indoor and they have access to an upper floor deck off our house). After a week of digging out the solids, the sand could be washed somehow to get the ammonia out. I dont know…………..any suggestions on that one?

    At any rate, I BABBLE ON HERE………….what it all means is that if each and every one of us does SOMETHING to reduce our carbon footprint, and each and every generation does something more, perhaps in the year 2396 our world will NOT look like the one depicted on WALLE.

    K, my electronic timer just went off to tell me my tea is ready. My tea, that was boiled from water that came from a tap and that was boiled on an electric stove and made in a cup from China. Sheesh…………..daunting task to go green isnt it?

    Reply

    • Hi Laura,

      Thanks for sticking around! Hmm…yep, I’m also drinking imported tea right now (I believe it’s oolong flavored with a really nice jasmine essential oil). Kind of a scary thought that in the future, chocolate, coffee, maple syrup, bananas, and tea might all be very expensive and hard to get due to climate change and oil shortages.

      I use a combination of pine shavings and corn based kitty litter. I think you could probably get it much more cheaply from a chicken bedding supplier than the pet store. The wood is a waste product from lumber mills. It doesn’t clump that well, but mixed with the corn, it does well enough. (The corn by itself gets smelly a lot faster.) I’m ashamed to say that I don’t compost — I live in a second story condo — so I fold litter bags out of newspaper and hope that they’ll have a chance to start breaking down before entering the landfill. Apparently you can also use wood shavings for human composting toilets.

      I’m definitely not giving up toothpaste, either! Apparently homemade toothpaste with baking soda is hard on your teeth, and humans have to go a long time with a single set of adult teeth. I’ve always thought that we should be able to grow new teeth every 10 years or so. Come on, evolution!

      Reply

    • Posted by EcoCatLady on 04/18/2012 at 00:19

      Hi Laura,

      I’m curious to hear what you come up with in terms of cat litter. My kids (of the feline variety) and I did an experiment a few years back and we tried pretty much every “natural” product on the market. We ended up with Swheat scoop… it clumps well, and isn’t too dusty, plus it comes in a paper bag. But here’s the deal with plant based litters… I wanted something that was a waste product but unfortunately it’s the starch in the grains that makes the stuff clump, so even if you go with a pine or corn husk product, if it clumps it’s because corn starch has been added. There was one made from walnut shells that worked well, but only one of my cats will use it. Pine was out for us because of volatile organic compounds… I’ve already lost 2 cats to lung cancer so I don’t want to take any chances with lung irritants.

      Anyhow, I actually compost the cat litter. I do it separately from my other compost, and use it only on ornamental plants. It was the best solution I could come up with.

      But I’d be curious to know if you come up with a method for washing sand that actually works. When I was searching there was some fancy contraption – I think it was called the Cat Genie – that actually used reusable granules of some sort and dissolved the waste with some sort of enzyme solution. The whole thing is connected to the toilet and it actually flushes the waste! Anyhow, it struck me as interesting but a little too over the top for me.

      Reply

      • I’ve seen a Cat Genie at work. I dunno…it’s a pretty elaborate gadget that seems more designed for convenience (uses water, electricity, plastic) than for sustainability. I didn’t know the granules were washable! I guess I shouldn’t have thrown away the sweepings when I was cat sitting.

        I’m aware of the potential issues with pine litter, but they seem to be associated with animal bedding and constant exposure. The problem with using only the corn stuff is that it just doesn’t stay odor free for very long. I was scared away from Swheat Scoop by reports that it attracted insects. I don’t know, maybe there’s no real point to my avoiding clay litter since I buy clay buy the 25lb bag for the other love of my life.

        Reply

        • Posted by EcoCatLady on 04/19/2012 at 14:15

          Well… first of all, if you’ve only got one cat and one litter box the pine thing is probably not such a big deal. We’ve got 7 litter boxes so putting pine in all of them pretty much makes the entire basement into a VOC zone.

          But in terms of clay, my concern there is also not so much environmental as it is health related. The clay litters make silica dust which has been linked to lung cancer, and since I am now completely and utterly paranoid on that topic we don’t use the stuff. (Actually – I had to buy a bit for Princess when she first came inside because she wouldn’t use anything else… but I ran an air purifier 24/7 to try to keep it less dusty down there.)

          I watched some videos on the cat genie and I really have a hard time imagining my cats using the thing. Plus, the cleaning cycle takes 30 minutes! I think we’d need at least 4 of them… which really sounds a bit crazy to me. Plus, who knows what’s in the cleaning solution. But I wonder if you couldn’t come up with some non-automatic version of it… but there’s still the plastic pellets… hmmm…

          I suppose the most natural thing would be to just use dirt… but you’d have to change it out completely every week or so… I dunno… seems like you’d need vast quantities of it!

          There’s always toilet training… :)

          Reply

          • Hi Cat,

            I’d probably be paranoid if I’d had a cat die of lung cancer. I think I’m actually at greater risk for silicosis than the cat because I’m a potter and come in frequent contact with clay dust. I had one kind of scary episode in which I carved something very elaborate when it was very dry and had these weird chest pains for a while after. Since then, I’ve smartened up and carve when it’s still leather hard and have a spray bottle to keep the dust out of the air. I just looked up silicosis and am unamused to find that its other name is ‘Potter’s rot’ and there is no treatment. Oh joy.

            I’m not taking on the task of training a blind cat to use a flush toilet, but you’re welcome to try. ;-)

    • Posted by Rosa on 04/24/2012 at 14:43

      I totally don’t mind using a composting or pit toilet, it’s a regular feature of our vacations and I have even been on the poop-hauling crew at a humanure-composting farm.

      But I really don’t want to be responsible for long-term upkeep of one. Actually having one on our very own house that’s not way out in the country is a level of commitment that seems super hardcore to me.

      Reply

      • Hi Rosa,

        I’d love to know where you go for vacations! :-) I am, as I mentioned, a recovering suburbanite, and pit toilets do not number in my life experiences. I haven’t even changed a diaper in my life and am not likely to. I’ve been told by a number of people that composting toilets are neither malodorous nor difficult to maintain, but if you think they’re hardcore, I’m going to have to give that another mull over…

        Reply

        • Posted by Rosa on 04/25/2012 at 10:42

          Visit an intentional community or ecovillage! They often have lovely composting toilets. Definitely not malodorous, but “easy to maintain” is subjective – I don’t maintain our flush plumbing, I call a plumber. Just about any amount of actual responsibility for waste seems daunting. Especially if it had to be odorless/secret – when we composted cat poop, every time it rained it smelled like cat pee and people noticed.

          My partner likes to camp, so we are often in rural areas where outhouses are still legal. State parks and national parks often (usually?) have pit toilets, and in the hike-in parts of national parks they sometimes have composting toilets (though they’re never very nice, the ones in the Cascades and upland Rockies are designed for easy packing out, they don’t even have a privacy screen). The pit toilets in Rocky Mountain National Park are especially exciting because they are so deep – one of my neices was absolutely terrifd to use it.

          If you’re interested in the topic, the best overview I’ve seen is (seriously) a little book called Lifting the Lid. It’s kind of out of date for commercial options but has all the various approaches.

          Reply

          • A deep pit toilet in the Rocky Mountains sounds pretty terrifying to me! Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ll check out the book when I get closer the point of being able to install one or am feeling as enthused about composting toilets as I currently am about menstrual cups. :-)

  4. I’m a green wuss and don’t do anything extreme. In fact, I’m not really confident about calling myself green. Sure I compost, recycle, am trying to buy less, use homade green cleaners, use a reusable menstrual cup, don’t use pesticides on my lawn or garden, etc. But none of that feels like a sacrifice.

    I’m not willing to give up my car, fridge, flush toilet, TP, TV, cats, meat, occassional new stuff or occasional trips. I’m with Cat in feeling like any small lightening of my personal impact is quickly overcome by society. Because of that I can’t see the need to suffer for the environment at this point, although I am (slowly) trying different things to make sure they really are that much of an inconvenience once I’m past the breaking in point.

    Reply

    • Hi Candi,

      I suspect that some of my neighbors would consider what you’re doing extreme. Extreme and hardcore are a state of mind, not an absolute judgment. Just because we make changes that come fairly easily to us (and I’m so with you on the not suffering bit) doesn’t invalidate their positive impact. I try not to think about my impact within the context of my culture — the biggest impact things I could do would still be a drop in the bucket. I’m responsible for my impact, and that’s enough to keep me going most of the time.

      Good for you for trying different things. I find it also takes time for me to think about and accept a new idea enough to try it. Not all of my experiments stick (homemade pasta noodles might be more effort than they’re worth for me), but some do.

      Reply

  5. Great post! It is so true that something hardcore for someone, is not that hardcore for someone else. I guess it also depends on your motivations. I am not a green person just to be green, I also do it for health reasons. I avoid plastic as much as I can – not completely plastic free like Beth but getting close. BTW, Laura, milk cartons have an inside plastic lining, at least here in California. There is a good Washington Post article “If the food’s in plastic, what’s in the food?”. I also avoid all cosmetics, even if they come in glass containers or bulk. I am no-poo and infuse my vinegar with herbs or citrus peels so it smells nice. I wash my face with honey, make my own deodorant, toothpaste (yes baking soda, but mixed with coconut oil, it is not abrasive), use a menstrual cup. This is not hardcore to me since implementing these changes has been very easy and I don’t miss all the mystery ingredients in the so-called green products. I can understand that it does not work for everybody though. I guess I am lucky. My sister could never manage using a menstrual cup despite trying different models.
    I could eat pets, did it as a child when my grand parents had chickens and rabbits (I grew up in Europe). I am vegetarian now, but my kids are omnivore.
    I cannot give up flying. I could not live without visiting my family in Europe. That would be very hard to give up my car either.
    We recently gave up Netflix. Surprisingly, we don’t miss it at all. More time and we still watch recent movies/documentary from the library. no tv.
    I would never give up having children. I think the new generations are the future and that they may be able to change things and save our planet.
    As you said, it is really a journey and we all go at our own pace, within our own comfort zone. :)

    Reply

    • Thanks, Natalie!

      I probably should pay more attention to my health…I started out being willing to buy free range eggs but not organic produce on the grounds that my primary interest was in reducing suffering, but I have since come across more persuasive, ecological reasons to support organic agriculture. i think it’s perfectly fine that we’re all motivated by different passions and interests.

      I read that Washington Post article this morning, and for me, it just confirms my decision to do most of my cooking from scratch. Frankly, I’m not that concerned about my health — parts per billion is a tiny, tiny amount, and studies tend to be inconclusive, but there are so many good reasons to avoid processed and packaged foods anyway.

      Your comment about eating pets makes me wonder if Americans have a culturally distinct relationship with their companion animals. I would no sooner eat my cat than a parent would eat a baby; she’s my good friend, and I shell out money every year at the vet’s to ensure she stays healthy. I’m not incredibly paranoid about my own diet, but my cat gets the highest quality kitty food available.

      Reply

      • It might be the other way around. Where I grew up, people are very close to the animals they raise. They care so much for them that they sort of become pets. Especially as a child, since it was usually the kids’ chores to feed them and take care of them. We knew from the start that they were raised for their meat.

        Reply

  6. Hi Jennifer. Thanks for the shout-out, but I admit that I’m world’s away from growing all or even most of my own food. I’m trying though; every year I get a little bit better. Maybe if I ate less I could do it. Like if I was a monk living in a cave eating a small bowl of rice a day. Hey, now that would be be the ULTIMATE hardcore way to go green!

    Reply

    • Hi Emily,

      I think what I admire even more than your actual produce output is your attitude — not having your own land definitely doesn’t stop you from going out and finding a place to grow your own food. Can I have a little of that go-get’em attitude?

      Sometimes I think that the most effective way to reduce my impact will be to die early, but I’m not willing to do that, either!

      Reply

  7. Posted by Andrea on 04/19/2012 at 06:15

    So true, so true. It’s all relative. I know plenty of people who don’t own a car and don’t want to, they even shun public transit and just bike and walk everywhere. But they get all squeamish when I talk about the Diva Cup! For me, using a Diva Cup is WAY easier than finding the courage to cycle alongside crazy drivers.

    Like I’ve said in the past, one of the things I’m not willing to give up is paper. That includes having paper towels on hand to clean up hairballs and cat vomit (though I do have paper towel alternatives for my kitchen and for cleaning), as well as using tissues rather than a handkerchief (at least the tissues get composted with the city’s green bin service), and reading books rather than buying a e-reader (but I borrow from the library and only buy the books I know I’ll want to read many times again).

    I love to write letters by hand. I enjoy paper crafts. Notebooks make me happy. Journalling has more impact when I’m writing on paper instead of on a computer.

    I just won’t give this stuff up, it works for me. Sometimes my mental and emotional wellbeing trumps my ecological values!

    Reply

    • Hi Andrea,

      Going car free would be pretty hardcore for me, too! Shoving a small piece of silicon up an orifice? Not so bad.

      I believe that there are enough resources for what we need and what we love. I have a high energy hobby (pottery) and a high impact pet (Brie). I do my best to lower the impact of each and cut corners in other areas of my life, but I’m not willing to give them up. And I think that’s perfectly OK.

      Reply

  8. I suppose hardcoreness must be in the eye of the beholder. For me, using public transport rather than having a car actually makes my life more comfortable by carving reading time and exercise into my day. But I am pretty attached to my flushing toilet and have no plans to eat my cat in the foreseeable future…

    On the points about consumption (grocery stores, buying new) a kind of mentor I have in this area told me that the way to do it, if you’re living on a budget (which I am), is to list the products you’d prefer to be consuming but are cost-prohibitive, and then rotate among them. It demonstrates to retailers etc that there is a market for each of the products you support, but means you don’t go under financially.

    Reply

    • Hi Olivia,

      Nope, I’m not eating my cat, either. (According to the Chinese, who would know about such things, cat flesh is ‘sour.’ Ugh. Chalk up another reason why I’m a vegetarian!) Good idea about the consumer behavior. It is tricky to balance between buying new, conserving resources, and conserving my budget!

      Reply

  9. interesting write up, thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  10. Posted by smallftprints on 04/23/2012 at 15:43

    Wow … eat the pet? Oh no …. no, no, no!! I think I would do a few things on your list if I had the means … like the compostable toilet … I’ve used them before and there is no smell and no “eeuuwww factor”. And getting off the grid … I’d love to. But those things, in my mind, take property and/or money to accomplish (like building a totally self-sustainable home). Now the cloth toilet paper … totally doable but … haven’t yet. I just need to wrap my head around it. When I think about diapers or how people in some countries collect toilet paper to toss out rather than flush it … well, it shouldn’t be gross but … I’m working on it! I guess it’s all about attitude, right?

    Reply

    • Hi Smallfootprints,

      Brie’s definitely not in any danger from me, either! I think I’d either have to be a zombie or absolutely starving to go after my pet, and neither is a likely scenario. I’ve been thinking again about the cloth toilet paper, and it definitely seems less icky to me now than it did a year ago. I actually have cute quilting scraps that I could easily sew up. One of my hesitations is that I don’t actually do laundry that often (every couple weeks…so sue me, I’m a slob). I’ve also heard that cold water, which I wash my clothes in, doesn’t kill off germs as effectively as hot. So I’m dithering…and in the meantime, I have most of a package of 100% recycled toilet paper to get through anyway.

      Reply

  11. Bike: I’m with many of you, I don’t feel safe on US streets. Yet. There is progress, albeit slow. In Holland, I have no trouble sending my children off by themselves on their bikes. Helmet-free. But the Dutch had to fight for those bike paths. They lost a lot of children to car accidents with the rise of the automobile in the ’50s and ’60s, and finally there was a huge national outcry and bike paths got built. Separated from the car lanes.
    Then in the ’80s they started to designate car-free zones in their downtowns. Or at least they would carve their downtowns into segments and you can’t drive from one segment to the other, you have to drive around; but you can get wherever you want by bike or on foot. Downtowns became wonderful.
    Here is a hardcore idea: work with your city or town to make the car pointless.

    TP: entire swaths of the world only clean their nether regions with water and soap, and consider the use of toilet paper not quite clean. In the old days their toilets were outfitted with a water trough and a small plastic bucket (in the really old days a coconut shell); these days with a hose with a spray nozzle like what you have for your kitchen sink. Spoiled people in colder regions have a garden hose head connected to a thermostatically controlled faucet. Ahhhhh. Rich people have Toto Washlets (but IMHO having the water come up instead of flowing down is freaky). All these options make it much easier to deal with a menstrual cup: think of that when the time comes to do a hardcore makeover of your bathroom!

    Reply

    • Hi CelloMom,

      I’m reading a book I think you’d really enjoy, called Straphanger by Taras Grescoe. He has some very interesting ideas on how cars have made our cities less livable and how public transportation can be efficient, fast, cheap, and enable communities to thrive. Although I’m not terribly community minded, I do look at suburbs and the proliferation of cars and wonder what we were thinking.

      Absolutely, I’m a victim of cultural conditioning when it comes to toilet paper! I’d consider a bidet for a future toilet. (I’m also interested in toilets that have a little mini sink above the tank that dispenses clean water from the tank to wash your hands; the used soapy water goes into the toilet bowl.)

      Reply

      • Cool, I’ll look for Grescoe’s book, sounds interesting.
        Check out the Toto line, or indeed any Japanese toilet maker; they’ve taken toilet technology way out, including that one with the mini-sink. There is even one that starts the water circulating as soon as you sit down: so no-one else in the house need to hear you tinkle!

        Reply

  12. I want to get a compostable toilet but where we are it is not realistic. Living off the grid is right u here with the toilet. One day they will both be a reality! Eating my pet on the other hand- not thanks! :)

    Reply

    • Hi Stephanie,

      It’s not too realistic for me, either. Kinda like having a worm bin in the kitchen, a composting toilet is technically doable in my condo, but definitely on the not ideal and not too appealing side of things. I am less squeamish than I used to be, but I still have my limits!

      Reply

  13. Posted by Verde Words on 03/22/2014 at 08:42

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