I know I keep harping on about Linda Cockburn's book 'Living the Good Life', but for me this book has been nothing less than life-changing. Ever since it's release a few months ago I was keen to read the book for its money saving aspects – who could resist the thought of not spending a dollar for six months? However, I had never really paid much thought to the environmental benefits of saving money, so I was really pleased to see from Linda's book that by using Simple Savings tips in the last couple of years, I had already made a valuable difference to the size of the 'ecological footprint' I had previously been making. It's a great expression that, 'ecological footprint' – it really makes you think about what effect everything has that you do. I mean, when your time comes to leave this earth, do you really want to have left your part of it in a blooming great mess? I know I don't and Noel and I now realise that there is so much more we can do to reduce our family's footprints to a smaller size. What a pair we are tucked up in bed at night these days, Noel with Linda's book and me with Earth Garden magazine!
All it took was someone to open our eyes. When I listened to the radio show Fiona did with Linda a few weeks back, I couldn't believe how informed the two of them were on the state of the planet. It made me feel as though I had been walking around for years wearing ear-muffs and blinkers, how come I had never heard about any of this stuff? Of course I had heard of global warming, but it had always seemed some kind of far off grey area that our generation didn't really need to be worrying about. In the 15 years since I first arrived in NZ, the weather patterns have changed beyond recognition and since being presented with some cold hard facts, it's no wonder!
Every time I walk through the orchard I can't help but smile at the sight of our environmentally friendly 'big toe'. It even smells divine! I have to walk through a little arch-way to get to it, which is surrounded by flowering honeysuckle above and violets on the ground. Our peach and plum trees have baby fruit growing on them, all the fruit trees have been given a generous helping of our free mulch and the vegetable garden is looking even better now it receives more light through the other side from our tree pruning. We have leeks, cabbages, lettuces and snow peas all ready to eat, with beans, celery, pumpkin, capsicum, onions, zucchini, broccoli, sweetcorn, tomatoes and watermelon following close behind. Every day there's something new to see and every evening Noel and I wander around together and admire our handiwork. I read a feature last night in Earth Garden magazine, which said every camellia or azalea you replace with a fruit tree cuts greenhouse emissions, because 25% of emissions are the result of us not growing our own food, so I was really glad that we made the decision to use the extra land we have just created to plant more fruit trees instead of a bark garden.
It's a start. The outside is shaping up well and I've been turning my attention to the inside, trying to see where other changes can be made. The great thing is, I've got the Vault to help me, so it should be easy. I wish I didn't still have so much washing powder left, my 20 litre bucket is still almost full and I've had it for months, but when I eventually use it up I won't be buying any more – the Vault has some great recipes for laundry washing gel instead. I don't use Spray and Wipe or fabric softener any more as vinegar takes care of most things and I use olive oil with a couple of drops of lavender in a spray bottle instead of buying furniture polish (so much nicer!). I don't buy chemical floor cleaners either but one thing I would like to change is the type of toilet cleaners and air fresheners I use. One natural air freshener I have used in the past is a cotton wool ball in a small pot, with a drop each of tea tree oil, lemon and eucalyptus. Just pop it somewhere inconspicuous for a pleasant lasting fragrance and when it wears off, just add a couple more drops of oil. The Vault has plenty more suggestions for some great natural fragrances – I suppose I could always bring some of that gorgeous honeysuckle inside too!
One thing I never realised was how much greenhouse gas is emitted as a result of all the appliances we use. In my ignorance I always thought it was only petrol fumes and aerosols which did things like that! I'm amazed how much information is available on the Internet – the statistics are mindblowing, I just never thought to look before. There are several online calculators available to calculate how many tonnes of greenhouse emissions your family contributes, or to calculate the size of your ecological footprints depending on where you live. Some are a bit vague but will at least give you an idea. I found a good one for New Zealanders at http://www.mfe.govt.nz/withyou/do/footprint/calculator.html – the size of my own ecological footprint wasn't fantastic but was still 3,000 square metres less than the national average, largely thanks to me being vegetarian. Even so, I'll still be doing my best to reduce the number of appliances we use and the water we waste as much as possible. I really admire all the efforts Australians have to make in their efforts to conserve water and I don't see why the rest of us shouldn't try just as hard, no matter which country we live in.
One money saving-eco friendly struggle I'm having is whether to make my own bread. It's an idyllic thought and nothing beats the smell of freshly baked bread but I can buy bread any day for 65c per loaf and during the brief period I borrowed my Mum's bread maker, it seemed I was spending a lot more than this to make a basic white loaf (from scratch, not using a bread mix) I also had problems with the bread going stale much sooner than the shop-bought loaves, so I would be really interested to hear from any members who make their own bread to see if it is worth me persevering, either with a bread maker or in the oven. Can you beat 65c per loaf? The other reason I would love to stop buying bread is because I hate all the plastic bags we end up with. Even though I recycle as many as possible, I would still rather not have them in the first place. Ali hates plastic bags with a vengeance due to their harmful effect on wildlife and is always nagging me to use my 'green' reuseable shopping bag instead, but why do companies make them so small? Even on a visit to the local shop I'm lucky if I can fit half a dozen items in and have to put the rest in plastic bags anyway! Maybe I just need to try a bit harder – Linda Cockburn doesn't use them at all, not even in her rubbish bin, she just recycles newspaper to wrap things up in so it doesn't get messy. If she can do it, so can I – I just need to remember! Mind you, after just spotting a small cartoon in Earth Garden which features the cartoon of a penguin choking on a plastic bag and the quote 'In her dying moments, Penny the penguin was comforted by the thought that a consumer was convenienced by the use of this plastic bag', I think I'll stick it on my fridge to remind Penny the person to keep up the effort.
If the chickens aren't careful they'll find themselves being recycled though! Four out of five of them have gone 'clucky' at the moment and there's always at least one or two who are contributing nothing in the egg laying department while they house their imaginary offspring. While I greatly admire their maternal instincts, we have had to go back to buying eggs twice in the last two weeks! They had better hope Noel can stay in a good mood – he's given up smoking again! He's only on day two so whether he gets any further remains to be seen but hopefully he has been inspired by my Mum, who is well on the way to completing her third smoke free week and I can't believe how much better she looks for it! Next time Noel's willpower wavers I must point out page 179 of Linda's book to him about how every cigarette butt he disposes of can take up to 15 years to break down, each one with 3900 or so chemicals trapped in its filter. Many of these end up in waterways, leaching arsenic and lead within their first hour of hitting the water before often taking permanent residence in the stomachs of birds and aquatic life. Is that gross or what? He's still got 50 pages to go until he gets to that part, but it might just do the trick to strengthen his resolve and save us $4,800 a year in the process!
PS - If you are keen to know more about reducing your own ecological footprint, the current Spring issue of Earth Garden has a great feature on this - or, you could spend a bit more time browsing the Vault, which will teach you the same tips and remind you how much money you will save at the same time!