Monday, February 15, 2010

sustainable living

two weeks ago i ventured into the world of community education for the first time. i had no idea what to expect. my first class was “growing at home: the agricultural process,” and it was an awkward disaster. i could hardly understand any of the teacher’s english--of course, as i always remind myself in these situations, his english is far better than my bhutanese. aside from the language barrier, though, the information he was giving us was all stuff i already knew, and very broad, not specific to idaho. there were long, uncomfortable stretches of time during which he just stood at the front of the class and stared in silence. all in all it was insufferable. when he excused class for a short break i got the hell out of there.

so, that being my first-ever experience with community ed, i was significantly soured on the idea and not the least bit excited to go to the next class i’d signed up for, but i went anyway. and i’m so glad i did. it was “sustainable living 1: transportation and resources,” and it was absolutely fascinating. i went there hoping to maybe learn a bit about the bus system in boise; i met that objective and so much more. the instructor just happened to be the “trade your car for a bike” guy from tour de fat this year, and he had some awesome philosophies about personal responsibility and effecting positive change. i could barely write fast enough to note every idea he introduced that i wanted to remember.

here are my notes from class:

sustainable transportation and resources

A. three main concepts:
1. intentionality
a. accustomed behavior creates moral neutrality; individual can make new pathways through intentional choices
b. every moment there’s a choice to be made; it becomes easier to make the right choices once they become habit
2. zone of influence vs. zone of control
a. zone of control is everything under the individual’s direct control; individual’s own choices and behavior
b. zone of influence is everything the individual can exert influence over; within the radius of influence, i.e. behavior of family, friends, etc.
c. being able to differentiate between what you can control and what you can influence relieves frustration
d. zone of control grows when more individuals join the intent/choice; create “nucleus of positive efficacy”
e. personal responsibility takes broader issue and brings it down closer to zone of control
3. spectrum of sustainability
a. sustainable choices can be continued indefinitely with minimal impact to ecological, economic or social conditions
b. ecological: consider enviro impacts of production, breaking down of product, how it’s made, etc.
c. economic: consider what will do the most good for the most people as the money cycles through the system
d. social: how are people treated throughout? (production, event, experience; rewards for participation; impacts when it’s over/disposed of)
e. all three elements must be considered together; can be mapped on a spectrum
f. get accustomed to assessing the spectrum and try to move toward the sustainable
B. externalities (impacts/costs)
1. companies try to externalize the costs of business/product/whatever to lower the price the consumer pays directly
a. we need to re-internalize externalities
b. make the cost show the true impact of creation of the product
c. “the cost is not higher, it’s more accurate”
d. get less in volume, but higher quality
e. carbon consumption is not being accounted for; a day of reckoning is coming that will radically motivate people to change their behaviors
C. norms
1. use proximity to influence others
a. people are likely to conform to the behavior of those around them
b. use the proximity effect to further good choices
c. important to view oneself as an ambassador in a foreign land
D. handouts, links, etc
1. “wallet buddy”: a print-out, wallet-sized guide to smart consumption
2. commuteride (carpool, vanpool)
3. valley ride (bus routes)
4. local bike shops: hyde park cyclery, eastside cycles, ken’s bicycle warehouse, boise bicycle project

i’m still absorbing and synthesizing everything i learned; i’ve given a great deal of thought to the zone of influence versus zone of control (and the wisdom to know the difference) concept, because i am kind of a control-freak. i mostly just control myself, but secretly, if i could control some of the choices other people make i probably would. not in a creepy, evil, fascist sort of way...i just get frustrated when i see people harming themselves and/or doing harm to animals, the environment, etc. at the same time i feel guilty for wanting that kind of control. thinking about it as influence instead of control has three positive results: one, i feel less guilty for wanting to influence rather than control; two, i feel less responsible for the negative choices of people around me; and three, i get less frustrated by the lack of control. also, i LOVE the idea of growing a “nucleus of positive efficacy.”

i left class that night feeling very empowered, like my personal choices make a big difference in the scheme of things.

there was a second part to the sustainability class. “sustainable living 2: household and food.” i didn’t sign up at first because i wanted to see how part one went, but after that fantastic experience i registered right away. i didn’t take quite as many notes as i did for part one:

sustainable household and food

household cleaning products
-many contain possibly-toxic shadow ingredients kept secret for “proprietary” reasons
-tons of resources (books, blogs, etc.) on more natural cleaning solutions
-“natural alternatives for you and your home” by casey kellar
-“organic housekeeping” by ellen sandbeck
organic certification
-USDA certified means 95% of ingredients were organic, non-GMO
-oregon tilth is a much more rigorous certification process; certifies the whole process and some external factors (workers, impact on land, etc.)
-potato, corn, wheat: generally anything non-organic is GMO
-“don’t panic, buy organic”
consumer supported agriculture
-people buy share of farm and receive produce weekly
-decreases risk and debt for farmers
resources, links, etc:
-household hazardous waste disposal
-personal product databases: safe cosmetics, cosmetics database, less toxic guide
-idaho’s bounty, online farmer’s market
-CSA directory: local harvest
-capital city public market
-community gardens of idaho
community gardens
-usually in an urban area, brings people together
-some rent land and plant what you want, others you volunteer and get a share of the food
“gleaning”: ID foodbank volunteers go to farms and pick what’s still edible but can’t be sold
sharing backyards: connects people who have land and those who want it; share land for gardening
march 27 community seed swap at edward’s greenhouse

a guest speaker came in and talked about community gardens. it was kind of perfect since i’m working on an article about the mccall community garden right now.

all the talk about CSA made me want to try it out...if not this spring then maybe this summer. oh my gosh, it would be so damn fun to get a little box of tasty fruits and vegetables every week. and to know that it’s all organic and locally grown, and to actually meet the farmer, that just presses all my buttons, seriously. i hope that my garden will be very successful this year, but realistically i can only grow enough to supplement my food consumption, not take care of it completely. however, my garden PLUS a weekly box of produce, hmm...wouldn’t that be an interesting experiment, to try eating all kingsolver-y. definitely something to consider.

i guess that’s all for now, although i might write about some of these concepts and resources in more detail later.


Katherine said...

I hope you know your "zone of influence" is an important one. Just by taking those mouth-watering photos of food and adding the recipe, you remind me to eat healthier; having the coolest bikes with the niftiest accessories and being very visible on them is incentive, too. Just because I forget to tell you at regular intervals that you make my life better doesn't mean it isn't true. I get so caught up in my own whirlwind (partially caused by the fact that I don't drive and have to factor in much larger intervals of time for travel/rest) that I forget to eat well, enjoy the ride, and remember that I'm doing the right thing. Your pictures remind me why it's worth it. ((hugs))

Emily said...

aww, i’m so glad. i wish you could’ve taken those classes with me, you would have impressed everyone with your car-free-ness.

i planted morning glory seeds last night and it made me think of you. we need to go to shangri-la one of these days, lady. i’ll even make you another jar of cashew butter as a bribe to ditch homework and hang out with me...

Jessica said...

I also am struck by the "zone of influence" and how blogging can create community and increase that sphere. I am certainly motivated by people out there such as yourself. And as a teacher, it helps to recognize the difference between these two spheres and the danger of confusing/joy of embracing them.

Emily said...

great point about blogging, i didn’t even think about that but it is a cool way to plant seeds of influence all over, new nuclei of positive efficacy (or at least reinforced/encouraged nuclei) in that case instead of physical proximity i guess making oneself a visible web presence and (like you said) fostering internet communities are the important factors.

i’m definitely motivated by other blogs as well, especially always have interesting posts that make me want to garden and mix my own tea and do all manner of fun homestead-y things. very inspiring.