Over the past two years we have been blogging about the variety of way that we are both leading ourselves astray as well as a variety of creative solution that might offer assistance as we navigate the economic and environmental rapids ahead.
So what have we learned in this time?
Less Can Be Better
Mainstream American culture has promoted the very-present advantages of "more." Super-size me please! But in a finite world we are being reminded that not only may more not be better but it can also be much worse. Our household has taken a long hard look at what we really need and deeply enjoy and have been able to reduce our overall consumption significantly. This includes things like eating out less and cooking creatively at home more often.
Once we made using less a stated goal, we began paying more attention to things and that spurred on even more practices that just used less. Shorter showers, family baths, turning lights off, replacing burnt-out lights with energy-efficient bulbs, riding bikes and walking when it made sense, renting movies instead of going out, growing some of our own food are all steps we can do that when added together can make a significant difference. Especially when done by groups of people.
As residents in one of the countries 120 cohousing neighborhoods we already have a closer connection to our immediate neighbors. But in addition we made space in our home for two additional high school students who moved to our town to attend school. This increased community not only has a financial benefit but more important has added a rich and very positive dimension to our family. I suspect we will see a very noticeable rise in shared housing arrangements as the economy continues to contract over the next several years.
Do More Ourselves
Despite the impact on local jobs, people are doing more for themselves where a few years ago they would hire out. The do-it-yourself "industry" has been growing consistently over the past decade and there is little chance it will slow down. Financial reality is forcing people to do more for them selves and those they care for. Having a family member with a steady hand cut hair, mending your clothing instead sending it out, as I said before cooking at home instead of going out as often, growing food, herbs and raising small livestock like chickens, are all visible signs that we are doing more for ourselves. When you combine these lessons and be creative the impacts are even more powerful.
The conventional wisdom is to work work work so you can pay for all that you need and want. Today by re framing that a bit and saying what is it I need really and how can I get it, we can come up with a plethora of creative ideas. We have been exchanging with a local farmer. We help him get the word out about his urban farming program and he gives us fresh veggies all during the growing season. Or trading article writing with a local martial arts dojo in exchange for our kids getting training in personal defense. The high art of barter and trade is in full bloom and it can satisfy a growing number of our regular needs.
So suffice to say that despite the challenges surrounding us, there is much to be learned and re-learned as we carve out a path on this ever exciting journey together.