Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mama Bean and Papa Bean wish everyone a happy Earth day!

I consider our household pretty average and middle-class in our consumption, by North American standards. We have a house with multiple rooms, gas/electricity/running water, two cars (ugh), more computers and electronicalz than I care to consider. But ever since we moved outta Cowtown, our lifestyle has gotten distinctly crunchier. We're turning a little granola, friends.

But, lest anyone think it's for altruistic reasons, I must clarify that this additional Whole Grained living is only secondarily about being good to Mother Earth, and primarily about being, um, cheap. Somehow, we end up making all these decisions about reducing, reusing, and recycling out of some money saving motive. (And by "somehow" I mean "Because Papa Bean is a miser..." lol) You could call us frugal flowerchildren. I prefer the term Cheapskate Hippies.

We both grew up in pretty average and middle-class households, built on blue collar roots. Neither of our families had a tonne of extra money to just be tossing around. But we each responded to this budgetary upbringing very differently. Despite having the wealthier family, I came out with a poverty mentality that makes me quite spendthrifterly. I'm bad at delayed gratification when it comes to money, good at retail therapy. (In many other respects, crafting for example, I am good at slowly and methodically performing something mundane toward a long-term goal. But not when it comes to saving.) Papa Bean, on the other hand, readily adopted his parents' anti-spendthrift ways. (It bears noting his mother grew up in our current province, whose residents are known for their penny pinching. Local readers know what I'm talking about.) Thus, he is the driving force behind our parsimonious granola-ness.

All the extra crunchiness has become especially apparent now that we're parents. On the Reusing front: all of Bean's furniture and large implements (stroller, car seats, etc.) are secondhand from friends and family. More than 80% of his clothing is also passed down from sisters-in-law, cousins, and friends. None of this had anything to do with wanting to lower our consumption footprint. It was all about saving money, baby.

This is also why we Reduce by cloth diapering. We used disposables (and continue overnight and when we're out) for three months while researching the cheapest system with all the elements we desired. One of the main reasons we chose Greenline Diapers (oh yes, that is yet another link to my son on their site, because I am egotistical like that) is because the liners are microfiber towels, which don't require extra rinsing or special detergents, and dry super fast, even when hung to dry. Which is what we do, because, as I've mentioned before, not only are we gonna do the cheap thing, we're gonna do it as cheaply as possible.

One instantly Green-ing aspect of living in the Prairie Valley City is free blue box pick-up. All we have to do is buy (or paint) as many blue containers as we need, and toss out recyclables in it for weekly removal. We don't have to sort. We don't even have to rinse out the tin cans. The only thing they won't take are plastic shopping bags. It's not that we didn't recycle in Cowtown, but blue box pick-up cost money there (at the time, it's free now) so we just collected haphazardly to drop off ourselves at the recycling depots. And there are still such depots here, for dropping off larger items that don't readily fit in the blue box in the alley. It's fantastic! (Yet, to our dismay, a lower percentage of PVC citizens recycle regularly, compare to Cowtown. Participation rates are quite discouraging right now, but I think the city is trying to improve that.)

The area where the Cheap part of our hippie-ness most shines through is food. For example, we don't eat much meat, but only because we worry about finances, and meat is fricking expensive. So we buy it on sale, or we buy cheaper cuts, or we eat eggs and peanut butter instead. As much as we're concerned about the poor quality of commercial meats (and poor quality of life for the way those animals are raised) we can't afford, right now, to buy ethical meat in any meaningful way. However, a big benefit of living in such an agriculturally active province is ready access to small, local farms growing lovely, happy animals in quality ways. So, we've sourced where we'll buy the meat when we can afford it. We're gonna be all hippie about our meat one day, but we've gotta be cheap about it! (An as aside, Papa Bean will make the argument that hunting for meat is another way of being cheap and granola-like, because the animals live naturally, and he hunts ethically, etc. He has convinced me, slowly, but I have not yet acquired the taste for wild meat. However, the more money he spends on bowhunting gear, the less cheap it seems to me.) (Being cheap is why we don't just frequent the organic grocery store or farmers' markets, which abound in our neck of the North. These are excellent ways to be Green, we just can't afford it right now. One day - but not now. Hell, one day we might sell food at the farmers' market!)

Which, of course, brings us to the Gardening. At breastfeeding group this week, we were discussing, in honour of Earth day, things we do to be Green-er in our parenting, and I threw out this totally arbitrary goal that we are committed to growing at least half of our vegetables for the year. Because, in the moment, I kinda figured we must grow enough food to keep us from buying vegetables at least six months out of the year. Last summer, our first year gardening, with a limited harvest due to poor growing conditions, we still cut vegetables from our grocery budget for at least four months, more or less. So now it's here, in virtual ink - we are going to grow half of our vegetables for the year. Or die trying! haha But that's really why we do it - to help us spend less money on food. Even composting is about saving money - more compost means less money buying soil amendments! It's really just ridiculous :)

I started making my own yogurt. I'm trying to tell myself this is pure crunchiness, no cheapskateness. I like to picture myself in a flowery skirt and apron as I boil my milk and stir in my starter. But I can't escape the little voice in head telling me I used to only buy yogurt when it was on sale (< $2/L) or half-price /sigh. Papa Bean has totally converted me!

So, what do you do for the Earth's benefit? And how does it benefit your pocketbook?


  1. I love, "As much as we're concerned about the poor quality of commercial meats (and poor quality of life for the way those animals are raised) we can't afford, right now, to buy ethical meat in any meaningful way."

    I'm with you on that. Sometimes our budget just won't allow the best choice. Laundry detergent, for example - the enviro option costs 4x more than what we use. Sigh.

    At least we do recycling. We have to pay for the privilege, but I don't mind.

  2. When it's yellow, I let it mellow. I also have become obsessive about turning off lights and things when not in use, and many of my lights are CFLs. Those are the little things I do purely for the environment. Like you, most everything else I do has a byproduct of being environmentally smart but I do them mainly because it saves me money.

  3. Last summer we bought a 1/2 a cow to put in the freezer. We are still using that meat. Yes, we had a $400 bill right off the hop, but now we haven't had to purchase meat besides sausage (also from a local farmer) and chicken (not from a local farmer). I love to hang out my laundry in the summer time. Makes me feel like I am doing something right!

  4. @C Lo Let it mellow! Love it :) We do that, too, because we pay less for lower water consumption.

    @Christine, we can't wait until we can afford the initial cost of a half cow or pig! That is definitely the plan this fall :) We bought five local chickens last year and it has worked out really well for us.