November 24, 2015

Buy Nothing Day 2015

Only three more days to one of my favourite days of the year - Buy Nothing Day. Celebrated since 1992, this day, like this blog, invites people to join a growing crowd that is learning to live better with less consumption. It is no mistake that BND coincides with the craziest consumer frenzy of the year - Black Friday.

BND is the antidote to BF. It is a good place to begin the rest of your low consumption life. The beginning of an awareness of our impact on the people and planet around us when we consume more than we need.

Most of my days are buy nothing days. Some call it the "NBA lifestyle", and I am honoured. But I love having a whole day dedicated to learning to live with less. Never mind that the other 364 days of the year are dedicated consumption days - that is changing.

Just like more and more of us are refusing to support endless war and violence,  increasing numbers are voluntarily choosing not to support the war on the environment and violence caused by overconsumption. Such a choice makes all the difference.

"You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you," Jane Goodall said. "What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."

What kind of difference do you want to make?

If there were ever a time in our history to be making a stand, now is that time. We have to decide what it is we stand for, and what kind of difference we want to make during our short time on this planet. And we have to decide now because time is running out.

This Friday, I hope many and more will choose to participate in BND, make a commitment to changing their shopping habits, and change the world in the process. It may be the best decision you ever make for yourself, the human family, and the planet.

Click here to read my recent post suggesting "Alternatives To Black Friday". Or feel like dressing up? Get together with a group of friends and stage a zombie non-shopping event in your local mall to raise awareness. Anti-consumerism can be fun!

November 21, 2015

Simple Pleasures: A Toilet

Ancient Roman public toilets were among the first of their type in the world. When finished, 
relieved Romans wiped with a wet sponge on the end of a stick.

It was International Toilet Day a few days ago. That makes sense because hygienic toilets are one important piece of an overall sanitation system. But like a fart, this special day puffed into existence, was soon gone, and I forgot about it. But not because toileting isn't a serious issue - it is. Deadly serious as a matter of fact.

My friend, a nurse, says, "if you don't poo and pee you die". Sometimes even if you do eliminate, you still die. Billions of people around the world do not have access to functioning sanitary systems. Many get sick and die because of the failure to provide for this basic need. The world needs more proper places to poop.

I have used a wide selection of toilets in my days - self-dug holes in the ground while wilderness camping (there is a book written about the topic - "How To Shit In The Woods"), western toilets, squat toilets, and outhouses (both conventional and composting) at campgrounds and cabins.

A plastic shopping bag has even done in a pinch (in some places in Africa they call this a "flying toilet" because when done they throw the bag as far away as they can, resulting in country-wide bans on plastic shopping bags).

When we were hunter-gatherers we could do our thing anywhere. But when we settled into cities and civilizations we concentrated our waste to the point of toxicity. I witnessed this level of waste production personally when I worked in the waste water treatment plant in a city of a million people.

In the course of my work I saw first hand what went down the sinks, toilets, and storm drains from a section of the city, and it wasn't pretty. Everything you could think of flowed down to that plant, plus a few things that you may not of thought about, and may not want to think about.

At the time Linda and I were contracted to deliver the treatment plant's environmental education program. We gave tours and instruction for school groups from grades 1 to 12. It was great fun because it was so fantastically gross. And important. But mostly gross.

I learned a lot in this smelly site. I learned that it is a very good thing that all that waste wasn't going directly into local waterways. It is bad enough since no treatment plant can take all the contaminants from waste water. Pharmaceuticals, for example, passed through the plant and into the river via the discharge pipe.

I also learned that there is a very limited range of things you can put down the toilet, sink or storm drain in order to keep your sanitary system running smoothly. It consists of:
  • water
  • small food particles (the fewer the better, so no garburators please)
  • biodegradable soaps (without phosphates)
  • human waste
  • toilet paper
  • non-toxic cleaners
That is all. No grease or oil. No old medicines, or hamsters, or toys, or facial tissue, or wet wipes, or toxic cleaners, rotting leftovers, or anything except what is on the list above.

If you have a functioning sanitary system, you are more fortunate than 2.4 billion of your global neighbours who do without, and suffer the consequences. Cherish it, and treat your sani-system well all the way from the toilet, drain or storm sewer to the local waterway.

For me a toilet has been a simple pleasure that I really appreciate, but for many it means the difference between life and death. 

November 18, 2015


Sometimes I bike, sometimes I hike, and sometimes I do both on the same trip.

Last summer Linda and I completed a monumental cross country voyage in a wheelchair equipped van that we bought only 5 days before we left. One of the reasons we acquired the van was because I injured my back in the course of preparing for our journey, and I could no longer help Linda into the truck that we owned.

So we packed up the few possessions that we wished to retain and headed out into the great unknown. It was June 1st, 2014. We spent the summer visiting our moms, then concentrated on driving into the rising sun day after day.

I have been discovering many beautiful natural areas close to home.

In August we arrived in Nova Scotia, slightly battered and bruised, but buzzing with excitement about our journey and the possibilities that starting over in a new land bring.

We found a very suitable accessible country home to rent, and moved in with the help of our landlord's whole family. Things were looking up, but as often happens in life, things changed in unanticipated ways.

Water bodies are special places. This is one of two major lakes just a few kms from home. 

It was the end of September and I was helping Linda transfer. Something went in my back, and I dropped Linda on the bed. I was in such pain that I had to call 911 and request an ambulance. Because Linda couldn't stay home without me, they brought 2 ambulances and took us both to the hospital. We were both discharged within two weeks.

This scene is calling for a canoe - an evening paddle would be magic.

Because of my injury I didn't get out to do much biking or hiking, although during our epic winter snowfall event I was able to get out to do some of the best snowshoeing of my life. It was the beginning of my recovery.

This summer and fall I have been able to function normally, and because of that have been able  to explore our area on foot and fat tires. Sometimes both on the same trip. I discovered a lake close to home. After living on the beach on the west coast for 10 years it was nice to find some water to sit beside.

I don't have to worry about traffic on our local Rails to Trails path.

I also discovered a Rails to Trails path that I can access a short bike ride from home. Once on the path I can ride into town if there is business I need to conduct, or I can ride in the other direction, into the wilderness. The trail goes farther than I could ride in a day, and I dream of throwing a small pack on my back containing a tarp, sleeping bag and a bit of food and riding for days.

This Rails to Trails path is multi-use, including horses and quads. I have not seen either on my rides.

Our health and mobility is something that we too often take for granted. Now that I am fully recovered I can really see how handicapped I was by my condition. It could happen again at any time.  

Or maybe it won't, and I will just grow old and slowly become unable to do the more active things that I love. It is life, and it happens.

Either way, I am going to enjoy and appreciate every single moment that I am healthy, and take advantage of my fully functioning form while I am able.

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