December 31, 2015

From Our Hearth To Yours



Linda and I would like to wish all NBA readers a happy and contented New Year. May 2016 be your best yet.

“Let our New Year's resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.”
- Goran Persson

December 30, 2015

Getting What You Need



You can't always get what you want (nor should you), but hopefully you can get what you need. How to best get what you need is a topic of heated debate here in the final throes of a failing system based on greed and planetary destruction.

A recent comment from an NBA reader prompted me to consider what we are doing on this blog, and how the ideas expressed here have manifested in our lifestyle which seeks to pull support from an economy based on selfishness, and heal the planet as a result.

A curious Cloe wonders "about consumerism, and how people can consume without buying."

"I have" she said, "some questions for you".

- How do you live without buying ? Is it with gardening?
- Do you practice swap?
- Do you consider yourselves as consumers even if you don't buy?

Those do get to the nugget of what we have been doing on Not Buying Anything since 2008.

First of all, I would say in response, the world is structured in a way to make it very difficult, if not near impossible, to not buy anything. Having said that, it can be done, as evidenced by some very fiscally frugal and cash-creative individuals.

Simple living advocates and activists like Mark Boyle, Peace Pilgrim, Daniel Suelo, Heidemarie Schwermer, and others in the GiftEconomy, are on to something that makes for a worthy goal - living without buying anything.

In the meantime, while we hold that ideal in mind, we buy things that we need, and can't be procured for free. There are many ways things can be acquired for free or near-free. We are only limited by our skills, time and creativity. But in our experience, as that of most people who aren't off-grid and/or  relatively self-sufficient, a time comes when some things must be bought.

Having said that, over the past few years we have severely curtailed the amount of things that we buy. The most important thing we do in that regard is limit our desires. Most things are not worth having. We rarely buy things other than those that we actually NEED.

To reduce how much we have to buy anything, we engage in a variety of practices, including:

  • make things last by using gently and regular maintenance/cleaning
  • avoid anything not reusable/repairable
  • repair things to extend their lifespan
  • use things up - no upgrades, new and improved, or latest fads
  • don't pay for anything we can do ourselves
  • make as much as we can with our own hands 
  • do as much as we can with what we already have
  • acquire things for free (free stores, swapping, liberating from the trash and curb side, trade/gifts) 
  • grow as much food as possible in the back yard... or front yard, side yards, too
  • trade work for items needed
  • share, share, share - participate as a generous giver, and receiver
  • enjoy community and family
  • cook from scratch using wholesome vegetarian ingredients
  • we take really good care of our teeth and general health 

In the event we can't source things for free, we look at buying second hand first. Buying something brand new at full price is a last resort, and such a purchase is always preceded by a period of sober hesitation. No binge buying here.

Some consumption, whether through commerce or by participating in an alternative economy, is necessary for survival. We are all consumers, but we don't have to be Consumers. We could decide to create a system based on generosity and good will that ensures that everyone is getting what they need.

So, Cloe, we are still buying things, but as little as possible. Thank you for posting your questions. Remember to eat well, brush and floss regularly, and exercise mind and body. May you, and all NBA readers, get what you need with as little buying as possible throughout the New Year.


December 28, 2015

Consumerism: War On Everything



Consumerism is a war on everything, and we are being compelled to be its soldiers.

Citizen's money is transformed into consumer bullets, bulldozers and bombs, wreaking havoc far and wide. And we aren't even happier for all of that. Lazier, for sure, but happier? Not so much.

Advertising is the most insidious propaganda ever produced. It has formed our world view, our purpose for living. “I shop, therefore I am. If some is good, more is better.” It is causing us to volunteer our lives to the pursuit of more everything, and damn the consequences.

Overconsumption is an act of violence. It harms others, the planet, and the person doing the consuming. It is not a positive act for children or other living things, which is why its explosive powers must be defused and the lies and corrosive myths of consumerism laid bare.

The truth is that harbouring unlimited desires and living large is not in our genetic make up. For most of the human timeline we have lived simply in small nomadic groups. Excessive possessions for most of human history were nothing more than a hindrance, and they still are today.

We have only recently been drafted into Operation Live To Consume. Citizens have been carefully trained to be consumers, consuming far past the point of need. Perhaps that is the good news.

We still have deep desires in our genetic make up to live that planet-friendly simple lifestyle that worked for us over tens of thousands of years, and still does among the few today that continue these ways.

The ultimate planet-supporting thing to do is to be a conscientious objector, refuse to fight on the consumer battlefield, and commit to a life of nonviolence.

We can all rejoin the original mission - Operation Consume To Live. It is a mission of enough, of peace and contentment. Of sanity and solidarity.

December 26, 2015

We Want More Than The Earth Can Give




We want more than the Earth can give, and the consequences are catching up to us.

There is a word for what happens when we harvest resources faster than the earth can replenish them. That word is 'deplete'. We have depleted all of our resources because we thought we could have whatever we wanted whenever we wanted it.

We can't.


de·plete
[dəˈplēt]
VERB

use up the supply or resources of:

"fish stocks are severely depleted"

synonyms: exhaust · use up · consume · expend · drain · empty · milk · reduce · decrease · diminish · slim down · cut back

diminish in number or quantity:

"supplies are depleting fast"


If we can see things as they truly are, maybe we can avoid total civilizational collapse. Maybe 2016 will be better, but don't count on it. All we can do is prepare for what is coming if we continue to take more than Earth can provide.

The way to rectify resource depletion is to use less resources so that the Earth can recover. If that doesn't happen, and now, a depleted resource base combined with a growing population means future humans will have to live with less.

Before us is an unprecedented opportunity to renounce the shallowness of consumerism and mundane materialism, heal ourselves and the planet, and provide enough to meet everyone's need.

Here's to a better, simpler 2016 in which the Earth can recover from our over-reaching desires. Greed is so last year.

December 24, 2015

Seasonings Greeting

Seasonings Greeting


Seasonings Greeting! We wish you all a Merry Happy Kwanzaa Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Solstice, Saturnalia... or whatever other observance you practice this time of year.

May you and yours celebrate joyously, relish each others company, and avoid the commercialization and trivialization of all we hold dear at this time, and all year round.

Love and kindness are free - let's spread that stuff around. It is the best.

And may all your seasonings be fresh and friendly.


Gregg and Linda

December 22, 2015

Happiness From Simple Things



Life is a beautiful dream
Though it may not always so seem
Look at the flowers that surround us
They appear and disappear without a fuss
As do the birds in the sky
They just continue as long as they can to fly
I watch in awe as the cows lazily graze
They are in no hurry to reach fields of maize
The juicy grass is good enough
They are not chasing after better stuff
It is only we who are not satisfied
Until we have all life's luxuries tried
We go far and wide in search of fun
And when we face problems we just run
This is a lesson we need to learn
From lesser creatures how to earn
Happiness from the simple things in life
Leaving aside complexities and strife

- Sandra Martyres

December 21, 2015

You Can Change The World



By living more simply yourself, you’re automatically helping others to live more simply too.

Whether or not you actively promote the simple life, just going through your own process is inspirational and helpful to anyone else who's dealing with the same kinds of issues that you are.

Helping others is an inevitable part of this process; it's not something you have to try to do. One way or another you will automatically pass onto others what you've learned.

You'll find that there are people around you with the same desires or similar problems that gravitate to you in some way. You may find yourself sharing your experiences, or you may not ever talk about them.

Your life experience is present in everything you do. Other people feel it, they benefit from it, and they receive a life change from making contact with you or being around you. In your own way you are changing the world.

December 18, 2015

Happy Winter Solstice



Earthlings, we are about to pass another celestial milestone. Once again we celebrate the end of darkening days, and the realization that our heat source is not disappearing over the horizon forever.

The darkest day of the year is fast approaching as we reach Winter Solstice in another annual journey around our life-giving star, the Sun. The good news, something humans have rejoiced in for millennia, is that in a few days the light begins to return.

The thing I like about Solstice celebrations is that there is no set way in which to do it - you can mark the occasion in any way you want. Historically such celebrations involved music, lights/fire, prayer/meditation and, of course, hot beverages.

Since this time is a celebration of life, live trees outside can be decorated, rather than dead ones inside. I have enjoyed Solstice tree events in which participants decked out trees with edible decorations for the birds and other wildlife. But it is all about the light, which IS life.

I like to watch the sun rise and set this time of year, and savour every bit of daylight. It is a great time to get outside and enjoy the shortest day of the year before heading home to share a bright, cozy meal with loved ones.

Very soon spaceship Earth will be on its way to brighter, warmer days. Celebrating that now makes the next few cold months easier to manage. Our Sun is coming back. We are going to live.

If you are in the southern hemisphere, enjoy your summer solstice. Please send warm thoughts and light our way.

December 16, 2015

COP21: A Global Wake Up Call For Simpler Lifestyles

Wake Up! Time to simplify for the planet, for the kids, for all living things that love this Earth.

Finally, a global call for simpler lifestyles has been issued. I knew it would come sooner or later, but thought it would be later. Much later. But it is here now - it is time to simplify our lives and save the planet from catastrophic climate change.

That is the takeaway from the COP21 climate talks that concluded recently in Paris. Although you won't see the call to simplicity in plain language, it is woven throughout the recommendations. Experts are even saying that it is time for all citizens to "make changes in their day to day lives".

Looking at the changes recommended for the masses, we can see that they are one and the same as those being called for by simple living advocates.  Both see lower consumption/lower waste, reduced carbon ways of living as the answer to many of our problems, including climate change.

So what does an ideal post COP21 lifestyle look like?

  • reduced travel
  • eating lower on the food chain to minimize/eliminate consumption of high emission meat products
  • changing transportation patterns that favour biking, walking, and public transportation, as well as relying on train and bus travel for longer trips
  • smaller more energy efficient homes that use less energy and emit less green house gases
  • reduced consumption overall means focusing on meeting needs and eliminating wants
  • growing your own food, and buying locally grown food when needed
  • increased investments in residential renewable energy solutions so the people can make their own clean power
  • reduced work week 
  • increased cooperation on all levels
  • de-clawing capitalism and industry through regulation and reduced citizen demand
  • embracing childlessness and reducing global population

We will only meet our goal of a carbon-neutral world by 2050 if there is a massive buy-in from citizens. The call has been issued - the richest 50% of the population responsible for 90% of carbon emissions are being invited to adopt simpler lifestyles and shift from being part of the problem to being part of the solution. I wonder how they will respond. 

If you have already evolved into a simpler, low consumption/low-carbon lifestyle, congratulations for being ahead of the curve. You will be providing a valuable role model for those who will follow, whether eagerly or reluctantly, because the need for simpler, lower emission lives has become undeniable.

Time to wake up citizens - simplify now and save the earth, or go on consuming wildly and hope that humanity makes it to a new planet before this one fails entirely. 

December 14, 2015

Cheap Power Means A Busy Weekend

This year we pay 8 cents/kWh off peak, 15 cents mid peak, and 20 cents on peak.

The cost of grid electricity is going up everywhere. Many jurisdictions in North America estimate rates will increase by 50% over the next few years. Converting to carbon-free methods of electricity generation could push that increase even higher. It is a good time to be able to save money on power.

The best way to save money on grid electricity is to not use it. Conservation methods such as adequate insulation, reducing drafts, using heating and cooling systems less, and using more efficient appliances all save money by using less electricity.

Another way to save money is to pay less for the electricity you use. Many utilities offer Time Of Day electric metering. It allows you to pay less for electricity during non-peak load times of the day when generation costs less.

Since we contacted our electric utility to sign on to the Time Of Day (TOD) program, weekends have been a busy time for us. Our cost of electricity on the weekend is half of what it would be without the program, so this is when we conduct activities that use a lot of power.

That means that on weekends we plan for a lot of cooking and baking. It is much more efficient to do several continuous hours of baking rather than reheating the oven to bake things separately over several days.

Yesterday I rolled Linda into the kitchen for a day of co-cookery. It is nice spending a day in a warm kitchen together making yummy foods that will keep our internal furnaces functioning.

We started by baking four loaves of whole wheat bread (one was a raisin/cinnamon loaf). The bread came out to cool on the counter, and a tray of breakfast bars went into the already warm oven. We made enough of these cookie recipe based granola bars to last us a couple of weeks.

Each bar is loaded with germ, bran, oats, raisins, chocolate chips, walnuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, flax and whole wheat flower. We prefer these over store-bought granola bars which are always expensive, too sweet, containing dubious ingredients and excessive packaging.

By this time the baking smells were making us hungry, so when the breakfast bars came out, two pizzas went in. One we ate right away, the next saved for the following day.

After the pizza we used the still hot oven to bake a beautiful butternut squash that was a fall gift from a friends garden. 30 minutes later it was done, cooling on the counter. We will use it this week to make a nice, body-warming soup.

In addition to cooking and baking, weekends are also for doing laundry and showering, both high power activities. We will also use this low cost power time to freeze some of the food that we make on the weekend. We will plan to eat that food during times of the day and week when power is most expensive.

Now it is Monday morning, and we are in shut down. During December, January and February we pay extra for electricity between 7 am and noon, and 4pm and 11pm. During these times we try to use as little electricity as possible. It is a good time to power down and take a rest from the busy weekend.

That means Monday morning is a time to snuggle under a blanket and read a book, or go for a walk, have a nap, or write letters by hand. Playing Scrabble takes no electricity at all. Neither does the shoe repair project that has been haunting me for months.

It looks like it will be a busy week, but not just yet.

December 11, 2015

All Life Has Rights



Yesterday was World Human Rights Day. Same with today. Every day is human rights day. I would like to see us expand the concept to include the rights of all living things. Then celebrate that every day.

That might be a bit much to expect at this point in our painfully slow evolution. We can't even get human rights done properly.

The advocacy group Human Rights Watch "monitors policy developments and strives to persuade governments and international institutions to curb abuses and promote human rights". Their "World Report 2015" gives human rights information for 90 countries.

This is what the report had to say about Canada's recent human rights record:

"...in 2014, the sitting majority in parliament refused to take essential steps to remedy serious human rights concerns..."

How does your country rate in the area of human rights? Check out the report here. More than likely, like Canada's dismal record, you won't like what you see.

So how do we stretch our brains around recognizing the rights of more than just humans, of all living things? International Animal Rights Day, which also happened to be yesterday, reminds human beings that every creature on the planet deserves to be treated with equal kindness and respect.

It isn't that hard to understand. Life wants to live, without pain or harassment, and be free to grow and thrive in all possible ways. It applies to humans, and farm animals, and trees. Ticks and flies as well.

This also applies to Mother Earth, as she has rights, too. We are about as bad at recognizing those as we are with human rights, with similar catastrophic results. How do we turn this around? We have to take responsibility for our actions before we can improve our performance on recognizing and celebrating rights.

With our human rights come responsibilities, the oft forgotten other part of the equation. These are equally important. The number one responsibility is to recognize and honour the rights of all living things. Do no harm. Live and let live.

If we would do this to the best of our ability with each decision we make, everything else would take care of itself. Imagine what that world would look like.

December 7, 2015

Create, Create, Create




What if we saw ourselves as 'creators' rather than 'consumers'? How different would our world be if we freely indulged our innate creative desires, and unleashed our curiosity and intelligence in the process?

When we were rebranded from citizens to consumers we may have thought that it was only a matter of labels. But sticks, stones, and words can break your bones, or change your perceptions of the way the world operates.

Accepting and adopting the label of 'consumers' causes us to see ourselves as passive, empty, needing to be filled by absorbing someone else's ideas, products and expectations, for a price. We take on the roll of a void, a vessel, a black hole or vacuum needing to be filled endlessly with stuff produced by others.




This cheapens our experience. It dulls us down and stifles our evolution. Creativity is in us and needs to come out. We are all agents of creativity, mirroring the creative impulse of the universe. Inside each of us is unlimited potential for manifesting our own unique skills and abilities.

If we were freed from the toil of endless consumption, and the jobs we need to work in order to fund our filling, what would we do? Would we come up with new ideas and scientific theories? Given the time to express our inner artist might we not create wonderful musical compositions, visual arts, and dances?

Some of us would think up new jokes, while others would labour lovingly on writing projects, discoveries and inventions. Freed from living to work, we would settle nicely into working to live. Our work would support our creativity, and our creativity would support our work.




People would find that active problem solving and innovating are our natural evolutionary tendencies, and each of us would be engaged in creating something original and worthwhile to share with the human family.

We are entering a time when we desperately need less passive consuming and more active creating. It is the only thing that will save us, and it will be a worthwhile and challenging endeavour. And it will be fun.

So get out there and create, create, create. Share what you make. Encourage others to do the same. I think we will all be amazed at the results.

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” 
- Kurt Vonnegut

Note: the photographs in this post were taken today while I was on a bike ride. They are images of a reflecting pool - I flipped the shots upside down for a surreal effect.

December 6, 2015

We Can't Afford Consumerism



I see. I want. I get. I emit.

For many people money is the only barrier to consuming. The only question is, "Can I afford it?" Translated this means, "Do I have the money, or can I earn the money in the future, or borrow the money now, to make this purchase as soon as possible?"

If the answer is "yes", and in this age of debt it always is except in the most extreme of cases, whatever is wanted gets bought. We desperately need new questions.

Questions like, "Can the planet afford it?"

Looking at the state of things currently, I would have to say, "No, we can't afford consumerism."

While evidence for coming to this conclusion will not be found in the mainstream media, it is getting increasingly difficult to ignore. All corners of our beautiful home have been depleted and destroyed in the name of satisfying manufactured desires.

Another question we need to ask is, "Who is most responsible for drawing down our shared ecological account?"

The richest 10% are responsible for almost half total lifestyle consumption emissions, for example, while the poorest 50% are responsible for only 10% of emissions. That means the wealthiest 50% are responsible for 90% of emissions.

The more money you have, the more damage you do. The best thing that could happen to a lot of people would be for them to have less money, because we can't afford the damage that results from all that wealth being spent. It would be better for them, others and the planet.

I see. I don't want. I live simply and contentedly with what I have. Why? Because we can't afford consumerism.

December 2, 2015

Good People Everywhere



"There sure are good people commenting on NBA".

So says Linda, my partner in simple living, and contributor/editor of this blog. Not only has she actively participated in creating the NBA blog, she has also been a co-architect of our NBA lifestyle. She also reads every comment that is posted here, and she likes what she sees.

After Linda pointed out the awesome crowd that has been drawn to our little effort on the Internet, I decided to take a closer look at where all the good people come from.

Seeing as we are residing in a part of what is known as North America, it makes sense that most of our visitors are from this geographical area. And since the USA is so much larger than Canada or Mexico, I am not surprised that so many NBA visitors are from there.

I find it ironic that the country that perfected consumerism logs the most visits on our non-consumer oriented blog. Perhaps together we will perfect ecologically appropriate post-consumer lifestyles.

Happily, support for this blog and low waste/low consumption lifestyles is widespread. NBA has welcomed visitors from almost every country in the world. Many of the countries that have not visited have lifestyles that make our low consumption look high-consumption in comparison.

May they see, if they do visit here, a precautionary warning against joining the consumer frenzy in the first place. They could teach us a thing or two about getting by on a minimal amount of resources.

Two-thirds of our visits come from the top 10 countries, the rest divided between all the others.

Top 10 Countries With Most Visitors to NBA
  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Australia
  5. India
  6. Netherlands
  7. Germany
  8. France
  9. Philippines
  10. New Zealand
In this crazy world we may sometimes wonder where all the good people have gone. They are where they have always been  - everywhere, including here on NBA.

So here is to the good people that have visited here and supported our blogging and lifestyle efforts through repeated visits and the sharing of such good ideas and feedback in comments. Here is to good people everywhere that are reducing their consumption and increasing their enjoyment of life. Thank you.




About The Book Cover Above
(From: Goodreads)

Good People Everywhere

by Lynea Gillen, Kristina Swarner (Illustrations)

Winner of Mom's Choice Award, Teacher's Choice and Moonbeam Children's Book Awards

A colorful picture book that will warm the hearts of children and adults alike, each of its pages contain endearing examples and vibrant illustrations to inspire children to grow into grateful, caring, and giving people. It provides a wonderful way to calm children before sleep, ease their fears, and help them develop an appreciation for good work. Also included are activity pages to help children practice skills for creating gratitude, compassion, and beauty in daily life.

Hardcover, 32 pages
Published August 1st 2012 by Three Pebble Press, LLC
ISBN 0979928982 (ISBN13: 9780979928987)


November 30, 2015

Buy Nothing Xmas




We lived through another Black Friday Week - congratulations. But our good work is not over yet. Oh no.

From now until the end of the year the mass consumption continues unabated. It is time to plan for another Buy Nothing Xmas to counter the madness.

The point of this final anti-consumer campaign of the year is not to save money, or destroy Christmas, but to take action toward creating a more equitable world where everyone has enough, and we consume what we need and not much else.

It is also about returning to  the original focus of the season, and concentrating more on loving each other rather than on competitive gift giving. It is about throwing out the generic corporate profit-driven season that wants to deck the vaults with boughs of your money, and replace it with a personalized celebration that promotes compassion for all living beings.

This season let us question our consumer mindset, empower ourselves by refusing to participate, and generate awareness of the destructive tendencies of business as usual. We are in good company - the Pope is feeling pretty subdued about business as usual this season too.

Chances are that most people, even the Pope, will be buying something this festive season. The following suggestions will help align potential purchases with the values of the BNX campaign.

  • give locally, fairly-traded items with environmentally friendly packaging.
  • give quality things that last
  • give consumables, like gift cards for the local grocery store
  • give things that people really need (you can't go wrong with socks and underwear)

Often parents find it hard to practice a Buy Nothing Christmas. But it IS possible to have a wonderful non-commercial Xmas with kids. While gift giving is an important social exchange, we don't have to go overboard at this time of year.

  • try not to subject yourself or your family to seasonal advertising hype
  • consider making gifts for each other, or buying only hand made gifts from local artisans
  • up cycle old stuff to make creative gifts 
  • regift items you don't use
  • spend quality time together (without TV or other electronics)
  • go to the library together, get cards if you don't already have them

You don't have to spend a lot to show others you love them. You don't really need to spend anything at all. Just be with them.

That is free. That is BNX.

November 27, 2015

A Certain Isolation



I like being at home, and it has always been that way. It makes it very handy now that I am a full time caregiver.

It always amazes me that people spend insane amounts of money on a house, then work hard to get away from it. From going out to to going shopping to going on vacation, there is always going, going, going, and not so much staying, relaxing and enjoying.

I guess go is the thing to do, and I am part of a minority of people that sees the beauty in maintaining and enjoying a home-based lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief, reducing the amount of going and increasing the amount of staying has benefits.

Sticking close to home certainly saves money, since just about any going out will require spending money. But saving money is not the most important benefit.

The biggest payoff of pulling back from the speed of a fully plugged in modern lifestyle is what it can do for your spirit. Philosopher and social critic Søren Kierkegaard wrote about the individual vs. the crowd, why we conform, and the power of the minority.

"One can very well eat lettuce before its heart has been formed; still, the delicate crispness of the heart and its lovely frizz are something altogether different from the leaves. It is the same in the world of the spirit.  
Being too busy has this result: that an individual very, very rarely is permitted to form a heart; on the other hand, the thinker, the poet, or the religious personality who actually has formed his heart, will never be popular, not because they are difficult, but because they demand quiet and prolonged working with oneself and intimate knowledge of oneself, as well as a certain isolation." 

Things like Black Friday don't motivate Linda and I to leave our home. But that doesn't mean we live in total isolation all the time. We have wonderful neighbours close by, and we enjoy our infrequent trips into town to conduct business.

We live in an interconnected universe, so it is impossible do anything in complete isolation. What we do at home, and in our heads, has far-reaching effects. A butterfly flapping its wings affects the weather on the other side of the globe - imagine what our minds can do.

Christopher Alexander is an unconventional architect who has started a movement to help regular people reclaim control over their built environments. What he has to say about creating beautiful buildings that improve life can be related to building a beautiful home life.

"This is a fundamental view of the world. It says that when you build a thing you cannot merely build that thing in isolation, but must repair the world around it, and within it, so that the larger world at that one place becomes more coherent, and more whole; and the thing which you make takes its place in the web of nature, as you make it."

There is nothing inherently wrong with going out. We are social creatures. But perhaps a certain isolation would help restore some balance. Slowing down and enjoying a full, uninterrupted home life can save money and make life more meaningful.

When we make our homes and our selves more coherent and whole, we take our place in nature and improve the world at the same time.

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

Recovered

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.

November 16, 2015

Alternatives To Black Friday


It's coming again - Black Friday. Yes, yet another apocalypse of extreme shopping that transforms regular people into consumer zombies. Why bother getting trampled or having an arm taken off by a falling television when you could avoid the shops entirely and do something infinitely more constructive?

Naturally, I have a few suggestions:

Plan a White Friday, white being the colour of peace. Reach out to someone you are experiencing conflict with and extend an olive branch. Donate money to a non-profit that promotes peace around the world. Practice forgiveness for the whole day.

Make it a Blue Friday. Know someone that is feeling down? Do something to make them feel better. When you are done you will feel better, too.

Have a Green Friday and do something for the environment. Ride a bike instead of driving, start a recycling program, tell someone about something green that you are doing. Go for a walk, hike or roll.

Make it a real Black Friday and have a lie in while in a darkened room. Get up when you are rested, and not a moment before.

After you get up, sit quietly and explore the black space between your ears for a while. Repeat throughout the day. Nothing pays off as much as discovering more about the workings of the black box of your mind.

Tracing your thoughts and pin-pointing your motivations means that you can better understand and choose your behaviour. You will make yourself more impervious to advertisement and propaganda, like the kind that leads to bizarre behaviours such as the consumer madness represented by Black Friday.

That is black as in emptiness, the void, and the dark side of destruction. Why would one consciously choose that when there are so many alternatives?

November 13, 2015

If The World Were A Village Of 100 People




If the population of the world were shrunk down to a proportionally represented village of 100 people, what would it be like?  How many people would have electricity? An education? Clean air and water? The World of 100 simulation answers such questions.

I became aware of the World of 100 simulation while studying global education in university. The simulation is a graphic way of illustrating a world of 7 billion people shrunk to a population of only one hundred.

Seen this way, obscure statistics lost in big numbers become more manageable, and if using actual students to represent the numbers, the results can be seen right away.

More recently I came across designer Toby Ng's visual interpretation of the World of 100 concept (numbers may not be accurate for 2015). The simple representations makes the information even more stark. Viewing them reminds me to be more grateful for the life I have, and motivates me to work even harder toward ensuring that every single person on Earth has what they need.

All 100 of them.



























November 10, 2015

Crimes Against Hairdressing


























Wanted, Shorn or Shaggy.

If bad hair was a crime I would be in trouble with the law. A selfie haircut combined with bed head, and you better call the HD-CSI unit. I would be charged with crimes against hairdressing and sent to appear before a four star stylist.

My life of stylistic hair crime began when I quit paying for haircuts about 20 years ago. At that time Linda, my partner in crime, took up the responsibility for keeping my hair somewhat acceptable. We combed the Internet together to learn what we could about home haircutting.

Over the years MS changes meant that Linda could no longer manipulate the hair cutter and scissors. Oh, no - now it was up to me to make the cuts, with Linda acting as project coordinator.

One year ago Linda was in the hospital and I cut my hair alone for the first time. It turned out pretty good. Since then I haven't cut my hair again in the same way. Instead of sitting down to a total cut I have been randomly snipping at my hair when I noticed chunks getting out of control.

It has felt good to see problem hair and hack it back in a fit of rebelliousness. And I do believe it is an act of rebellion, whether you are five or fifty, because for some reason hair on the head is sacred.

I know lots of people that live simply, but none that have gone as far as cutting their own hair. Why? Because we quickly learn in life that head hair is hallowed, and only professionals shall alter it according to the latest fashions.

I figure the fashion police infringe on my freedom, so snip, snip, snip. If someone has a problem with that they can call in the hairdressing crime scene investigation unit. Of course they would discover that things are all manner of wrong, and I would be convicted of my crimes.

The punishment would be a full day spa treatment for rest, rehabilitation and better, more acceptable hair. However pleasant that might be, I am likely to be a recidivist in this department. Where are those scissors?

November 7, 2015

10 Ways To Use It Up




I find it an enjoyable challenge to see how much mileage I can get out of things. I have leather hiking boots that I purchased in 1988. I still wear them often.

One way to reduce your environmental footprint is to use everything to its fullest extent.

We live in a disposable world where fashion dictates throwing out the old to be replaced by the latest trends. But a harvest gold or avocado green range in the kitchen heats food as well as a white, black, or stainless steel model.

If you use stuff until it is no longer usable, cleaning, maintaining and repairing along the way, you will find that you don't need to buy things very often.

Whether it is a tube of toothpaste, a pair of boots, or a piece of scrap paper used to write weeks worth of grocery lists, it deserves to be used for as long as possible before repurposing or recycling.


10 Ways to Use It Up


  1. Don't waste food. Eat what needs to be eaten rather than whatever you feel like. Save and use leftovers.
  2. Before throwing anything in the trash or recycling ask, "Is there anything I can use this for?"
  3. Wear clothes longer than fashion tells you to. Quality clothing can last many years.
  4. Squeeze the tube or bottle until empty, then cut it open to get the rest.
  5. Only use as much of something as you need, and no more - it will take longer to use up.
  6. Take good care of things and they will last longer - do as much maintenance yourself as possible.
  7. If you must buy something, look for quality items that will last longer. The lowest price item is not necessarily the best choice.
  8. Ignore advertisers and any person that tells you that you need 'newer' or 'better' stuff. Chances are you don't.
  9. Think about how you can honour Mother Earth by using her gifts as lovingly and efficiently as possible.
  10. Live gently and contentedly and you will find that you end up using less everything. What you do use will last longer.



November 4, 2015

Complicated Simple Living

What if you want a simple life and your partner doesn't?


You want to live simply. Your partner does not. What do you do when your simple living plan gets complicated by relationship stressors?

It almost seems a likely showdown since up to 80% of relationship splits occur primarily due to expectations surrounding money and how it should be spent.

Developing a frugal lifestyle was straightforward for Linda and I as we were more or less on the same page from the beginning of our relationship. But what if it wasn't that easy?

A comment was left on NBA recently that highlighted a reader's personal struggle with relationship complications surrounding simple living. They wrote:

"I am really struggling with my partners 'stuff' habit. I have personally been simplifying my life for a number of years now and all my possessions fit inside my small car. I realise that simplifying is a long process but the fact my partner doesn't even have the inclination to do so is somewhat frustrating. 
I find it very hard to spend a lot of time at her house as the clutter mentally drains me. 
We have been together 3 years and I have managed to put up with it for this long, but it is becoming to much. Any advise would be appreciated."

Communication is the key to any relationship, and talking about money is something that should happen early on to avoid complications further down the road. If we are gentle with each other, forgiving and loving, we can often work such things out. But not all the time.

Is it possible to convert someone to the simple life? How do we include a recalcitrant loved one in our dream of a simpler lifestyle, and convince them that "life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing", as Oscar Wilde said?

Is this a irreconcilable difference? At what point does one decide to cut one's losses and move on? I am afraid I don't have many answers.

What would you advise? How is our simple living lover to proceed with his more prodigious partner?


November 2, 2015

Zero Emission Vehicle



Strictly speaking all modes of travel have an emission footprint, including walking and cycling. Moving from place to place always has its costs, although some methods of travel have a smaller impact than others.

Therefore, one of the best ways to reduce your transportation emissions is to travel less. In some cases that is hard to do since we tend to be travel obsessed in rich nations. We like to think that humans have always been travel obsessed, always wanting to see what is over the hill and around the bend.

But not all cultures across history have been this way, with some occupying the same general area over hundreds and hundreds of years without ever succumbing to Itchy Foot or Grass is Greener syndromes. Generations of people who happened to like where they were.

Even today there must be billions and billions of people that are born, live, and die without getting more than a few kilometres from home. I imagine a great deal of them are alright with that situation.


October 31, 2015

Are You An Activist?




Mother Nature can't speak for herself. For that we need activists.

"An activist is someone who cannot help but fight for something. That person is usually not motivated by a need for power, or money, or fame, but in fact is driven slightly mad by some injustice, some cruelty, some unfairness - so much so that he or she is compelled by some internal moral engine to act to make it better." 
- Eve Ensler


October 30, 2015

What's In Processed Food?




What is in processed foods? Only the manufacturers know for sure, and they aren't talking. You could look on the ingredients list on the label, but that is like taking a politician at their word. What you are likely to get is less truth, and more truthiness, or even outright falsifications.

I read recently about a food lab that tested hot dogs to see what they really contained. Some of the products contained things not on the label, like pork in all-beef wieners, or meat in vegetarian hot dogs. The lab even found human DNA in some hot dog products.

So what is really in processed foods? Unless you have a food lab in your basement it is impossible to know.
Yoni Freedhoff, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa and medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute, a nutrition and weight management centre, said, “That speaks to a larger picture . . . as far as what’s in the foods that we’re buying, we really are at the mercy of the manufacturers.”
“The simplest way to not worry about the contents of your box or jar is not to buy products that are in boxes and jars, and really try to maximize the transformation of fresh, whole ingredients into food,” he said.

Best to try not to buy anything in a box, jar, or tube, regardless of how convenient or tasty they might be. The best food is real food, not factory food.

As Michael Pollan says, "If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don't.

October 27, 2015

Overcoming The Urge To Shop

Compulsive shoppers are not born that way, they are a product of our consumer culture.

In ConsumerLand the consumer's urge to shop has been honed and fine tuned for maximum fun and profit. That this comes almost exclusively from outside influences is rarely acknowledged, as if we were born to shop.

If we are to live simply, this lifelong consumer brainwashing must be overcome.  It is not normal to want to consume till we drop from exhaustion, or die, whichever comes first.

The following are some suggestions for quelling the urge to buy stuff.


1. Declutter your living space. The neater and sparser your surroundings are, the less likely you will want to bring anything else in.

2. Start a shopping diary. Keep track of what you buy, and how much it costs.

3. Use only cash. Credit is too easy, not to mention dangerous as it can give one a false sense of wealth.

4. Only buy timeless things that don't go out of fashion. Or ignore fashion all together and buy long lasting things that make you happy.


Mostly, be gentle with yourself. Overcoming a life of propaganda and social pressure is not an insignificant thing. It is a battle. But it can be won, and it is worth the effort to be free of the pressure to buy, buy, buy.


Other Tips For Overcoming The Urge to Shop

  • Recognize you are not alone, that many people experience the same urge to shop, and many people have successfully overcome this compulsion.
  • Dedicate yourself to a hobby or project.
  • Spend time with friends and family.
  • Be in nature.
  • Volunteer in an area you are passionate about.
  • Get addicted to exercise or some other healthy pursuit.
  • Be content with what you already have.
  • Recognize your "triggers" that lead to shopping. Avoid them, or learn to disarm them.
  • Seek the help of like minded people who understand the seriousness of the effects of rampant consumerism on your life and the lives of those around you.


October 25, 2015

Living More vs. Working More


Where do you fit on this scale?


There are two ways to financial security - one is to make more money. The other is to spend less. I am an advocate of the later method because spending less allows me to work less and live more.

Like most people, I buy things. But what I buy, mostly, are the basics. Shelter, food, utilities, health care, and transportation. Beyond that in most months I don't buy anything else. What else do I need? The basics are all that are required to set the stage for happiness.

My minimal budget provides me with a comfortable place to live, clean water (some of it heated), a sanitation system (including garbage disposal/recycling), and 24 hour electricity for heating, lighting, cooking, and my computer.

Add to that fresh, wholesome, tasty food, a secure place to store my guitars and bicycle, accessible natural areas, good health, and a public library near by. All of this in a safe, secure community with caring and supportive friends.

What more could a person want? If you can have a good life on a low income, why work more? I would rather live more than work more, and keeping to a modest budget allows me to do just that.

Some think that work/life balance means a 50/50 split. Wrong. In this case, a healthier ratio looks more like 20/80.

October 23, 2015

World Thinkers and Writers Peace Meet



"With the very future of the human project at stake, the kind of assumptions we make become absolute vital to the possibility of realizing a truly humane and transformed future characterized by peace, sustainability, and justice." - Dr. Glen Martin, One World Renaissance

Despite all the denial going on in response to pressing world issues, it is not difficult to see that Earth and everything on it is imperilled by violence, greed and ignorance. While many complain about our predicament, very few offer doable solutions.

Glen Martin is not one of those - he has some very compelling ideas about what actions we can take to improve life for everyone on this planet.

I discovered Dr. Martin's work when the following information was posted in the comments of my post on the Occupy Movement:

You are invited to a large global peace conference—the World Thinkers and Writers Peace Meet—in Kolkata, India on December 27-31. You may come as a delegate for the 14th session of the Provisional World Parliament that will be part of this conference. 
Papers are also invited for the International Philosophers for Peace Conference that will meet concurrently. (Please send an abstract to Dr. Patricia Murphy at pmurphy@sju.edu.)  
You may also register as a delegate for the Parliament. Those wishing to participate in the Provisional World Parliament should register with Dr. Glen Martin at gmartin@radford.edu.  
Your intelligence, experience, and leadership are needed to contribute to this historic event in Kolkata. 
To find out more, visit the following sites: 
http://www.philosophersforpeace.org/ 
http://www.worldparliament-gov.org 

I urge you to check out Dr. Martin's hopeful work for yourselves, knowing there are many compassionate, thinking, and peace-loving readers that check in here at Not Buying Anything. Take a look. Let me know what you think.

Here's to solutions for a better world. We need more of them.

Peace.


"We will see that dealing with the global crises that threaten human existence is directly related with the imperative to establish a world based upon human dignity and human flourishing, a world that will include both a spiritual renaissance and a practical, planetary social contract."

October 20, 2015

Plain Black T-Shirt A Lesson In Globalism

Made in Canada

At one time this country used to make things that people used and needed. I remember not so long ago that when looking at the tags on clothing one would often see "Made in Canada" on the label. Sure there was clothing from other countries, but the majority would be made here.

Now when I look at clothes in the second hand shops I see tags from everywhere except my own country. Most of the countries where clothes are now made are places where wages are ultra-low, and social/environmental protections are lax.

The other day I was looking at a plain black t-shirt that has been in my wardrobe for at least the past 5 election cycles. Maybe longer. It is thin, stretched, and perfectly comfortable. Somehow over the years it has escaped my tag detective scrutiny.

When I looked at the tag on my shirt I discovered that it was manufactured about 3 hours away from where I am currently living - right here in Nova Scotia, Canada. It was made by a company that started making clothes in 1855 (I think that is when my shirt was made from the look of it), and they are still making them there today.

Rather than being an exploitative sweatshop, the company has been providing quality jobs and tax dollars to the local community for over one hundred years. Generations of locals have worked in the textile mill, raised families, lived good lives, and provided products that Canadians need.

Even now the company is committed to making as much clothing as they can right here at home. Even if that means the product is a little more expensive than if it were made, say, in Bangladesh. Or Nicaragua. Or Pakistan. Or China. Or Haiti.

We used to have "Buy Local" programs that encouraged us to keep our money and business profits in the country. Globalism has done away with anything that might affect multi-national profit making, including all the programs encouraging us to keep our dollars at home.

That does't mean we have to stop looking at where our clothes are made, and the consequences of buying from bad bosses overseas.

If you don't look at labels on your clothing, I highly recommend you try. It is a good lesson in globalism and geography. Afterwards, consider sourcing your clothing needs closer to home.

When I need another plain black t-shirt (probably before the next election), I know where I am going to buy it. And if I have to spend a little more for the privilege of buying Canadian made, that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.

Think Globally. Buy Locally.


October 16, 2015

Still Not Enough

It's official - it is fully 50% as of this year.

For the first time in history, the richest 1% of humanity owns 50% of the world's wealth. At the same time conditions for the other 99% seem to be getting bleaker all the time.

The inequality in my homeland, Canada, is also evident. The wealthiest 86 Canadians own as much wealth as the 11.4 million poorest.

Surely this is a sign of some sort of insidious mental illness, Wealth Hoarding Syndrome perhaps. One has to ask, "How much does one person really need?" and "What is the purpose of all that money?"

In the end, excessive amounts of money makes humans engage in counterproductive activities. Always wanting more borders on the pathological.

I wonder if the mental patients are holding a celebration to commemorate their raking in of 50% of the globe's goodies? But what I really wonder is:

"Are they satisfied now, or are they going to go for the full 100%?"

Buying as little as possible I am trying to avoid feeding the insanity. I watch who I am giving my money to, and try to keep my cash in the community. It is the healthy way to go.

The 1% do not need more of your hard earned money. They can keep their hands off my stash.

October 14, 2015

Savouring Simple Pleasures

The valley below our home is a riot of colour.

“See what happens if you commit yourself to loving life. 

Begin by remembering to pause and savor the simple pleasures. 

Have the intention to hold gently the difficulties. 

Open your heart to the life of this moment and discover that joy is never very far away.” 


- Tara Brach, “Radical Acceptance”



Sunset at Haines Lake, a short bike ride from home.


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