March 30, 2012

Pyramids of Waste: Planned Obsolescence

- Victor Lebow, 20th century economist writing on consumer capitalism
 My "Make It Last: Appliances/Electronics" post hit a chord with NBA readers. Comments spoke of iPhones that terminate before their service contract, and big screen televisions that permanently end the programming day before the 'dated' TVs they replaced.

Many are lamenting the short life of some consumer products because it appears that manufactures are only interested in 'make it last - for a while'. What is a person to do? How do we fight back?

In Pyramids of Waste, a worthy documentary recommended by NBA reader Nicole, a man takes his broken printer to several computer shops. Each shop tells him the same, irritating thing - "It could be repaired, but it will cost less to buy a new one."

Welcome to the nightmarish world of planned obsolescence, a wasteful practice popularized at the beginning of the consumer age in the 1950s. By 1960, Vance Packard said it was "the systematic attempt of business to make us wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontented individuals."

Its other purpose? To increase corporate profits through having consumers replace products at regular, frequent intervals.

How do you induce consumers to replace products? Either engineer consumer items to self-destruct prematurely, or design newer, shinier, zestier versions so that consumers will replace older models that are 'dated', but perfectly usable.

In the self-destruct category is the infamously fickle computer printer. They are darn near free to buy, astronomically expensive to maintain, and often artificially limited to a set number of prints. Eventually they find their way, illegally, to African and Asian nations for disposal.

In my own brush with 'shortened replacement cycles', a well-meaning friend gave us a brand new computer printer. We never should have let it cross our threshold. The ink cartridges it came with soon did not work, and error messages indicated they needed replacing. We thought that premature, but hey, the thing was actually free.

Of course the replacement ink cartridges cost more than the printer itself - we could see how the scam works. When the new cartridges quit printing far too quickly we cut our losses, raised the Earth flag, and said, "No more!". We gave the printer away, and never replaced it.

On the rare occasion we need to print something we just go to the public library and do it there for fifteen cents a print. Life is short, and we don't need the grief you purchase along with a printer.

Pyramids of Waste, after identifying the problems of planned obsolescence, highlights a few individuals that are doing something about it. There are ways of working around kill switches, and DIYers are re-introducing 'Repair' back into the environmental R's of refuse, reuse, repair, and recycle.

There is also the NBA way, which is avoiding the products altogether, or getting good products to start with, then make them last. Thankfully there were also many comments on the Appliances/Electronics post from readers that are following this approach.

By living without, or by getting quality and making it last, and by learning to repair items, we are beating the 'waste by design' system.

An item isn't 'dated' until it is worn or broken beyond repair, and damn the stainless steel, sleek modern design meant to entice us. We here at NBA are refusing to be made into "wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontented individuals."

March 29, 2012

This Is Your Life

Not a bad manifesto to live by...

March 28, 2012

Playing Around With GMO

Mr. GMO Potato Head
The world is full of all sorts of growing dangers that we can’t experience directly. When we encounter these ideas, we can use our imaginations and prior experiences, and enhance our thinking with a bit of play.

Making connections allows us to think abstract thoughts that are based on what we already know. For example, we can’t directly experience the world of genes, the enormous complexity of nature, or the future results of today's biological manipulations.

These ideas are shadow realities, several times removed from our limited senses. However, by engaging in play, we can experience and relate to abstract concepts. This aids in our understanding of an idea, and leads to further thinking and problem solving.

Thinking, although not encouraged in today's world, is a critical skill that we normally use throughout our lives—whether we are learning about sustainable food production, lowering our carbon footprint, or imagining a peaceful, equitable world with a government of the people.

For example, playing with Mr. Genetically Modified Potato Head allows us to explore the fun possibilities of corporate meddling in food production. Included are different mutated body parts, including several that are ambiguous enough so that you can use your imagination to decide what they really are, and where they go. Use your creativity, like a modern Dr. Frankenstein.

Mr. GMO P.H. comes complete with cancer simulation protocol, including stick-on skin lesions, abscesses, and scabs. Note: Cancer Treatment Ward sold separately, c/w Mrs. GMO Potato Head dressed in black and mourning.

Warning: Any similarity to actual genetically modified products is purely coincidental, really. Trust us.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”  - Albert Einstein

March 26, 2012

Magical Things Monday

"The world is full of magic things,
patiently waiting
for our senses to grow sharper."
~W.B. Yeats
There is a lot of craziness going on in the world, but we must not let that wear us down. The world is also filled with beautiful, magical things. It is important to make time for them, and to be invigorated and inspired.

When it comes right down to it, this planet of ours has great potential. Relax, take time, sharpen the senses - see the magic.

It's everywhere.

March 25, 2012

Average House Size By Country

North Americans get to enjoy being at, or near, the top of all the wrong lists. Whether it's energy consumption per capita, amount of waste produced, or average house size, you will find us up there. 

It is nice of Australians, then, to oust us North Americans out of the top spot in average house size. 

After decades of increases, in 2008 the average house size in the US began to drop. Have people had enough of the monster homes, McMansions, starter castles, and hummer houses?

In the US, many municipalities are moving to restrict the mushrooming size of new homes, trying to prevent the blight and insanity of 15,000 to 55,000 square foot monstrosities.

Builders may also be cluing in. In 2009, 9 out of 10 builders surveyed reported that they were building, or planning to build, smaller, lower cost homes than they had been.

These trends were not seen in Australia where the average new home is a record-breaking 243 sq m (2622 sq ft).

Average House Size By Country

1. Australia - 214.6 sq m (2310 sq ft), 2.56 people per household

2. USA - 201.5 (2170), 2.6 pph

3. New Zealand - 196.2 (2112), 2.6 pph

4. Canada - 181 (1950), 2.5 pph

5. Japan - 132 (1420), the pph in Tokyo dropped below 2 for the first time this year (1.99)

6. UK - 76 (818 sq ft), 2.1 pph

The largest household are found in Iraq with 7.7 people. India has 5.4 people per household, and the world average was 3.8 in 2002.

Larger households are more efficient because many people are sharing space and resources, maximizing on both. This is why students, and other people looking to maximize resources, often choose to share living space. It saves money, and resources.

But the trend has been toward larger houses and smaller households. Why do we need all this room? What is it for, and how do some people manage to live with less?

The UK is notable for having the smallest houses on our list, and in all of Europe. Six UK homes could be built on one Australian lot.

Linda and I currently live in 586 sq ft., how about you? Does your living space contribute to decreasing your country's overall average house size?

Edit: When we moved from our condo in British Columbia to a rental home in Nova Scotia in 2014, we experienced an up-sizing in our accommodation.

We no longer qualify for tiny home status (about 500 sq. ft.), but might just fit into the small home category (about 1000 sq. ft.) since our square footage is less than the average Canadian residence.

Our new home is about 1,200 sq. ft.

Our rental needed to be one level, wheelchair accessible, and with a roll-in shower. That automatically eliminated about 99% or more of potential rental units, so we couldn't be too picky when we found one that met our needs.

Many commenters on this post (recommended reading) mentioned the benefits of having more space. For us, the extra space is appreciated and has helped us do the things we need to do more comfortably.

After living in less than 600 sq. ft. for nine years, a more open home feels far less restricted. Having said that, I could live without the extra time it takes to clean it, and the extra money required to keep it warm in the winter.

For now we are enjoying our space, but when we move, we will look for a home somewhere between 500 and 900 square feet.

March 23, 2012

John Trudell: Let's Think Things Through

John Trudell is a native American activist, poet, defender of Mother Earth, and subject of the documentary "Trudell". The doc is about a life of speaking out against the corporate/government alliance. It is about a life of speaking uncomfortable truths of genocide and environmental destruction. It is about Trudell's tribe, and we are all in it.

Native Americans, being the original caretakers of North America, are in a unique position to talk about sustainability. Their people lived here sustainably for many thousands of years, a feat of incredible strength, commitment, and wisdom. We could have learned so much from these original Occupiers over the last several hundred years.

We ignore the message of Native Americans at our peril. John Trudell is reaching out to all of us, because he knows that the machine that goes by many names (civilization, progress, the economy, markets, globalism, free trade, capitalism, military/industrial complex, consumerism...) is coming for all of us, regardless of what colour we are or where we live.

The machine needs to be fed, and all of us will become its fuel if we don't pay heed to the warnings native people have been giving us since first contact.

Rarely have I heard such a staunch defender of the Earth, human rights, and basic freedoms as John. He is inviting us to join him in rethinking what it means to be human. He is inviting us to join him in revealing the lie, and re-establishing the original green economy.

"Theoretically, if everyone that disagrees with the lie that has been imposed upon us - tomorrow, if everyone got up and said, 'I'm not going to enable the lie anymore', you would have nonviolent change, and you would have quick change.

The system goes upon our self-rationalizations and self-justifications and insecurity. That's how it works, and it has turned all of us against each other through distortion.

The one thing these people fear is that we would use our minds to attempt to see clearly. Our apathy makes us the enemy of our descendants. They want us to be in a position where all we think about is ourselves. We need to use our minds to think things through."

After thinking things through, I started NBA almost 500 posts ago to help stop the lie. It was after the 2008 financial crisis made things perfectly clear for me - I would do whatever I could to prevent my actions from enabling the lie that is oppressing us, and killing our planet.

I will not work for the lie, and I am not buying anything that supports the lie. In this quest, it is good to have people like John Trudell to remind me of my commitment, and help move me a bit farther toward truth, justice, and sustainability.

Watch Trudell to see how the machine continues to attempt to neutralize the continent's caretakers, and any other voices of reason, to pave the way for private profit, and public misery. Mr. Trudell's story is a tale of tragedy, triumph, and hope for a better future.

March 21, 2012

Make It Last: Appliances/Electronics

Endless upgrades means endless waste
We aren't upgraders. The latest new and improved gadgets don't entice us to part with our cash. That is because the rule in our house is that things can't be replaced until they are broken or worn out.

Our 'make it last' approach has been like a lab experiment on product longevity. It has become a fun challenge to see how long we can stretch the usable life of our things.

Over the years we have been amazed how long things can last, like appliances and electronics. Many things, if cared for and used gently, can provide decades of faithful service.

Our old things do what we want, and only what we want, unlike newer products that load on multiple features of dubious value that rarely get used. It could be because the features are frivolous, or because they are too complicated for the average user to figure out. Either way, I don't need all the dazzling technology.

I'm no neo-Luddite, it's just that what I have is enough. I don't need to upgrade yet, and when I do, it will be to the simplest, most efficient model available. Until then, I introduce my collection of well-used 'make it last' items.

My Make It Last Appliances/Electronics

I don't need a microwave oven that rotates and stirs with 150 convenient pre-programmed settings. I just want heat. My old unit still provides that.

I have an 11 year old first-generation ipod that plays music perfectly, and could not be easier to use. There are no features beyond just playing music which is ok because all I want it to do is play music. You can't buy that kind of simplicity today.

Our kitchen blender, second hand from Linda's mom, is about 4 decades old. It is a functional antique, like a museum piece that still works fine. We use it almost daily for smoothies. It works well for creating creamy soups and chowders. I grind nuts and spices with it, and it matches our retro 70's kitchen.

A friend gave us his toaster oven 12 years ago before leaving for international travel. He never came back for it, and it has toasted thousands of pieces of bread successfully since then. The handle broke off a few years ago, which I replaced with a heavy duty paper clip.

Even the computer I am writing on is an ancient machine still faithfully providing service. It is now 7 years old, which is almost 100 (or is that 1000?) in computer years. It does everything I need it to do, although it is slowing down. But then, so am I. Speed is over-rated - slow and steady, as they say.

Can be seen in the Apple Museum, or my living room
By avoiding endless upgrades and making our stuff last, we have prevented useful items from ending up in landfills leaking toxic waste. We have also saved a lot of money.

We can afford to replace all of these items with brand new, shiny ones if we wanted to. But can the planet afford it? We don't think so.

To the average consumer, 'make it last' may look like extreme deprivation and poverty. It is not. It is the way to freedom. Less things to buy, less money to spend, less work to be done. Less maintenance, less life energy. Less waste.

We are living on a small planet with limited resources and an exploding population. Considering this, we think it is a good idea to use resources as efficiently as possible.

If it ain't broke, don't replace it.

Make it last.

March 19, 2012

The 100% Monday

Occupy NYC gathered again March 17th for the six month anniversary of the movement. The establishment responded in typical fashion by arresting peaceful protesters in a shock and awe show of force.

Enforcing this unnecessary split between segments of the population, and then repressing those that simply want to initiate a societal discussion about creating a more just society, is doomed to fail.

Separating people into 'us vs them', 'rich vs poor', or 'the 99% vs the 1%', fails to capitalize on our collective interests, and wisdom. It is easy to point fingers of blame and absolve one's self from all responsibility for current conditions.

The challenges of humanity are unprecedented, and in order to find workable solutions we will need to remember our kindergarten lessons and play nice. Everyone. The 100%.

In this regard, I love what the Stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius said 1800 years ago in his Meditations:
"Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill... I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together..."
We have come into the world to work together - you have ideas, I have ideas - let's get this thing done.

Peace. Sustainability. Freedom. Justice. Equality. Sanity. All will be realized when we learn to work together for the betterment of all.

March 18, 2012

Minimalist Furniture

Furniture H.D. Thoreau-style
Never mind the giant leather sectional, all you really need for furniture is three basic chairs. Furnished in such a fashion, Henry David Thoreau found his 150 sq. ft. house to be perfectly adequate for company and 'entertaining'.

"I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society. When visitors came in larger and unexpected numbers there was but the third chair for them all, but they generally economized the room by standing up.

It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain. I have had twenty-five or thirty souls, with their bodies, at once under my roof, and yet we often parted without being aware that we had come very near to one another." - H.D.T.

March 16, 2012

Whole Wheat vs Whole Grain

The grain, the whole grain, and nothin' but the grain

When does whole not mean whole? When it comes to whole wheat flour and bread products in Canada. In spite of whole meaning "all of; entire", flour or bread labeled 'whole wheat' in this country does not include the whole grain. 

Even if it says "100% Whole Wheat".

I have had suspicions about the whole wheat flour that I buy. I always thought it looked more like white flour with a bit of germ and bran added to it - it just didn't seem as chunky as it should be if it were whole grain.

My suspicions were confirmed when I checked the Health Canada website:
"In Canada, when wheat is milled to make flour, the parts of the grain are usually separated and then are recombined to make specific types of flour, such as whole wheat, whole grain, white cake and pastry flour, and all purpose white flour. If all parts of the kernel are used in the same relative proportions as they exist in the original kernel, then the flour is considered whole grain.

Under the Food and Drug Regulations, up to 5% of the kernel can be removed to help reduce rancidity and prolong the shelf life of whole wheat flour. The portion of the kernel that is removed for this purpose contains much of the germ and some of the bran. If this portion of the kernel has been removed, the flour would no longer be considered whole grain."
A wheat berry is the whole de-hulled kernel, and includes the bran, endosperm, and germ - all of which contain valuable nutrients (especially fibre and protein). 

That is what I want in my whole wheat flour, and that is what should be in products labeled whole wheat. If it isn't, it should be called something else, maybe "almost whole" wheat, or "whole-ish wheat".

Eating whole grains has been associated with positive health effects and everything should be done to help people increase the amount of whole grains in their diet. Sales of whole wheat flour and whole wheat bread products has increased dramatiacally in recent years.

Canada's current labeling regulations are potentially confusing to many consumers that are switching from less healthy white, refined flour and breads to what they think is best for them.

This nutritional loophole is not in the best interests of our health, but it does protect industry. It allows millers to remove most of the germ, the part that goes rancid with time. This extends the shelf life making it easier to ship, store, and sell flour and other products.

What I want is flour that contains ALL of the wheat berry, which is what I thought whole wheat flour was. What I want is a whole wheat flour that extends MY shelf life.

Look for whole grain on labels in Canada. It actually does mean the whole grain - all of it. The entire thing.

Anything else will be white flour with a bit of the good stuff added back in... but not too much, and definitely not all of it.

March 14, 2012

Best Before Date: Using Food Efficiently

Are we approaching our best before date?

The person who is full says, "That is past its best before date", while someone who is hungry says, "Let me take a look."

If a cook threw out all food on or immediately after the best before date (BBD) printed on them, they would end up wasting a lot of food. In order to maximize on nutrition we should eat food as fresh as possible, but in order to use food efficiently, we should not throw out food that is still edible.

The best before date on food should be read flexibly. They are manufacturers suggestions, and are therefore advisories rather than edicts. No one is going to get sick (within reason), or arrested, for using food past the stamped date.

Some foods are still edible (although possibly not as tasty or nutritious) long past the date printed on them. Honey, for example, may have a BBD, even though it literally never goes bad. Archaeologists in Egypt discovered honey thousands of years old that was still edible, although past its BBD by a few eons.

So what is the true shelf life of various foods and beverages? Such information is crucial to know so that we can:
  1. Maintain food safety - we want to get efficient, not sick, and
  2. Save money - it is inefficient to throw out still edible food.
An excellent resource that can help extend the contents of your fridge and pantry is the website

In the site's About section they state: "Eat by Date offers info, answers and analysis related to food shelf life, food safety, food storage and how long will food last." There is a lot of interesting information here that may cause you to look at best before dates, and your food, differently.

If you are into cooking, cutting food waste, maintaining your health, and saving money, check out this handy kitchen management tool. I found out that my fish sauce could be good for up to a couple of years past the BBD.

Time to make a big, hot pot of Asian noodle soup!

March 12, 2012

Honouring Teachers Monday

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever." - Gandhi
As the Zen quotation states, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear". There have been moments in my life that I have been ready for new ideas, and at those times, teachers have appeared to fill my cup.


I am particularly attracted to teachers from the east (or they are attracted to me), like Lao-tzu. One of his quotes has been a constant source of inspiration and strength.
"Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity, 
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires."

Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau has been a teacher that entered my life early, and has made repeated appearances since then. His life at Walden Pond was his message, but he is also an endless source of memorable snippets of simple living wisdom.
"What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?"

Jim Merkel

Merkel's book Radical Simplicity came to me at a time I was ready to take the next step in simplifying my life. His ideas on the concept of using our "fair share" of the earth's resources profoundly changed the way I look at global resource allocations and the exploitation of people and the environment.
"Imagine you are first in line at a potluck buffet. The spread includes not just food and water, but all the materials needed for shelter, clothing, health care, and education. How do you know how much to take? How much is enough to leave for your neighbors behind you—not just the six billion people, but the wildlife, and the as-yet-unborn?

Black Elk

A holy man of the Sioux Nation, Black Elk was born in 1863 in Wyoming. At the time his people still roamed the land freely, but that was soon to change. His warnings to the invaders should have helped avoid the human and environmental atrocities that have occurred (and continue to occur) since then.
“Any man who is attached to things of this world is one who lives in ignorance and is being consumed by the snakes of his own passions.”

Ted McNamee

Ted is a friend that was also a teacher. Before the school year started one year, Ted gave notice and quit his tenured position. Instead of "getting ahead" in the professional world, he traded the so-called good life for a backpack and flew off into the sunset, never to return. His bold actions taught me about exercising my freedom to conduct my own life according to my own agenda.
"After you have done something extraordinary, do not rush back into normal."

There is no shortage of teachers - some have been waiting a very long time. What we need are more students that are ready. Ready for the truth. Ready to hear the message of simplicity from the teachers that have lived it.

Today I honour the wise and patient teachers across history that have assisted me on my journey. Some have been famous, and others regular people in my life. Either way, the secret is to be ready and receptive to be able to hear the message.

Here's to the teachers of the past, present, and future.

March 9, 2012

Think Little

Writer/farmer Wendell Berry is a sensible dude that is doing things right. It makes me wonder why we don't have people like him running our governments. Perhaps it is because they are too busy getting things done.

Berry writes about things that may be considered 'quaint' in today's fast-paced, slick modern age that offers all things shiny and new.

"According to him, the good life includes sustainable agriculture, appropriate technologies, healthy rural communities, connection to place, the pleasures of good food, husbandry, good work, local economics, the miracle of life, fidelity, frugality, reverence, and the interconnectedness of life." - Wikipedia

I like Berry because he gives hope to individuals and small groups in society that are making changes, and progress. He recognizes the value, the power, and the potential in the people. He knows how to think little.

"While the government is 'studying' and funding and organizing its Big Thought, nothing is being done. But the citizen who is willing to Think Little, and, accepting the discipline of that, to go ahead on his own, is already solving the problem.

A man who is trying to live as a neighbor to his neighbors will have a lively and practical understanding of the work of peace and brotherhood, and let there be no mistake about it - he is doing that work...

A man who is willing to undertake the discipline and the difficulty of mending his own ways is worth more to the conservation movement than a hundred who are insisting merely that the government and the industries mend their ways."  
- Wendell Berry, The Art of The Commonplace

Individuals and groups committed to making progress, that are starting by thinking little, then working their way up, are changing the world. Never doubt that this is the case. 

Your efforts and changes, regardless of how little, matter.

YOU have the power to make the world a better place.

March 8, 2012

Deviate From The Norm Today

Important life lesson from Mr. Zappa
The world needs anti-authoritarians and misfits, malcontents and dreamers. It needs courageous individuals willing to throw their bodies into a pit of fire, and dare to do things differently than those around them. People that can resist the persuasive forces of "the majority" and do what is right, rather than what is popular.

The world needs brave individuals to break out of current ways of thinking, question authority, and challenge unjust laws and practices. Many are heeding the call.

There are a growing number of rebels and free thinkers out there conducting exciting and fruitful experiments in alternate forms of low-impact, high-quality living. Some of them read this blog. They are breaking free of their cultural programming and living simple, more sustainable lifestyles, contrary to the hubris and greed around them.

Many NBA readers, and others, refrain from the damaging ways that society considers 'normal'. They are deviating from the norm, and thank goodness for that. In doing so, they are creating healthier norms, fueling progress, and realizing a better world.

As Bruce Cockburn said, "The trouble with normal is it only gets worse." I am sure Frank Zappa would have agreed.

So what are you waiting for? Deviate from the norm today. Don't do what is expected. Be bold, be yourself. Make progress possible. It's fun.

March 7, 2012

$ave Up To 50% On Groceries

Beware the center aisles of the grocery store
I may not be buying much, but a person has to eat and there is no way around that. Since I am not tucked away on a little farm achieving food self-sufficiency, that means going to a grocery store, an increasingly painful process.

Shopping for food is getting more expensive all the time. I am not happy about setting new records at the till, despite shouting "BINGO" each time I do. To try to prevent this from occurring too often, I have a few strategies for controlling the food budget.

Price Per 100 Grams

One of my favourite strategies is to use price per unit of measurement in order to make direct comparisons. In Canada our produce is still priced per pound - despite adopting the metric system in the 1970's - but most other items show prices per 100 grams.

Showing the price per unit of measurement allows comparison across different package sizes for the best deal. In my store, the price/100g is shown on the shelf along with the total package price. By looking at the standard price, I have often found that larger sizes are not necessarily the best deal. Sometimes smaller packages cost less per 100g. And don't get sucked in by bulk.

Bulk Not Always Best

I used to think that the bulk section always provided the best deals. I was wrong. Armed with my price/100g, I can compare the price of bulk items to packaged ones on the shelf. Sometimes bulk items cost less, but sometimes they are much more expensive.

This can make a huge difference when it comes to expensive foods such as walnuts or almonds. Prices change frequently, so I take the time to check bulk prices versus packaged prices every time. The savings can amount to several dollars per kilo (2.2 lbs).

30% to 50% OFF

By far the most fun are the heavily discounted grocery items - anywhere from 30% to 50% off. The produce section of our store usually has a shelf of these half priced items. Often there is absolutely nothing wrong with the food, and a lot of it just has minor blemishes, or has been sitting for a while.

I have purchased giant bags of half price mushrooms, then processed them at home to make soup and pasta sauce which I freeze in jars. I love half price bananas. Ripe bananas can be peeled, put into baggies, and frozen whole. Take one or two out at a time to add to an orange to make an icy, yummy smoothie. Or thaw a few and make a banana bread.

Other grocery items are also frequently discounted 50% for reasons that don't affect the food inside. Why pay full price for breakfast cereal when the discount bin has identical boxes with a little cut in the cardboard (not in the inner package) for half the cost?

Sales Specials - Pantry Packers

Another way to save on food is to take advantage of sales. Many stores have a 3 month rotation schedule on sales so if, for example, peanut butter is on sale, I will buy enough for 3 months. This can lead to a well-stocked pantry, which is a beautiful thing at any time, but is especially precious during an emergency.

Not Buying Any Crappy Food

Often the best way is to save 100% on items by just not buying them. There are many items in a grocery store that barely pass for real food and should be avoided altogether. Your body does not need cookies, or chips, or pop, or candy, or...

The oft-spoken advice to "stick to the outside of the store" gives us a clue as to what aisles we should be avoiding. By shopping the perimeter of the store you will find whole foods and skip all the packaged, overpriced items found in the center aisles. You'll save money, and eat healthier too!

Leave a comment and tell us your favourite strategies for saving money on groceries. Until we get our gardens and local food production going, we are going to need them.

Bon Appetit!

March 5, 2012

Opportunity Monday

We are moving toward simplicity and harmony. During these difficult times, damaging practices are dying away; more sensible ways of living are being born.

Our current difficulties require us to do things differently. This is a time to for us to harness our intuition and creativity. It is an amazing opportunity to design new ways of living in harmony with nature's limits.

Increasingly, people are taking advantage of this opportunity.

One encouraging source of evidence for this trend is increased visits to this blog. Visitors exploring small footprint, more sustainable lifestyles have increased the number of visits to NBA over 600% in the last year.

Not only am I honored and humbled by this turn of events, but I am also heartened by it. Many people are recognizing the opportunity in these tough times, and are creating simplicity and harmony in their lives, and in the world.

March 4, 2012

Finally The Tables Are Starting To Turn

What is happening on our little planet is unprecedented in human history. Hundreds of millions of people rising up to take back what is theirs, despite desperate measures taken to maintain the status quo.

It is our Global Spring, and we will clean out the greed, corruption, and other turds that have gathered in our societal septic tank.

Today Linda and I are singing hopeful protest songs in our living room, and sending them out to the world. Our favourite today? Revolution by Tracy Chapman. It is an outstandingly optimistic piece of protest and performance.

Revolution - Tracy Chapman

Don't you know
They're talkin' bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

Don't you know
They're talkin' about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

While they're standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in the unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Poor people gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people gonna rise up
And take what's theirs

Don't you know
You better run, run, run
Oh I said you better
Run, run, run

Finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin' bout a revolution

March 2, 2012

Sailing The Winds Of Change

Pessimists curse the wind. Optimists adjust the sails.

The winds of change are blowing, and the clouds of denial are being swept away. We are realizing how the status quo is no longer a viable option for a new reality. Time for a new destination.

People are adjusting the sails and are altering course in their personal journey. They are responding to opportunities provided by the shifting winds, and are leading the way to a greener future through their actions. Collectively, they are making change happen.

Forward thinking communities are transitioning to a post-oil world in a movement started in 2007 by British teacher and permaculturist Rob Hopkins. Transition Towns promote sustainability at the local level — whether it's to do with food, transport, building materials or energy resources.

Canada's first such project started in 2009 in Peterborough, Ontario. There are 420 transitioning communities worldwide, including my home town, Sooke, BC. Part of the program here has been a massively successful new community garden that is one of four in town. I am looking forward to tending to my new plot in the spring.

Transition US has a vision "that every community in the United States will have engaged its collective creativity to unleash an extraordinary and historic transition to a future beyond fossil fuels; a future that is more vibrant, abundant and resilient; one that is ultimately preferable to the present".

Even the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut of big business is beginning to see what the future holds if we continue on our current path. No sustainable environment, no sustainable profits.

To show how far this line of sober thinking has gone, a major corporation took out a recent full-page add in the New York Times that read, “Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything.” 

 They must read this blog, like many others that are rolling up their sleeves, working hard, and mapping a new course.

Will the winds of change obliterate unsustainable production and consumption? Are we finally waking up to the impossibility of our 5-planet lifestyles, and our own deepening dissatisfaction with them? Can we adjust the sails in time to ride out the uncertain conditions that are sure to prevail?

According to the good things that I am seeing, including some very encouraging comments on this blog, we are beginning to turn this thing around. But there are no passengers on this sailboat. We are all crew, and it is time to get busy.

We can make sure we ALL arrive safely at our new destination.