March 31, 2014

Used Tires A Global Disposal Problem

Scrap tires are a common hazardous waste everywhere on Terra Firma.

It is estimated that over 450,000,000 scrap tires are generated annually in the US alone. Over 10 billion used tires are stockpiled globally in massive mountains of tires.

The ubiquitous used tire has come to symbolize not only the waste created by our out of control lifestyles, but also our inability to deal with this waste effectively.

Scrap tires are considered harmful waste because:

  • they leach dangerous toxins into the environment.
  • they can provide a home to noxious pest species, such as mosquitoes and rats.
  • they are highly flammable and when burned in big fires they render the land dead for years.
  • they emit greenhouse gases when burned as a fuel source.

Almost 1/4 of used tires are disposed of in municipal landfills. Many of those are chipped or shredded prior to being buried. 

Scrap tires also make their way into illegal surface dumps, some of which catch fire. A dump of seven million scrap tires in Tracy, California burned for 2 years before being extinguished.

Up to about 50% of used tires are burned on purpose as a fuel source. This method is used in the manufacturing of cement, which is very energy-intensive.

Millions of tires are buried in mono-dumps in countries like Kuwait, where disposal firms simply bury the tires in huge pits cut out of the desert.

Such disposal methods are illegal in most countries where up to 80% of used tires are recycled, recovered, and reused.

In spite of this, used tires are a common environmental eyesore and pollution problem wherever you roll, highlighting humanities inability to deal with the consequences of our industrialized lives.

March 28, 2014

The Shoebox Challenge

The less you need, the more free you will be.

Here at NBA we get wonderful comments and emails from people that have also realized the futility of fettered, unsustainable lifestyles. But I have been noticing similar sentiments expressed in many other areas in my reading around the internet.

More and more people are fed up and tapped out. Finished. Done.

They know the effects, personal and environmental, of consumer-oriented lifestyles. Stress, depression, unpayable debt, and a big house cluttered with consumer goods that need to be cleaned, maintained, stored, and disposed of properly. Environmental destruction.

Many folks are simply bailing from the whole mess.

For example, here are a couple of comments from a thread on a real estate and finance blog that I follow. The post was essentially about people living beyond their means and piling on debt.

One commenter wrote:

"It is time to voluntarily exit middle class madness and start spending within your means. Live small and debt-free, not big and in deep. 
This is my plan: 
1. Get rid of stuff (sell, trade, and give away).
2.  Eliminate debt.
3.  Invest what’s left, and live simply. 
 Wait and pay attention and you will be thankful you pulled out before it all collapses. 
As I have been selling stuff, it seems that people are still spending money. It’s like the general populace has reached a point where they are fatigued, and spending makes them feel good.  
Bad news is exhausting - go shopping. 
My goal is to own almost nothing. Literally. I’m done with the consumer life. I want nothing - that’s where the freedom is.  
When I die, I want to be thrown away along with my shoebox of possessions. It should take about ten minutes.  
That’s my goal now."

In response someone else said:

"My spouse and I just had that conversation today. We were thinking the same way you are about possessions. We have already sold and got rid of a lot of things.  
We want fewer things, too. I curse most of the stuff in my home, believe me. But it is tough to get down to that shoebox.  
Good luck, I’ll see you out there on the road to freedom."

The consumer capitalists tell us that working hard (for them) and buying things (from them) will set us on the road to happiness and ultimate freedom. Well, they lied, and more of us are catching on to their soul-sucking scam.

See you on the real road to freedom - becoming unencumbered by societal expectations and material things.

“You may have occasion to possess or use material things, but the secret of life lies in never missing them.” 
- Gandhi, whose possessions at death could definitely fit in a shoebox

March 26, 2014

Less Is Better - No Makeup Selfies

Linda's no makeup selfie - how can you improve on such natural beauty?

This just in - more evidence proving that less is better. There are so many examples of this, and more turn up every day as the Age of Excess comes to a close. One recent excellent example is the wave of no-makeup selfies that are being posted to the internet as part of a fundraising campaign.

While many women already knew that makeup is just another wasteful consumer scam (Linda hasn't worn any makeup for almost 30 years), it seems like the fundraiser is acting as a wake up call for many women. And men.

Both men and women report feeling that when it comes to makeup, less is definitely better, regardless of what the cosmetics industry tells us. And that is without bringing up the fact that cosmetics are tested on animals, often with devastating effects.

"Polls show that the American public overwhelmingly supports alternatives to testing cosmetics on animals and that a majority believe that testing cosmetics on animals is unethical." - source

The no makeup challenge asked women to take a picture of themselves without makeup, post it, then nominate someone else to do the same. While initially a fund-raiser, the project has turned out to be an awareness-raiser as well.

It turns out that a lot of the selfies, sans paint, are eliciting compliments from both the women and men viewing all the beautiful faces in their natural glory.

When it comes to makeup, a very expensive and potentially harmful business, less is better, and for many women, it may turn out that none is best. After receiving compliments on how you look naturally, why bother with money-wasting, unnecessary cosmetic products?

"Almost any chemical – including those linked to breast cancer, hormone disruption, reproductive problems, and allergies – can be used in cosmetics."

March 24, 2014

I Want Monday

I want to be in nature surrounded by beauty and life, such as in this photo which I
 recently took in a local park a few kilometres from our home.

"I want to live simply. I want to sit by the window when it rains and read books I'll never be tested on. 
I want to paint because I want to, not because I've got something to prove.  
I want to listen to my body, fall asleep when the moon is high and wake up slowly with no place to rush off to. 
I want not to be governed by money or clocks or any of the artificial restraints that humanity imposes on itself. 
I just want to be, boundless and infinite." 
- Author unknown 

March 22, 2014

World Water Day 2014

In 2011, 768 million people did not have an improved source of drinking-water,
and 2.5 billion people did not have access to improved sanitation.

World Water Day - How You Can Help

  • Capture rainfall in a cistern or rain barrel and use it to water your garden.
  • You can save water by conserving electricity, which accounts for 55% of all water use.
  • Install a low-flow toilet and plumbing fixtures.
  • Lessen stress on your local water system by minimizing use during peak daytime hours.
  • Dispose of prescription medicine and other toxic materials through local collection programs, not down the drain.
  • If you have to water lawn, do it early in the morning or after the sun has set to reduce water lost to evaporation.
  • Landscape with local drought-tolerant species.
  • Eat less meat.
  • Donate to NGOs working to improve access to clean water and sanitation.
  • Shower with a friend.

March 21, 2014

Containers Provide Housing Alternatives

Shipping containers can be used to build low-cost, creative homes like this one
 in Georgia, USA.
There is a good chance that a lot of what you own came to you via a shipping container. It is estimated that 90% of the world's trade goods travel by container, and since it costs less to make new containers in places like China than to transport empty ones back, there is a glut of them.

There are a total of about 17 million containers in the world, many of which will remain at their destination never to  be filled and put to sea again. Fortunately, instead of seeing them as a disposal problem, people are seeing how they can help provide low-cost, and often funky, alternative homes.

When we first moved to the west coast we considered buying a piece of land and building a simple, affordable container home. The idea was appealing since we live in an area where there are thousands and thousands of containers are available for purchase due to our proximity to local ports.

In 2013 almost 3 million shipping containers passed through the Port of Vancouver, BC, and eight million through the Port of Los Angeles, USA. Any major city that is a shipping hub will have used containers for sale, including delivery.

Our container home plan was put on hold when one acre of Pacific rainforest increased in price during a local bubble to $150,000 dollars or more, putting it over our budget.

Now that we are headed to an area of the country where an acre of land can be purchased for as low as $5000 dollars, we are looking into container home designs once again. Almost half a million shipping containers of consumer goods come into the port of Halifax every year.

Nice open space.

A 40 ft used container on the east coast costs about $3,000 dollars, and if we did some of the work ourselves, we could have an affordable home suited to our purposes and new location.

Using used containers as a building resource can be quick, simple, and affordable. It also helps to re-purpose some of the hundreds of thousands of forgotten containers stacked in storage on shipping grounds around the world.

March 20, 2014

International Happiness Day

Today is International Happiness Day.
It is International Happiness Day, which coincides with the first day of Spring. It is sunny outside, and Linda and I mark today as our 27th anniversary of hanging out together.

We have "no worries", as the take-it-as-it-comes Australians say. We're happy. But happiness is a process, not a destination. How do we make the process smoother?

There are ancient and knowable guidelines that can aide us in our journey.

Humanity has long known that our thoughts are powerful creative devices. Since they are so powerful, it is important to think good thoughts.

Norman Vincent Peale thought that our mental habits could "bring everything into the realm of possibility".

Just as important is to occasionally take a mental break, which is what I plan on doing for the rest of the day.

Here are a few other things that I have found that have the potential to make happiness a possibility:

1. Fill your heart with love.
2. Be your own creative self.
3. Forgive more.
4. Expect less.
5. Think good thoughts (it's worth repeating).
6. Live simply.

Have a happy, happy day.

March 19, 2014

Bohemianism and Simplicity

Enjoying bohemian simplicity - making time to relax and enjoy each other, and joyful creativity.
When I say that those of you visiting this blog are different, I mean it as the ultimate compliment. You see, I am not a big fan of the normal, the average, or the conventional. And like me, I believe that a large number of NBA readers live, or would like to live, a simple lifestyle that reflects the values of Bohemianism.

Bohemianism is "the practice of an unconventional lifestyle in order to pursue creativity through musical, artistic, or literary pursuits". It can also be defined as "a person with artistic or intellectual tendencies, who lives and acts with no regard for conventional rules of behaviour."

While not necessarily involving voluntary poverty, (some of the early adherents in the 1800s were wealthy), most Bohemians, historically and today, embrace a more free, less materialistic way of life.

There is also the style of bohemianism that embraces the vagabond life - that of a gypsy, or a wanderer. This unaligned group includes all the leather tramps, rubber tramps, railway tramps, and all other folks for whom the freedom to move and be authentic is the ultimate creative passion.

Bohemian adherents love the low, discarding highbrow sensibilities as unnecessary and expensive distractions, or even as life-endangering, energy-sucking pastimes to be avoided. For alternative living folks, stripping life to the basics creates the time and space to discover the innate desire to create whatever their heart desires.

Bohemians embrace the values of simplicity and frugality and know that "civility equals hypocrisy, wealth invariably corrupts and enervates, but poverty breeds energy".

And as William Blake enthusiastically pointed out, "Energy is pure delight".

Bohemians tap into the energy of life, and maximize on the simple things that really matter. I think that probably describes most of the people that visit here, and that means I am in good company.

We are all different here, thank goodness, which helps save us from the silk restraints in the guilded cage of progress and modernity.

March 17, 2014

Libre Como El Viento Lunes

Free like the wind
Photo: Kayli Koep, Mexico

My niece is spending time in Mexico free as a young bohemian can be. I saw her above photo, gleaned from the backstreets of some sleepy town, at the same time I was reading "The Outsider" by Colin Wilson.

A common theme in the book is that the outsider has an inextinguishable desire for freedom. As a matter of fact, bohemians are outsiders. 

So was philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who said after witnessing a particularly windy storm from a hilltop vantage:

"Lightning and tempest are different worlds, free powers without morality. Pure Will, without the confusions of intellect - how happy, how free."

March 14, 2014

Frugal Family Friction

"What? You want to simplify your life? No, please dear - say it isn't so!"

What do you do when family members consider your simple life or frugal ways to be too unconventional, controversial, or worse? When they continue to bring gifts against your wishes? When their values clash with your own? What is the best way to deal with such conflict?

A recent anonymous commenter on NBA's Simplicity page shared the struggle of shifting to a simpler lifestyle while getting conflicting messages from family.

The reader said:

"I am trying to simplify my life and teach my teenage girls that there is nothing wrong with good, clean and simple living. 

Problem is, my mother is driven by the size of her bank account and constantly hounds me and her granddaughters that a big bank account, mountains of debt, high credit scores and credit limits are as important as air and water.

Has anybody had problems with close family constantly butting into the simple world you want? How did you get them to stop?"

Have you experienced any friction from family members concerning your simple life? If so, how have you dealt with the situation?

Do you argue? Avoid? Submit?

Or have you been able to communicate your way to a genuine acceptance and compromise?

March 12, 2014

Homesteading Wish List

Yesterday we celebrated giving our notice to move out of our beach home. As of June 1st we will be officially homeless, although we prefer to call it being "on the road" for a while. It is a very exciting time for us as we transition into the next phase of our lives.

For years we have been brainstorming what our ideal sanctuary might look like. Below is the  homesteading wish list that we have come up with.
  • 2 to 10 acres of land
  • a few acres of forest
  • a pond, stream, or river 
  • chickens
  • goats
  • rain barrels
  • wind turbine
  • wood stove
  • tiny home of 350 - 900 square feet
  • area for large garden near house
  • root cellar
  • fruit trees
  • solar panels
  • solar hot water heating
  • clean non-fracked well water
  • no mines, fracking, polluting industry or development of any kind in the area.
  • no extreme hot or cold weather
And if that is not enough, we want the land and home to cost less than $50,000 dollars. There is only one place in Canada that can provide what we want at the price we are willing to pay - the East Coast.

It looks like we are going to have a 6000 kilometre cross-country adventure in our near future. First though, we need to pare down our possessions to what will fit in the back of our truck, a space about the size of a small closet.

In order to achieve our homesteading goal we are going to have to go extremely minimal first. We are both looking forward to dumping our excess baggage and being light and free for a while.

Then, Sanctuary.

Three Years Of Fukushima And No End In Sight

It will be hard to scrub the memories of the 100,000 plus Japanese nuclear evacuees, 
some of whom will never be able to return to their home.

Today is the anniversary of the ongoing nuclear tragedy in Japan, although you could never tell by looking at mainstream media sources. I read lots of mentions of the earthquake and resulting tsunami, which were both devastating. But they really weren't the worst part.

I saw nothing about the anniversary of three reactors that had total meltdowns hours after the accident, and have now left their containment vessels to bubble and spew radiation unchecked for the next 100 years or more.

I saw nothing about a contaminated Pacific Ocean, or about fallout-affected pregnant women in Washington state giving birth to babies with no brains. I saw nothing about Japan's 100,000 plus evacuees that are still in temporary housing.

Since the world's worst nuclear accident started on 3/11 things at the stricken Fukushima power plant are as bad as they have ever been. But a collective memory fade is occurring in the absence of media coverage, aided by half truths, outright lies, denial and ignorance.

No plan? No solution? No worries! As a matter of fact, let's build more of these death traps. According to the World Nuclear Association, over 60 new nuclear power plants are being constructed in 13 countries.

The Fukushima situation is being handled as if straight from Orwell's novel 1984 and the Ministry of Truth.

War is Peace

Freedom is Slavery

Ignorance is Strength

Nuclear Power is Green, Cheap, and Safe

Who needs a memory hole when no one is paying attention?

March 10, 2014

Spend Time With Kids, Not Money

"If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money."
- Pauline Phillips

Spending time with kids is more important than spending money on them. There is no substitute for giving your children your full loving care and attention on a regular basis.

Schedule Regular Quality Time With Your Kids

It is important to schedule regular quality time with your kids. During this time give them the gift of your undivided attention, and love.

1) Brainstorm activities you both enjoy. During this stage think big - anything goes. You can decide on the practicality of suggestions later. Focus on activities not dependent on spending money. Quiet time is important, and there are many free things you can do together.

2) Make your schedule age appropriate:
  •  children (2 - 6 yrs old) a minimum of 10 min/day.
  •  youth (7 - 12 yrs old) a minimum of 30 min/week.
  •  teens/young adults (13 yrs and older) a minimum of 60 min/month.
3) Each scheduled visit select something doable from your list. This is time for parent and child only. Disconnect during the agreed upon time - turn off the phone and electronic gadgets. Don't answer the door if at home - you're busy.

4) Stick to your schedule. You can show your kids how important you think they are by making every effort to maintain your regular scheduled time together.

5) Enjoy each others company. Kids are great, and they will think you are too if you show them you have the time for them.

Too busy making a living, not enough time making a life.

March 9, 2014

Improvements In Green Energy

Improvements to alternative energy sources mean that many are competitive with standard harmful sources.

With a little imagination, a willingness to do things differently, and armed with efficient and affordable methods, there are few reasons for continued reliance on scarce and dirty fossil fuels.

Sustainable small scale energy generation projects, coupled with energy conservation practices, can go a long way to reducing our reliance on centralized generating stations that often have a monopoly in the areas they operate.

Solar, geothermal, biofuel from rotting waste, wind, and micro-hydro and others are all ways we can take advantage of improvements in green energy technology at home. Residential energy use is very important, and accounts for 22% of consumption globally, about as much as the entire transportation sector.

Most of the power generation (90%) in British Columbia is from hydroelectric generating stations. The rest comes from two gas-fired thermal plants, and one combustion turbine station.

This is where my electricity comes from. Hydroelectric
is considered green, but has it drawbacks, too.
Photo: Jordan River Dam

Our grid power is generated locally in a hydro station on nearby Jordan River, just up the coast. While our household does not currently generate any of our own power using alternate sources, we are very careful about conserving and have lowered our consumption over the years.

Good thing we are using less because as of April 1 this year the price of electricity will be going up 9%. Similar increases are planned for the next several years, and that is no joke. It is time for some new and improved solar panels and a small wind turbine... once we have a yard in which to put them.

Do you know where your power comes from? Are you using any alternative energy sources, either grid power or on your own? Do you have plans to incorporate green energy in the future?

"Respondents to the survey strongly supported policy options to promote sustainable fuel substitution, but less than 1 percent actually signed contracts to pay a premium for ‘green electricity’ when given the opportunity." 
- The Residential Energy Efficiency Project in Waterloo Region (REEP) 1998

March 7, 2014

Time To Think, Time To Be

Professor Higgs, discoverer the Higgs Boson (also called the 'god particle'), required time to think to
come up with his groundbreaking ideas, and liked nature and camping for that reason.
Portrait of Peter Higgs by: Ken Currie.

Humans are not machines. We are not designed to be cogs in perpetual motion. We need down time.

We need time to think.

Our brains need regular idle, nonproductive moments just like they need sleep. And just as sleep aids our brain, so does giving it uninterrupted room to roam. Thinking is one of the joys of being human, and is a pre-requisite to amazing discoveries, personal and otherwise.

The Higgs boson for example, was a "monumental discovery" when unveiled in 2012 in the planet's most expensive laboratory of all time, CERN's Large Hadron Collider. The discovery is named after Peter Higgs who, back in 1964, proposed the existence of such a particle.

He won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2013 for his work, also referred to as the "God Particle" by the media.

Higgs said that the busyness and distractions of modern academic life would be too busy for him and he might not have had the down time to come up with what turned out to be "the most sought-after particle in modern physics".

The successful slacker professor claimed,

“Today I wouldn't get an academic job. It’s as simple as that. I don't think I would be regarded as productive enough.

It’s difficult to imagine how I would ever have enough peace and quiet in the present sort of climate to do what I did in 1964.”

We are not machines. We don't need to be cogs spinning more productively - that is what has got us into the mess the world is in today. We need to encourage people to stop spinning, to be less productive.

We need time to think. Of god particles, and the workings of life and the universe. Of change and possibilities.

We need time to be. Then we can work it out.

What If Our Religion Was Each Other?

"What if our religion was each other?
If our practice was our life?
If prayer, our words?
What if the temple was the earth?
If forests were our church?
If holy water - the rivers, lakes, and oceans?
What if meditation was our relationships?
If the Teacher was life?
If wisdom was self-knowledge?
If love was the center of our being?"

~ Ganga White

March 5, 2014

Entertaining Walden Pond Style

Three chairs - "one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society".

Why do people desire larger houses? Can't a person entertain guests in a Walden Pond-like 150 square foot tiny home?

One of the reasons many who love big houses give for wanting the large interior space of a boutique hotel is to entertain and have room for guests.

Gleaning comments from our post on Average House Size By Country (NBA's most viewed post ever)  I came up with the following:

"I want to have space for people to visit and stay, and space to host bigger parties and events." 
"I like having separate bedrooms and bathrooms for guests."  
"I like having friends and family stay with me."
"What I am really looking forward to is the luxury that we will be able to host guests comfortably. We can now host exchange students, and know that any visiting friends with children, or our elderly relatives will be more comfortable during their stay. They can recuperate from socialising in their own room rather than being confined to the living room or one of the children's bedrooms."  

Although I admire the generosity of wanting to be a gracious host, I don't entirely understand what lots of room has to do with it unless you have an urge to be an innkeeper. What ever happened to sleeping on an air mattress on the floor?

In the tiny space of my home there is no hazard of losing guests. Everyone can hear anything more than a discreetly camouflaged fart regardless of where they are, making any visit a very sociable affair.

You can't run, or hide. If you come here, we WILL be visiting, which in my view, is the whole reason  for guests in the first place.

Henry David Thoreau didn't like big houses for a variety of reasons, including their influence on social interactions. He thought that small houses fostered more rousing visits.

"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."

If Thoreau's 150 square feet can host 25 or 30 souls, I imagine my small home could fit over 100 comfortably. Granted, sleeping space, if needed, would be at a premium. 

March 3, 2014

What Do I Really Want Monday?

What is the price of 'success'?

"Each one of us has to ask ourselves, What do I really want? 

Do I really want to be Number One? Or do I want to be happy? 

If you want success, you may sacrifice your happiness for it. 

You can become a victim of success, but you can never become a victim of happiness."

Thich Nhat Hanh