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.


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:

" 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)