June 28, 2017

7 Dumpster Diving Tips

Dumpster Diving Tip #5 - Use your instincts, and your nose,  to decide what to take and what to leave.
(See more tips at bottom of post)

Some call it dumpster diving. Others call it shopping for free food, or preventing perfectly good nutrients from going to waste. However you look at it, dumpster diving takes a certain commitment  to ameliorating the crimes of capitalism.

It also takes a strong defiance towards the conventions of society. It is understood that paying full price for food (or anything) is better than buying it at a discount, or sourcing it free around back of the store after hours, or along the curb in your neighbourhood.

One is for winners, the other for the desperately down and out poor. How could it be that spending hard earned cash is the preferred option? There is no price better than free.

This weirdness is firmly in place even if the items being liberated are exactly the same as the stuff in the stores, which is often is. If you put items off the shelf next to those rescued from the garbage, most often you would not be able to tell the difference between them.

This goes for anything of use found in the garbage, and in my experience, one can find just about everything you might need in garbage bins. Over the years I have freed food, clothing, furniture, building resources, and more, from garbages and dumps. All free, my favourite price for anything.

If you can get food or other things cheaper, or for free, why wouldn't you?

The only reason one would pay for something that they could get for free is to purchase convenience and/or to save themselves the social shaming should they get "caught" liberating non-garbage from the garbage.

Garbage should consist only of bads, and never goods. Then the bads should be eliminated. It is possible to create a waste-free society. What if we took all the non-garbage, that does not belong in the dumpster in the first place, and took it instead to a Free Store?

Until that happens, or something like it that facilitates the re-consumption of discarded useful food, clothes, furniture, building materials, etc., dumpster diving may be required.

If you are considering liberating good, free stuff from behind your local restaurant, grocery distributor, or along the curb, here are some sensible tips that should help keep it safe and productive for all.

Happy dumpster diving, binning, foraging, skipping, and free shopping. Personally, I find it much more preferable, fun, satisfying and adventurous (and way less expensive) than visiting the shopping mall.

June 26, 2017

Mother Earth Gives Us What We Need

In June and July, Painted Turtles dig nests and lay eggs along roadsides or in cultivated fields, as well as in sand or gravel beaches.

It is true that the Universe will provide you with what you need. Ask and you shall receive. You just have to ask for the right things at the right time, and have Earth-friendly expectations.

Summer time is turtle time. Yesterday I again asked to see my shelled friends, and once again Nature delivered. It is always a thrill for me to share a moment with my wild relations in the local environment. It never fails to give me hope for the future in a time that hope for humanity is ebbing daily.

The hatchlings may dig their way out in September/October of the same year. If the nest surface temperature becomes lower than the nest bottom temperature, overwintering is possible. Adults hibernate at the bottom of ponds.

Call it prayer, or focused intent, but the result is the same. You can't always get what you want, but if you ask with all your heart, you just might find, you get what you need.

Having said that, be careful of what you ask for - it may be provided in ways, or moments, you'd never expect, or with results that are unforeseen. Keep your needs simple, be patient, and you will get what you need.

It is when we take too much that we run into problems. Turtle teaches the wisdom of aligning with the cyclic flow of life, and demonstrates that the fastest way is not necessarily the best, for it takes time for things to develop properly.

Turtle is a powerful symbol of Mother Earth, and reminds us that it does not matter what situation you have created: ask for assistance, and abundance will follow.

June 23, 2017

Consumerism Feeds On Consumers

There is a very interesting flower that I see while on my hikes and rides into the forest around my home. It is a rare carnivorous variety called the round leafed sundew. It is a plant that eats meat.

"The plant feeds on insects, which are attracted to the glistening drops of mucilage, loaded with a sugary substance, covering its leaves. It has evolved this carnivorous behaviour in response to its habitat, which is usually poor in nutrients or is so acidic that nutrient availability is severely decreased.  
The plant uses enzymes to dissolve the insects – which become stuck to the glandular tentacles – and extract ammonia (from proteins) and other nutrients from their bodies. The ammonia replaces the nitrogen that other plants absorb from the soil, and plants that are placed in a high-nitrogen environment rely less upon nitrogen from captured insects."

This amazing plant reminds me of another entity that sucks the life out of things leaving only piles of waste behind: consumerism. So with apologies to the round leafed sundew, I make my comparison.

"The practice of consumerism feeds on consumers, which are attracted to loaded promises and glistening shiny things, heavy with cultural meaning and significance in a high stakes competitive environment. 
It has evolved this carnivorous behaviour in response to its habitat, which requires optimizing profit to the point that the well being of consumers not yet consumed by the system is severely decreased. 
Consumerism uses billions of dollars worth of propaganda, plus intense social pressure, to dissolve its prey's innate drive to be frugal and thrifty in all things. The prey becomes stuck to this system's sucking tentacles at all turns, and funds are withdrawn from their accounts and credit cards to the point of poverty. 
The drive for profits replaces all common sense, ethical considerations, and social/environmental rights, and companies that are placed in a high wealth environment rarely consider them at all.

People! It eats people! And everything else it can fit in its gaping maw. Imagine a tree-sized round leafed sundew enticing you with its sticky sweet tentacles, waiting to dissolve you completely for your cash and ultimately your life and your planet.

Consumerism has a voracious appetite for consumers, and resources, that can not be sated. This carnivore will eat everything you set in front of it until it pops from its own gluttonous behaviour.

Don't feed this un-natural beast. Living simply is the best way to avoid entrapment.

Once again, apologies to the round leafed sundew, which is just doing what comes naturally.

June 20, 2017

Summer Solstice

Sable Island, Nova Scotia wild horses in Summer.

What a light-drenched treat Summer Solstice is at the 45th parallel north of the Earth's equatorial plane, even if we haven't actually seen the Sun for almost a week of rainy, low-cloud weather.

Here, halfway between the equator and the north pole, full darkness is vanquished for a short while before the Sun reverses and begins its slide back toward the equator. Right now a person staying up all night (something Linda and I like to do at least once a year) would, after sunset (9:12 PM), see twilight in the northern sky until the sun rises (5:38 AM) a short while later.

Having four seasons is one of the things I love about living far from the equator. Summer and winter are so dramatically different in terms of amount of light alone, never mind the temperature extremes. Since the whole of our existence is solar powered, this time of year is to be celebrated and enjoyed before the darkness and cold visit again.

Back and forth we go, through the seasons, throughout the years. Such cycles are my centre, my calendar, the yin and yang of my life.

Now if the clouds would just part long enough to get some warming rays on my skin. Thank you for  your services watering my garden, but I can take it from here for a while.

Happy Summer Solstice to our Northern Hemisphere readers (and Winter Solstice to those of you in the southern parts of our amazing planet). It's a fine balance, and a good reminder.

June 18, 2017

What is My Fair Share of the Planet's Resources?

Some of us are taking more than our fair share.

Take the number of people on the planet. Divide that ever-increasing number into the finite number of acres that represents Earth's total resources. We end up with the number of acres per person, which is about 4 acres, and that doesn't leave anything for all the other non-human planetary inhabitants.

"It is only since the industrial revolution that resource use and consumption has skyrocketed. The US was built on foundations of frugality, yet today, North Americans are the world's greatest consumers. 
If the world's people consumed as North Americans, we would need five Earths. The link between consumer habits and global warming, war, species extinction, and social injustice are often lost amidst fast paced advertising and a throw-away consciousness." 
- Jim Merkel

Human population

- 7.4 billion

Acres per person available today

- 4.5 acres/person

If we leave 75% wild for the 25 million other species on Earth

- 1 acre/ person

Average acres/person used by humans 

Global average - 5.8 acres

United States - 24 acres

Canada - 22 acres

United Kingdom - 13 acres

Russia - 11 acres

Afghanistan - 0.75 acres

It is not a big stretch to conclude that ecological overshoot can not go on forever, and  that the sooner we do something about it, the better.

If not everyone can live a modern consumer lifestyle, how do we decide who can and who can't? Can anyone, if it leads to ecological overshoot and collapse?

June 14, 2017

Ecological Intelligence And The High Cost of Low Prices

Want to make buying things more ecologically and socially responsible? The answer, of course, depends who you ask. Big business would say, "No, that might affect our bottom line." I, on the other hand, am all for it, and I am sure many others are as well.

A free exchange of information would empower the consumer and allow a more mindful participation in the process of consuming. It is all about information. Aren't we supposed to be living in the Information Age?

What happened to the information?

Presently the only thing most people base their purchases on is what is about the only thing that can bet known, and that is the price. Most people will vote for the lowest price possible.

And people are voting, often for places like WalMart.

"Supporters contend that the chain's legendary low prices have democratized consumption, allowing low-income households to afford flat-screen televisions and nine-layer lasagna. 
Critics say those low prices have depressed domestic wages and exported manufacturing jobs to foreign countries, hurting Americans more than helping them." Source

What if you want to know more about things like this? Corporations withhold the information we need, creating an unfair playing field. Until legislators and consumers demand it, this information will continue to be withheld to make sure that price remains the sole bit of information we base our purchases on, to the detriment of the environment and workers.

Just buy it, and never mind the health impacts, or the social and environmental consequences. How can one consume freely otherwise?

By withholding information about the ethical performance of producers, underachievers continue to be rewarded, and those that excel in responsibility do not get the recognition and encouragement they deserve.

GoodGuide is one organization that uses extensive data to rate a variety of products on 3 categories including health, environmental and social impacts. The GoodGuide represents a growing group of people that are trying to uncork the information bottleneck so that the data consumers need flows to them.

Because we are unable to be fully mindful of the life-cycle of our purchases, we can inadvertently cause the very damage we are trying to avoid. GoodGuide recognizes this when they note:

"It is important that for many products and product categories there is a significant gap in public disclosure due to the lack of U.S regulation around many products commonly sold on U.S. store shelves. 
This lack of transparency and disclosure make it extremely difficult to perform a comprehensive health, environmental and social issues evaluation of specific products and companies. The most extreme example of this problem is household cleaning products, where there is almost no disclosure of product ingredients."

Daniel Goleman's book Ecological Intelligence shows how information about the hidden impacts of the things we buy can change our shopping habits, and instigate important Earth-friendlier changes.

"Imagine what might happen if the knowledge now sequestered among specialists like industrial ecologists were made available to the rest of us: taught to kids in school, easily accessible on the Web, boiled down into evaluations of the things we buy and do and summarized as we were about to make a purchase."

Lets kick start this so-called Information Age, and actually get information out there that really matters. Let consumers become aware of who and what they are supporting, and the effects of their purchases on people and the planet.

Surely the majority of consumers are willing to do the right thing if only they had the information to make more responsible purchasing decisions. As Earthlings, we should all want to be ecologically intelligent because if we aren't, bad things happen.

It is like having a User's Guide To The Planet.

Until such information is broadly and easily available, I suggest doing the research yourself in places like the GoodGuide. But be forewarned - all that work, and the results of your investigation, will most certainly kill your desire to purchase most of what is on offer in the modern marketplace.

Living simply could become an unintended consequence, albeit a good one.

Interested in increasing your ecological intelligence quotient? See under "Web Resources" on our sidebar for more information. I have recently added more links for the ecologically curious.

June 11, 2017

The Long Commute

The history of Europeans in North America is a history of mobility. From earliest times to the present, Americans have always been on the move. Today this often translates into long commutes to work.

Canada's largest city has the longest commuting times of all cities in North America. At 80 minutes per round trip, Toronto commuters spend 24 minutes a day longer getting to and from work than people in Los Angeles, 12 minutes longer than New Yorkers, and 32 minutes longer than residents of Barcelona, Spain.

As long as those commutes are, a flatboat pilot working on the Mississippi River in the 1800's would scoff at such rapid transit to and from the workplace.

Using long poles, these men would float narrow, flat-bottomed boats filled with grains and other farm produce from farms on tributaries of the Mississippi with the current down to the coast. It was a difficult trip that could take several weeks of traveling through what was still pure wilderness.

But that wasn't the hardest part.

Once the flatboats reached New Orleans they sold their cargo, for further shipment to destinations far and wide. Since the boats were not designed to return upriver against the current, they were broken up and the wood sold off.

Then the pilot and crew of four would... walk home. The flatboaters, after delivering their cargo, would often have to walk thousands of miles through the unbroken primal forest to return home.

When I first read about this ultra-ultra-long commute, I laughed out loud. I considered that most North Americans won't even walk to the corner store these days.

A round trip could take nine months. Now that is a commute. For the extra hearty. And brave.

I don't want to belittle today's extended commutes - they are not efficient or sustainable, or enjoyable in most cases. But imagine your commute involving walking thousands of miles through untracked wilderness.

That is the long commute. And carbon-free as well.

June 7, 2017


I'm not worried. I am concerned.

June 5, 2017

Our Vision

Not Buying Anything Blog Vision Statement

Our vision is a world where simple, eco-sensitive and joyful lifestyles are the norm.

Big corporations co-opt everything and anything that can turn them a profit. They have even managed to make simple living lifestyles into a commodity, creating a curious conundrum where one buys ones way into the simple life.

So I decided to co-opt something from the corporate world - the concept of a vision statement. How could a succinct, helpful blurb not be useful anywhere, not just in profit-making ventures that push competitive shopping as a way of life?

I am all about wandering, serendipity, and letting life flow unimpeded, and yet, sometimes it is necessary to have an idea of where you are headed. Coupled with focus and discipline, one can go anywhere, achieve anything.

So it is that I share this blogs guiding vision. Along with our recently published manifesto (which is similar to a corporate mission statement, but with a nice anti-establishment ring), our vision statement helps to give our work (and play) focus and intention.

Will we (and by 'we' I mean all of us that are part of this blog, and the simple living community) succeed, and create a simpler, more gentle Earth that provides for everybody, and all of life?

Did Ray Crock think he would sell billions of hamburgers?

What if we DID succeed in helping millions of people adopt a joyful alternative to unchecked consumption and the busy lifestyles that are required to support them? What if consumers turned en masse to voluntary simplicity? Before they were forced to by resource depletion and deteriorating environmental conditions?

For one thing, unhealthy behemoth fast food burger chains wouldn't do as well as they do now.

Saying sayonara to the corporate model, and hello to global cooperation, is definitely part of our vision.

June 2, 2017

Red Shift

Rhubarb from our garden space. First fruit of the season.

To borrow a term from astronomy, there is a red shift happening in my life right now. I can see it all around me as we shift from winter to spring, and from spring to summer.

Astronomers use the concept of red shift to ascertain how far away an object in space is from Earth, and to tell whether that object is moving toward us, or away from us. Objects moving away from us shift toward the red end of the spectrum, therefore, red shift. It is like a visual Doppler effect.

Red shift/blue shift.

Right now winter is moving rapidly away from us, and thank goodness for that. Even spring is moving away from the land, although that shift is a little slower here than other parts of Canada.

I can see this shift in slowly rising temperatures, and in the life that is returning as the cold and grey of winter recedes into distant memory.

Trees are leafing out, seeds in the garden are germinating, and colour returns to the land. Some of that colour is red, indicating another kind of red shift.

Rhubarb is an early spring plant, and one of the first to emerge in the garden. While everything else is slowly waking up, rhubarb bursts forth out of the ground to herald the shift in seasons. Before long its greenish-red stalks are holding up giant green leaves letting us know that the first fruit of the season is ready to harvest.

Some of our summer neighbours enjoying our feeder.

While that is going on another bit of red is flying into the scene. This year we got our hummingbird feeder out early to attract these beautifully red-throated visitors as soon as possible. And did they come. So far, the record is five hummers at the feeder at the same time.

After months of a cold, grey and white landscape we can see winter red shifting away from us. As that happens colour returns, and red is one of the most beautiful, and tasty. Today I watch hummingbirds from my kitchen window as I bake up a stellar rhubarb raisin custard tart.

I can see summer moving toward us (that would be blue shift), meaning heat and clear, blue skies.