Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election - the day after, where do we go from here?

WOW! Had McCain conducted himself the past 9 months the way he did on SNL and during his concession speech I would have stayed GOP. Instead, I voted my heart, and my heart looks at my budget and my heart says the only people that are getting rich are not the GOP and the Dem's but the damn bankers.

I went to college to make a difference, and while I am paying off my student loan, I do not feel that I have made a difference. As a family, we have conscientiously shaved every pork barrel spending off our budget. We changed our home phone plan to shave off $35 a month, we do not even have a metro line. We changed our internet provider to shave off $15 a month, we do not have cable tv. We watch the basic channels over the air using an antennae instead of wasting money on dish or cable. We do not subscribe to newspaper or magazine, getting our of news and information from the internet. I do not wear designer clothes, most of my clothes are from the clearance wrack or from the local resale shops that benefit women's shelters. I do not live in a pretentious home, it was worth $95,000 12 years ago and while it has modestly appreciated in value, not as much as the tax assessors swear that it has. What value that has increased was paid for with each repair bill from Allison, Rita and Ike. I do not live frivolously, I still feel that I am living barely above poverty line.

I have been downshifting over several years now, a painful slow process since my husband would like for me to move much at a much quicker pace. However, he would also like for me to adopt the 1970's ideal of a two income family which I do not ascribe to. I am not a feminist, which he may have thought that I was when we got together, my bad. I do believe that I am a valuable part of our environment, that I contribute significantly to our community and therefore our society. I do think that my 'work' inside and outside of the home is valuable, but I do not think that my personality is conducive to a 9-5 job that brings in $50K a year. I fill a niche of early childhood photographer because I have a gift with the precocious under 4 year olds.

I am so frustrated, I hang my clothes out on a line in the back yard to save $25 a month on my power bill, I use Energy Star appliances to reduce my demand on the grid. I unplug and turn off what is not being used, including the toaster and coffee maker. I turn off the thermostat more often than not, even during Hurricane Ike, we opened windows and let the air circulate and we were comfortable. We have conserved our power usage to between 2500 and 5000 Kw a month. We are on the Wind Plan with Reliant Energy utilities. We have completely switched over every light to CFL. I think that Pikens Boone is on the right track, I think there should be more wind and solar power generated in our own back yard and I TOTALLY think that we should have a solar panel on our house, I just wish that the government would give us a 1.9% 10 year loan to do it. ;) I am still trying to find an incentive program that would pay for 1/2 the installation of a system (currently only 30% up to $2K). WHY is there not more financial incentive to help home owners help themselves?

I drive very very little (less than 7,000 miles a year in a Hybrid). I rarely leave the house with less than three errands and then I make a circuit so that I drive the least amount of miles. While my husband does not drive at all, but pedals every day to work; rain or shine, heat and cold. I keep my car for years (odometer over 115,000 miles so that I am not abusing the resources of our planet. WHY do we not have Plug In Electric and home refueling Natural Gas cars locally available?

When I shop, and I do weekly, much to my chagrin and my husband's dismay, I do utilize coupons on those vendors that I already support and I bring my green bags. I love the canvas one from Whole Foods the best. Why is there always a funny look when I hand the cashier my green bag instead of using the white plastic one?

I have reduced the trips through the drive through to less than once a month, Sonic has a 2-4 pm smoothie happy hour that we indulge in once in a while.

While I think that there is some words of wisdom in 'year supply', I do not advocate just storing anything and everything on someones arbitrary list. my mom told me once that if your kids won't eat it, it isn't a bargain (I am sure that was a Kraft Mac n Cheese slogan) but it is true. So I do store 1 year of wheat, 1 year of oats, and 1 year of beans. I do have a grinder, I do rotate my supply regularly so I do know that the food that I store I will actually eat in the coming months. I grind my own wheat and oats for home made bread that I bake daily for my family. My children take a homemade lunch from home everyday at school. I do cook from basic ingredients and I do not buy prepackaged, premixed ingredients. Even down to bread, instant pudding, pancake mix, cake and cookies, I make my own. (Why is it so hard to get the local grocer to stock ORGANIC products and keep them in stock? HEB has been out of Organic Valley Strawberry milks since Hurricane Ike.. that was 2 months ago.) I feel like I am making the sacrifice of reduced consumption and yet, I am still overwhelmed of my expenses each month for food. In November 2007 I bought 10 whole wheat flour tortillas from my HEB for $1.69 and by March they were $2.29 and are still there even though fuel prices have dropped back down to less than $2 a gallon.

I support organic farming to protect the health of my family and my neighbor's family from silent spring. Not just Industrial Organic farming, but Organic FAMILY farming. I abhor factory farming. We support Organic Valley which is a cooperative of 665 individual family organic farms, I just wish that they were within 100 miles of my home. I support Community Supported Agriculture so that I can keep my community financially healthy. WHY do I feel like a tie-dye organic cotton & wool sock with Birkenstock wearing hippie in a sea of Nike wearing Tahoe Driving Executive Soccer Moms?

I support local business's and am avoiding the big box stores. Stores that I believe should be required by building code to be install solar panels on 75% of their roof to contribute to the community power grid instead of draining it before they even get a building permit.

I buy at resale and utilize craig's list and freecycle. I recently joined The Compact, trying to go beyond recycling and break away from consumerism. I respect people who recycle, re-use and, generally, keep good stuff from going to waste and filling up our already over-full Texas garbage dumps. GARAGE SALES RULE. I support and promote Play n Trade and GameStop in our community as well. When I do buy new, I choose packages that I know will go in one of my recycle bins.

I sort my trash, for curbside recycling: I have a bin for 1&2 plastics, tin, aluminum. For my local neighborhood I have a bin for paper. For Westpark recycling, I have a bin for glass, one for batteries. By the time I am done with my sorting, I have one 13 gallon bag of trash a week for a family of 4. WHY do I have to go all the way to westpark for glass / and #3-5 & 7 plastic? It is
30.5 mi – about 48 mins (up to 1 hour 30 mins in traffic)! Why can't we incorporate this type of recycle collection during the hazardous waste collection days?

I do run a HUGE box of paper each week to the recycle bin in the parking lot of my grocery store because of the post office and school, I have opted out of as much junk mail as I can, but it just keeps coming. I read all my newspapers online: Chronicle, CNN, Washington Post, Houston Press, BBC, Missoulian, and LA Times eliminating the waste of trees. We have a library card and instead of buying new books we borrow from the library, the fantastic thing about the Harris County Library is that I can go online, search all the library books in the county, and ask for the one that I want to be sent to my local branch, I get an email when it is ready, so that I am not wasting fuel waiting for it to come in and it is set aside in a location in the foyer so that I do not have to do through the stacks to find it. Very convenient. If it is not at the library, we go to 1/2 Price Books that is 5 miles away and look there. While my husband is very green, he still prefers a new book so his vendor of choice is, which is substantially better than the local Barnes n Noble chain store and they deliver food that our local stores will not make room for on the shelf. Why do advertisers insist that I have to dispose of their advertising that I didn't want in the first place?

we have added 4 new trees to our yard in 12 years, that is in addition to the existing 8 already here. We send the kids to school on the bus instead of adding them to the car rider line, we would LOVE to let them pedal to school but that is the most hazardous method for them, this is the least pedestrian friendly neighborhood in Houston. Which is in itself sad. We live in a place that the children are not safe to leave the subdivision, but have to in order to get a free public education. We are not safe walking / pedaling to the grocery store that is only 1.8 miles away, so we have to take a car, not by choice, but by necessity of survival. So while we as a family are happy to make sacrifices for our environment our community is not prepared to provide for our safety with bike lanes, pedestrian sidewalks, pedestrian bridge over a 4 lane parkway that runs through our neighborhood, or pedestrian sidewalks to get to the school. It is not a matter of real estate, there are 'open areas' along the bayou and there are 'right of way' over pipe and gas lines, there are ditches along the road so that we could have a walkable community. But we do not have a walkable community mentality and while they told me 4 years ago that I was insane to demand organic products in my local HEB, now it is a reality and a viable one for their economic survival.

I decided that with our economy the way it is , I am making changes. buying less individual snacks and baking homemade cookies with pinto beans. then I found some ideas on the Whole Foods Blog to reduce, reuse, recycle for the holidays. so this year, I will make homemade 'cloth bags' for wrapping presents, most of which could be homemade, I am not that far along with my holiday preparations.

So tell me what more can I do? and why am I alone in my efforts to keep our economy healthy, our community healthy, my family healthy, and my person healthy?