Sunday, March 21, 2010

Have bag, will shop

So, a few days ago I did my bi-weekly shopping expedition. In everyday life this is not overly exciting but I was thinking about how much simpler my shopping life has been made by using re-usable shopping bags. Even though re-usable bags have become more available in stores, it still has not become a routine for many people. I actually see more of these bags being used to carry people's stuff in other situations and not their groceries. Although I am happy to see large companies offering shopping bags in their stores, I have not been overly impressed with the quality of these bags. So, I thought I would share what I use and how much space these bags save in the back of my car.

So here is the back of my vehicle after a usual grocery shopping day. I drive a Saturn Vue which is considered a mini SUV so the storage in the back probably is not much different that the average mid-size car. The brown bags are my reusable shopping bags. I purchased these from a couple of years ago. I absolutely love these bags! They are the same size as a standard brown paper bag and fold up the same. They have black straps for carrying your bags and are very sturdy. I have probably stuffed these bags with 10 pounds of groceries and have never had a problem with breakage. I actually have six of these bags but only needed four on this particular day. I have found on average that 4-6 bags will adequately carry all of my groceries. Now compare this to how many plastic bags it would take. These bags stack neatly in the back of your car, they look nice, and you are helping the environment.

Now some of you may be wondering just how much am I buying in the way of groceries. Well, we are feeding two adults and two boys so you can imagine how much food we pack away. Because of this, we like to buy in bulk on certain items. So the brown bags are the grocery items we buy at the regular store. The rest are things we buy at the warehouse store.

On the right behind the Sunkist boxes are more sodas, (mostly for my husband), but on the left are two large thermal bags. I love these bags because they will hold some of the bulkier frozen things that we buy at Sam's and they come in real handy in the summer time. As you can see, these bags are big and work very well at keeping things cold. When you are finished, they fold down to a compact size and secure with velcro. I found these bags at Sam's Club for about $8 each. They have been a wonderful addition to my re-usable bag arsenal.

By using re-usable bags, I am able to keep the back of my vehicle fairly organized on grocery shopping day and I am helping to keep those obnoxious plastic bags out of the environment. Many people may say, why bother with re-usable bags when you can recycle the plastic ones? Well, to be honest, I suck at remembering to take back those plastic bags. The re-usable bags don't roll all around in the back of my car letting everything spill out and they have come in handy for other uses as well. Yes, it takes some time to get used to remembering your bags, but in my opinion it is well worth the effort. I hope that by seeing how we utilize our bags it will inspire you to do the same.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On the upside

Ok, so now that you have had your world view rattled a little by the thoughts of Peak Oil, let's look at what's going on out there to help us come off of our addiction to oil. Believe it or not, not all is lost. If we truly believe that we can live in tune with nature, then it is time to walk the talk.

There are two movements that I am aware of that I will put out there as food for thought. The first is the Transition Town movement. This started as a grass roots movement in the UK where small towns began looking at what they could do to re-localize and prepare for a world with less abundant oil. It has spread beyond the borders of our cousins across the sea to become a practical and viable way of helping our communities learn how to be more self reliant and prepare for the inevitable decline. There have actually been several towns that have adopted suggestions from their local Transition Town committees into their long term city plans.

Another trend that is gaining in recognition is the use of permaculture. Permaculture is a system for designing sustainable living spaces. This system lends itself very well to the Transition Town movement because it can serve as a framework for designing our own personal living space to the entire community as a self sufficient and sustainable environment. Permaculture looks at using redundant systems, mimicking nature, and finding multiple uses for different elements. As we develop our homestead we will be putting Permaculture principles into use so hopefully we can show how this system works in action. If you have never heard of Permaculture I strongly urge you to read about it for yourself. It is a great system and fits in well with the Pagan way of thinking.

                                         *Living roof on a bus shelter*

Of course there are many other elements that fit in with living lighter on the planet and dealing with the future reality of Peak Oil. There is alternative energy, alternative building techniques, organic gardening, living with less chemicals in our lives, living roofs and many others. I simply encourage everyone to explore what's out there. It's going to take a lot of creativity and ingenuity to deal with the challenges in our future but if we start taking steps now we can have a significant impact on how that future looks.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Peak Oil

Pagans love nature and observe the turning of the Wheel of the Year with the respect due the Mother. Stating the obvious here right? Well, while we are observing and venerating nature we are burning gas in our cars to get to that Circle that is across town, we made a dish for the potluck with food that was trucked thousands of miles to get to us, and as we retire inside we are burning electricity that is likely coming from a coal fueled power plant. As much as we respect the natural world around us, we are just as dependent on oil and oil based products as everyone else. This doesn't mean that we don't try to live lighter on the planet, however, we will be in the same boat as everyone else as the effects of Peak Oil begin to be felt. If you haven't heard of Peak Oil, it really is something you should begin to educate yourself about. The story of Peak Oil goes something like this...

There once was a guy named Dr. Marion King Hubbert who was a Shell geologist. Dr. Hubbert predicted that American oil production would peak in 1970. Well, it just so happened it did. Now most people thought he was a little off his rocker at first, until folks were waiting in gas lines in the early 70's. So how did he figure out that our oil production would peak and never recover here in the U.S.? Basically, he noticed that oil fields would peak in production around 40 years after drilling began. This proved true for all oil fields. Now, fast forward to present day.

Oil seems to be in a never ending supply. Not only do our cars run on it but just about everything we use in our everyday lives comes from it. We depend on it to transport our food and clothing, we make toys, computers, appliances, lights, etc. from it. It has become such a part of our lives that we cannot imagine living without it. Remember that bit about oil fields peaking around the 40 year mark? Guess when the last major oil fields were discovered?  A little over 40 years ago. So if the last major oil fields were found over 40 years ago, how much global oil is left?

The graph that I have included will give you an idea of where most experts think we are. Granted, there are always those out there that will argue that Peak Oil is way off base, but that's what a lot of people have been saying about Global Warming and we see how well that is working out. No matter how you look at it, oil is a finite resource. It won't last forever. Just like coal and natural gas have their limits also. Weather we experience the effects of decreased global production in 100 years or in the next 5 years, it really doesn't matter. We need to begin to prepare our communities for living without oil. And as for the decrease in gas prices from a year ago? Well, look how many people began to cut back on their driving. The demand went down but I can still see the price increases when I go to the grocery store. Gas prices fluctuate and sooner or later demand will go back up and so will the price.

So what does all of this mean for us? Well, to be honest no one is really sure. It is very possible our economy will collapse. It will only take a 5% decrease in global oil production for our economy to fall apart. There could be mass layoffs, people losing their homes, food scarcity, and price hikes. Hmmm....sound familiar? It is a bleak picture and not one that most of us care to envision. The future may not look that bright right now but it may not be as bleak as what we first think. First, consider what a life without oil availability may be like, then we will look at what is being done to help cushion the decent off of oil.

Monday, March 8, 2010


You would think that making the decision to live more simply would not be that complicated. Obviously you don't know me very well. When I make major life decisions it never seems to be simple. So when I say life simplified, what does that mean?

For some people living a simplified life may mean spending more time with the family and cutting out stress. For us it means changing how we live. We are planning a move to the country, raising our own food and in general are going to learn how to live with less.

There are various reasons for this choice. It started with our desire to have some land and establish a homestead. We wanted to live healthier and know where our food is coming from. Then it evolved into not only wanting to know what is going into our food but to live more lightly on the planet for environmental reasons. Now we have added a third reason, Peak Oil. I will go into Peak Oil more later, but basically we are facing an inevitable decline in the amount of global oil that is available. I don't know when we will begin to feel the effects of this decline, but adjustments will be needed to live in a world that no longer has an endless supply of oil, energy, and oil based products. 

So, to all those who are interested in climate change, Peak Oil, sustainability, and changing the world, stay tuned! I hope to keep posting updates of our adventures into the world of sustainability and how it applies to Pagans and the spiritual path that we have chosen.