Low-footprint living tip: Create a routine

Over time I’ve noticed many a reciprocal relationship between low-footprint living and various personal benefits. The main area that comes to mind is finances. The link between footprint and financial liberation is huge! By reducing my financial overhead, I was able to greatly lower my eco-footprint. Cutting out cable TV, getting rid of my car, moving to a smaller cheaper place. (“Reduce your need to earn” was a great expression I heard in permaculture design class). And the reverse turned out to be true also: The lower I shrank my footprint, the less money I needed to live well.

Besides finances, a couple of other major areas where footprint reduction leads to a reciprocal win-win are time and personal energy. I’ve brought up those topics in various posts and surely will again.

And, just this morning I noticed yet another area of win-win reciprocal relationships. I noticed that having a daily routine helps me lower my eco-footprint, because I’m being more efficient with time and energy. And, in turn, my commitment to living a low-footprint life helps me stick to a routine better, because I’m less likely to allow myself to be sucked into distractions, get overcommitted, and so on.

A routine need not be rigid; in fact, it works better for me if there’s flexibility within the structure. Also, I notice that my routines vary seasonally. In wintertime, I get out and run errands in afternoon when it’s warmed up a bit. In summer, I avoid being outdoors in midday or afternoon sun, so my errands need to get done in the early morning or evening hours. (A lot of the time, errands also serve for exercise. A walk or bicycle ride to the store; a walk around the neighborhood with my wheelie-cart scrounging free landscaping materials from people’s curbside “trash,” etc.)

Here is my current routine, which works great in the winter days of cold temperatures and early sunsets, late sunrises:

Early AM (6:30 or 7): Mind-centering/spiritual practice; body stretching (can be done without artificial light). Make bed, get dressed, plan the day.

7:30-9am: Breakfast, household tasks (sweeping/mopping, washing dishes, mending, laundry, yard), coffee, writing, quiet time to enjoy morning.

9am-: Plug in internet modem/router, get email, respond to communications, make blog posts.

Noonish: Lunch

Afternoon: Artwork; writing; research & marketing tasks, yard/landscaping.

Evening: Civic activities, social time, walks


• I unplug internet before bed, or often sooner if I’m going out or planning to focus on art, yardwork, and other offline stuff. I find that this encourages me to be very deliberate about my online time.

• The above is how I most commonly end up spending my day, but sometimes civic and social activities happen in the morning or afternoon instead (or in addition). My low-footprint lifestyle allows me plenty of time and flexibility to accommodate that. Similarly, I sometimes go out to lunch with friends or colleagues rather than eat solo at home/office. And one of my favorite social activities is having morning coffee with a neighbor, either at their place or mine.

• Although I list writing as a morning or afternoon activity, the truth is, writing is a 24-7 thing. Anytime I’m awake and have a write-y thought, writing has to happen. I learned the hard way after losing lots of ideas because I figured I would remember them when it was more convenient to write them down. Nope! If I have a thought at 3am, I turn the light on and write it down. Sometimes I grumble to myself about the inconvenience of interrupting my cozy dark rest to write, but I tell myself in response, “Quit yer whining! How many other people have the option of being able to work anytime and anywhere? Now get out that notebook and pen!” It works. As does my routine.

• Dinner tends to be sometime between about 5:30 and 8:30. Bedtime is usually around 10 or 10:30 but can be as early as 8 or even 7:30pm in the cold dark months! I often read (usually fiction) for a half-hour or an hour before bed. And usually at least one night every week or two, I manage to stay up late (midnight, 1, or even 2) for a comedy show, party, or some other late fun thing. But the older I get, the less I feel inclined to stay up late! (In summer it is easier. I do love being out and about on summer nights.)

• Something about giving tasks a place in my routine really makes me appreciate the rhythms of nature: variations in temperature, wind, light, and so on. Like, on a sunny breezy morning, when it’s my designated “morning task” time, I’ll feel like, “Oh goody! Perfect day for laundry!” And I take delight from that whole set of activities that is hand-washing my clothes, wringing them out, and hanging them on the line. Feeling the sun on my face, hearing the birds chirp.

Some people might prefer a much more structured, less flexible routine. And others might not find it helpful to have a routine at all! What do you think? Do routines work for you? And do you notice a relationship between routine and your footprint-reduction efforts?