DEEP GREEN: Minimize Your Footprint; Maximize Your Time, Wealth, and Happiness
by jenny nazak
[BACK COVER] Hello there! Are you passionate about the environment but not sure how to make a difference? Believe it or not, your everyday choices can make a powerful impact for the good! In this book I show you how to create your own version of a low-footprint lifestyle. Yes, it is possible to radically reduce your footprint without sacrificing a good standard of living. Not only that, you can actually RAISE your standard of living—improve your health, take back your time, create your ideal livelihood, build a nurturing community, and have more money to spend on the things that really matter to you. Can you really do and have all that while also benefiting the planet? YES YOU CAN! Open this book and let’s get started. — Jenny Nazak
[FRONT COVER] DEEP GREEN: Minimize Your Footprint; Maximize Your Time, Wealth, and Happiness
by Jenny Nazak
(c) 2017 Jenny Nazak, all rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the sole consent and written permission of the author.
First published in August 2017 (ebook) and March 2018 (print edition)
Printed in the United States of America
CHAPTER 1. Clarify Your Motives
CHAPTER 2. My Background and How I Got Started
CHAPTER 3. A Grassroots Movement for Radical Reduction: The Riot for Austerity
CHAPTER 4. Calculating Your Riot Numbers
CHAPTER 5. Riot Cheat-Sheet
CHAPTER 6. My Riot Numbers & How I Achieve Them
CHAPTER 7. Maximize Your Handprint
CHAPTER 8. Frequently Asked Questions
CHAPTER 9. Get Your Mind in Order
CHAPTER 10. In Closing
• Books, Websites, Social Movements, & Other Resources
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
OUT-TAKES (Bonus Chapter 13-1/2)
DEEP GREEN is dedicated to my father and mother, Robert Michael Nazak and Martha Louise Nazak, who raised me and my siblings to care, and to do something about it.
INTRODUCTION (August 2017)
The capacity of people to self-mobilize for a worthy cause is remarkable. Right now, as I’m putting the finishing touches on this book, everyday people from all over the United States are organizing relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Some people are even loading up their kayaks and other small boats to go to Houston themselves and help with rescue operations.
This book is my effort to contribute to a grassroots mobilization. It also involves rescue, but of a different kind. I’m setting out to save our earth from an eco-crisis by popularizing a low-footprint lifestyle in the United States. I firmly believe we green-minded folk can solve most, if not all, of the physical problems we humans have created on this planet. I also think we can heal a lot of the spiritual and emotional scars as well, if we can get this lifestyle to catch on in the USA.
An actual grassroots mobilization for a low-footprint lifestyle is already in progress. Two heroic women named Sharon Astyk and Miranda Edel started it back in 2007. It’s called the Riot for Austerity, and you’ll be reading about it in this book. In fact, it’s the core of this book. In writing DEEP GREEN I’m setting out to give a boost to the Riot for Austerity movement. We need more people! Besides benefiting the planet, the Riot lifestyle is quite rewarding in a direct personal way. By the way, my working title for this book when I first started writing, was “Grassroots Green Mobilization.”
Crisis and Craziness
Pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV, and you’re likely to get alternating doses of shock, terror, and rage at what’s happening in the world.
According to some of the most highly regarded climate scientists, human activities are influencing the climate so much that our planet could literally become unlivable––its air unbreathable; its waters poisonous—by the end of next century.(1)
In the United States, consumer demand for fossil fuels has fattened the extractive industries into the proverbial 800-pound gorilla, which is increasing pressure for mining, fracking, and drilling on our national parklands and other public lands. The week before this book was launched, the U.S. federal government had announced it was looking at a list of national monuments and other parklands as candidates to be sold off, including Giant Sequoia Monument.(2) After a loud public outcry, the government said it would not eliminate the monuments. But it’s still considering reducing the size of some parks and monuments and expanding the range of activities that are allowed within their borders.(3)
The climate-change article and the threat to wildlands are just two recent examples of why I felt called to write this book. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t stumble on some news item that reinforces my decision to take on the task of writing Deep Green, a book about how to radically reduce your footprint while enriching your life and helping the planet.
Horrifying and sickening news headlines aside, there’s the sheer craziness of things I see around me every day that are considered by modern society to be “normal.” The mainstream North American lifestyle defies common sense in many ways:
• We spend countless hours commuting to our jobs, which we need to make the payments on our cars … which we need in order to drive to our faraway jobs.
• We live in houses that are in walking distance of nothing.
• We drive our kids two hours to a play-date because there are no kids living in our neighborhood. Actually there probably are, but we live so much of our lives behind closed doors that the kids have no way to find each other. As for us adults making a priority of knocking on doors and meeting our neighbors … well, that’s just not normal, right?
• We expend exorbitant amounts of money and energy to heat and cool the air of our buildings and vehicles so we never have to experience a moment of discomfort——nary a degree of heat in summer, nor cold in winter. When someone’s air conditioner breaks, it’s an emergency. The bill comes to hundreds or thousands of dollars, and is paid as a necessity, without question. (In my next life, I want to be an air-conditioning repair technician. No, not really——but the guaranteed steady income and the feeling of always being needed must be nice!) Also largely unquestioned is the monthly utility bill, which can soar into the hundreds of dollars.
• We spend good money and countless hours sweating on exercise treadmills. This we do to burn the excess calories that our affluent culture enables us to consume cheaply, and that our door-to-door automotive transportation keeps us from burning naturally. But when a person rides her bike seven miles to work or school, she’s a weirdo and a renegade. Sweat on the treadmill for no purpose other than burning calories, and it’s normal. Voluntarily subject yourself to sweating outdoors in the sun as a means of free reliable transportation, and you’re a nutball!
• Our food comes from thousands of miles away, wrapped in plastic. I live in Florida, one of the biggest citrus-producing centers on the planet. Does it make sense to you that a bag of California oranges would even make it to my state? Somewhere out on I-10, there’s surely a tractor-trailer full of them heading here right now.
• As I sit writing this, a large noisy truck is getting ready to re-pave my street—a street that doesn’t need re-paving. The current road surface, faded to a soft light-grey by the Florida sun, is about to be “improved” by a coat of smooth black asphalt that will make the street at least 10 degrees hotter. (Micro-climate is a powerful thing!)
• On any given day in a typical neighborhood, someone with a fiercely loud lawn-mower and an even louder weed-whacker will spend an hour (or hours) mowing his lawn and then edging it. Then comes the leaf-blower for another high-decibel hour or so, chasing particles of dust and clippings around the lawn and the driveway. The extreme noise, waste, and fumes intruding on a breezy summer afternoon are considered by mainstream society to be a fair trade-off for having a neatly maintained green square of turf. For what? Busywork in the service of a pointless conformity! (Sometimes when I see a meticulously buzz-cut, fiercely fertilized lawn, I ask myself how many pleasurable hours of reading or fishing or family time it cost the owner.)
• Somewhere, in front of a school building, a long line of cars winds halfway around the block. Each car is driven by an adult who’s dropping off one child. This ritual is repeated at the end of the school day when the parents come to pick up their kids. What happened to school buses or walking? In many places, those things are no longer normal. Chauffeuring by private auto is.
• Some offices are so harshly air-conditioned in the summer that people actually bring jackets and space-heaters to work!
• Although the United States is a ridiculously wealthy nation full of labor-saving devices, just about everyone regardless of income bracket seems constantly pressed for money and time. What’s wrong with this picture?
• We pride ourselves on our high standard of living, yet the mainstream American lifestyle is extremely poor in terms of community cohesion and other elements of social capital. As Robert Putnam points out in his book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, more people are bowling than ever, but rather than bowling in leagues or with a friend they are bowling alone!(4)
You can probably think of many more examples right off the top of your head. All of these are things I see as symptomatic of the mainstream rich, industrial-world lifestyle that’s full of waste, hyper-consumption, and alienation—largely courtesy of a seemingly endless supply of cheap fossil fuels. I see all of these issues as things that we, as individuals, millions and millions strong, can best address by radically reducing each of our footprints.
I count myself as one of the fortunate ones who have disconnected from the worst of the craziness. I have time to go for walks, and I have friends who have time to join me. I have enough money for necessities, and my needs are simple. The things I value most are inexpensive or free. You, too, as someone who’s chosen to walk a greener path, might already be part of this fortunate minority. Still, the high-footprint, high-overhead consumer madness is all around us and even those of us who’ve managed to disentangle ourselves to a degree cannot help but be affected by it.
It’s Not Your Fault
If you’re aspiring to reduce your footprint and you live in North America, the deck is stacked against you in many ways. Policies are in place that subsidize junk-food and automotive transport. Buildings are designed for constant climate control; are virtually unlivable without it. Roads and shopping centers aren’t designed for bicyclists or pedestrians. Social norms ridicule conservation and thrift. These are just a few examples of our culture’s built-in impediments to practicing an extreme-low-footprint lifestyle.
Such challenges can feel terribly daunting, but they are surmountable. I wrote this book to help you surmount them. The factors we can control are much larger than the ones we can’t.
Who Am I?
So, what qualifies me to write this book? I’m a United States citizen who’s cut her eco-footprint to about 10% of the U.S. average, while fully participating in society and enjoying a comfortable standard of living. I’ll share the details of how I maintain my low footprint. I’ll describe the personal benefits I’ve gained from my extreme-low-footprint lifestyle. And I’ll share practical tips and resources to help you craft your own version of an extreme-low-footprint lifestyle.
Regardless of the dwelling you occupy, what you eat or don’t eat, or what your life circumstances are, you can radically reduce your footprint without sacrificing a good standard of living.
In addition to offering a practical doable way for an individual to help the planet, an extreme-low-footprint lifestyle also has great personal benefits. The long list of personal benefits I’ve experienced include freeing up huge amounts of time and money for the things that give meaning to my life, such as enhanced health and wellbeing, inner peace, and disaster-preparedness.
For a long time now (at least a decade), I’ve been thought of by friends and colleagues as someone who lives a low-footprint life and “walks her talk.” Until very recently, I was attributing my footprint-reduction success entirely to my own passion and commitment. And this made me a little bit impatient with other people. If someone admired my lifestyle so much, why weren’t they living it?
Well, for starters, I wasn’t making it look very easy or attractive. I wasn’t taking the time to find out what kind of support people might need.
I wasn’t acknowledging how much I, myself, was being helped by resources that other people had worked hard to create such as books, websites, courses, videos, and events. Granted, it was my passion and commitment that led me to these resources. When the student is ready, the teacher appears, right? Only recently (very embarrassingly recently), it started to dawn on me that there was a reciprocal action at work; that the resources I uncovered were in turn helping me go further in reducing my footprint.
That’s when I decided to write this book. DEEP GREEN represents my best effort to distill 20 years of learning and experience into a brief practical manual. To avoid making this a multi-hundred-page tome, I’ve chosen to err on the side of conciseness rather than try to anticipate every possible question. Any deficiency arising from lack of detail, I’ve attempted to remedy via pointers to extensive, highly detailed, publicly available online resources. You’ll find these resources listed, with links, in the appendix. You’ll also find links to online community where you can ask me questions and also meet others who are practicing this lifestyle.
(And in case you want extended one-on-one time with me, to get a whole bunch of questions answered or discuss details about your life that you’d rather not share publicly, your purchase of this book includes a “Deep Green Tech Support” session by phone!)
As I promised in a pre-launch announcement, I’ve laid out the core concept of the book right here in the first section, rather than bury it somewhere in the middle. Here you go:
THE BASIC FORMULA FOR WALKING YOUR TALK AND SAVING THE WORLD =
Minimize Your Footprint (negative impact)
+ Maximize Your Handprint (beneficial impact)
= DEEP GREEN impact
Things That’ll Help You Reduce Your Footprint
• Have compelling motives. An absolutely essential key to ongoing success in pursuing a low-footprint lifestyle is to have a set of motives that are deeply meaningful to you. You’ll read about that in the next section.
• Get concrete targets. The targets need to be ambitious, yet doable and flexible. I found people who took great time and care to develop just such a set of targets and practiced them so passionately that they ended up sparking a movement. They dubbed this movement the “Riot for Austerity,” also known as the “90 Percent Reduction Challenge.” This book would not exist without their work. You’ll read about the Riot, and you’ll be able to start using the targets right away to calculate your current footprint and make reductions.
• Find supportive community. In this book, I highlight some social movements (in addition to the Riot) that I’ve found inspiring, nurturing, and energizing.
• Get your inner landscape in shape: address mental and emotional well-being. While a detailed treatment of this subject is beyond the scope of this book, I talk about it in Chapter 5. In the appendix, I point you to some books and programs that have benefited me immensely.
• Tap into your creativity and make your unique contribution. I’ll share some resources that have helped me overcome self-doubt and resistance, so that more of my ideas attain escape velocity from my head and make it out into the world. You may not think of yourself as creative, but you are. It’s a fundamental attribute of human beings.
Deep-Green Tech Support for Fellow Americans
I’m writing this book mainly for fellow North Americans. Why do I single out Americans?
• I believe in starting at home, and the USA is my homeland. (Canadians, your footprint and way of life are similar to ours, so you’re included in my primary target audience too.)(5)
• The United States has so much waste and inefficiency baked into its policy and infrastructure. People wishing to live green need all the practical advice and moral support they can get!
• The USA is a trend-driver. Where America goes, for better or for worse, the rest of the world tends to follow. So, getting the U.S. footprint under control is the best way to bring the human race into balance with other species and our planet.
• It’s simply the right thing to do: stop hogging more than our share of the world’s resources and start behaving like the “world leader” country that we call ourselves.
Much of the world’s population is already living at a tiny fraction of the U.S. footprint, but in this case, the “lifestyle” is not a choice; it’s imposed by dire poverty. Billions of people are living under conditions that aren’t even adequate to sustain the physical needs of the human body, let alone provide anything resembling a decent quality of life. And yet, simply exporting the U.S. mainstream lifestyle worldwide would be disastrous. Our modest share of the world’s population is already wreaking havoc with ecosystems all across the globe. Imagine multiplying that impact by billions more people.
As I see it, we eco-minded Americans have a moral obligation to the rest of the world to model an extremely low-footprint lifestyle that includes all the elements of a good standard of living. These elements include:
- Reliable access to good food and safe water
- Clean reliable energy for cooking, lighting, and other needs
- Clean and sound transportation infrastructure
- Telecommunications infrastructure
- Safe dwellings
- Adequate sanitation
- Health care
- A good and wholesome livelihood
Although I’m writing mainly for North Americans, people in other countries might also benefit from the suggestions and resources in this book. Everyone, I welcome your feedback.