TP Shortages Again? No Worries!!

The dreaded “TP Shortages” are back! And shortages of some other everyday household supplies too. Once again, “the most sought-after items at grocery and department stores this pandemic-impacted holiday season is — again — cleaning supplies, paper towels, and yes, toilet paper.” (Article in Daytona Beach News-Journal.)

But you don’t have to be affected! Here is my DEEP GREEN take on those shortages:

Once again, we have shortages. … And once again, all three items are STILL things a person can do without!

• Cleaning supplies –> Instead use water, elbow-grease, bit of baking soda & vinegar, drop of essential oil for scent if you like.

• Paper towels –> Never buy em again!! cloth rags are free, reusable, and far superior in terms of absorbency. Tear up old worn-out clothes & towels, and voilà! Endless supply of multipurpose household cloths.

• TP –> many North Americans are “discovering” a great thing that folks in other parts of the world have known about all along: bidets, or bidet-bottles! (I have posted about the latter, as have many others — look up “bidet bottle” or, as they are called in some countries/cultures, “Lota”). For wiping remaining water off the skin afterward, many people use washable “toilet cloth,” which is far easier on the skin than paper TP. Easier on trees too! Toilet cloth can be made by cutting up old sheets, old cloth napkins, etc.

To me, this “second wave” of shortages serves as a reminder of how liberating it is to have so many categories of stuff that we simply don’t need to buy! #FreedomFromPanicBuying

I have blogged about all these topics, and you can type keywords into the search field of my blog. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, or if you have questions after reading, give me a shout! I’m here for you!

Remember, one of the best ways to be instantly wealthy is to learn ways to just not need as much, while still having abundance. I am always here to help!

Of “Clean Green Cars,” Bicycles, Social Capital

Right now, lots of eco-minded folk are talking excitedly about a “Green New Deal,” where suddenly everyone is employed at clean green jobs and driving clean green cars. I’m all about shifting our economy and society to green, of course. And if the government actually manages to help us do that, I’ll be delighted and will support it to the fullest extent I am able.

Except. There are no pure magic “clean green cars.” Depending on your circumstances, the greenest option could be to drive (as infrequently as possible) the car you already have, til it wears out. And then buy a used one. Or better yet don’t replace it. Go car-free.

In my previous post “Rolling Again,” I talk about my lovely new (used) bicycle. I even share a link to a photo of the bicycle on my Deep Green Facebook page. And I talk about how my period of doing without a bicycle, getting around on foot only, turned into an experiment of sorts.

One thing remains the same: Bicycling and walking remain my absolute favorite forms of in-town transport. (For long distances, it’s bus and train.)

Electric cars and hybrid cars are probably being improved all the time (I don’t actively keep up with the details of new “green” technology developments, so I will need to dig up a resource for you if you’re interested in finding out). But they’re still cars. They keep us stuck in the same patterns of thinking it’s OK to live a car-dependent distance from our work, kids’ school, essential shopping, family.

It is not OK. Not if you’re the kind of person who cares about the environment enough to have found my blog and to have read this far. We want to stop paving the earth and killing wildlife. We want to stop the massive clearcutting of trees and stop replacing them with endless seas of parking lot and generic big-box store, turning our lovely unique bioregions into Anywhere USA.

If we stay stuck in car-dependent life, we can’t do that. Nor can we fix the many serious health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Nor the deadly social problems associated with same.

In my book, I bring up the term “social capital.” I mentioned it in reference to choosing a bicycle over traveling behind car windows. Social capital is what you create when you meet people, interact with them, offer something of value. It’s a non-monetary form of wealth that we all build to a degree. It’s easier to build, the more out & about you are. It’s harder from behind a car window (especially since most car windows seem to be very darkly tinted and you can’t see who’s inside even if you stand next to them at a stop sign and squint and peer into their vehicle — which I don’t recommend!).

Not that building social capital from inside your car is impossible. Often friends/neighbors stop in front of my place (or stop next to me when they see me out walking), roll down their windows and shout hello, and often some further exchange takes place, like I tell them about the upcoming neighborhood meeting, or I offer them flower seeds or a lemon off my tree, or they tell me they have an apartment for rent and can I keep my ears open for a good person, and so on.

The value created through these exchanges is social capital. You build this form of wealth by giving. Note, it’s not something you do in a calculated manner. Like, “I’m going to offer something so this person will owe me.” That isn’t healthy; I know — I’ve done it that way too! Rather, this giving something you do out of a genuine wish to help and connect. And it feels wonderful. And it builds your social capital! It’s like a social savings account. Which, it turns out, is oftentimes a much more durable and flexible form of wealth than cash money.

While it’s possible to do this from inside your car, it’s not always safe or convenient to stop your car in the middle of the road. And it’s a lot easier to do on foot or by bicycle. And on foot or bicycle, the opportunities greatly multiply, since you end up using more varied routes and meeting/seeing more people on the way from point A to point B.

Another note about car ownership for my fellow greenies: The expense of owning a car requires you to work more hours to pay for it. If it’s a new car, you’ll probably have car payments and higher-priced insurance. If it’s an old car, you’ll have the expense of repairs (which is, furthermore, unpredictable — and that unpredictability leads to additional expenses such as taxis, needing to take time off work, etc.) That car-related work overhead, in itself, has a footprint in many forms.

For example, working more hours means you’re more likely to have a rushed lifestyle and feel the need to rely on packaged convenience foods, which have a higher footprint than, say, produce from the farmer’s market.

It also means you’re likely to be gone from home more of the time, which means you’re less likely to meet your neighbors and build that all-essential social capital.

If doing without a car just isn’t feasible for you right now, you could try just having one car for your whole household. With more people staying home these days, it might be do-able for you now where it wasn’t before.

A note about my car usage: Although I do not own a car, and hope never to need to again, I do on occasion (a handful of times a year) find it necessary or at least very helpful to have access to a motor vehicle. Needing to get to or from a mandatory meeting in hazardous weather is a prime example (though the age of Zoom meetings has largely relieved that burden for now). For such times, I take Uber/taxi, or pay a friend/neighbor to be my taxi. Or catch a ride with another attendee if they are on the way.

I also sometimes rent cars, though those times are few and far between, and it’s been a while. I rented a car to drive north for time-sensitive family business one time a couple years back. And I rented a small box truck to transport furniture, books, memorabilia, and other useful and wonderful items I chose from Mom’s house after she died, to my home here in Florida. (What a blessing to my home! I live in a space that’s uniquely mine, yet sprinkled with family memories.)

On the subject of social capital, there’s a lot more I can say, and I will. For now, I’ll just wish you a fruitful day of loving connection with the people in your world.

Rolling Again

Check out my beautiful new bicycle! (New to me, that is! I purchased it “gently used” from a lady whose husband bought her too tall a bike. BTW the buy-sell area of the NextDoor app is wonderful for buying other people’s great used stuff, selling your used stuff you don’t need … and meeting your neighbors in the process!)

Until a few days ago, I had been without a bicycle for 2-3 months. During that period, I just pretty much went everywhere on foot. If I couldn’t get there on foot, I didn’t go.

My bicycle is my car! This was the longest I had gone without a bike in my life. I didn’t set out to go without wheels for so long. In fact, if you’d asked me “Could you do without a bicycle?” I’d have answered “No way!”

But somehow, inertia set in, and one day turned into months. I was having trouble deciding whether to get my existing bike fixed (it had broken down bigtime), buy a new one, or (my usual favorite option) buy a good used one. But none of the used ones I was seeing were grabbing me. So it was that a short-term circumstance ended up turning into an interesting longterm experiment — which ended up bringing many rich yields!

First, I walked more. Upped my mileage; got a bit more fit. Which is important because out-of-shape-ness has sort of crept up on me, and I want to keep my body fit and strong. I’m using it! For my own good, as well as for the good of people I’m trying to help, my body needs to be in shipshape working order, not be slow and heavy and creaky.

Also, I saw more details. Riding a bicycle, you see more detail than if you were speeding by in a car. And walking is even slower (4mph if I’m really booking it), so I see even more detail.

And, I ended up meeting more people.

And, I got more knowledge about which roads are seriously in need of shade trees.

And, I noticed that walking, while it’s more work than cycling, can also be less stressful because instead of being out there on the road dealing with cars, I’m a pokey pedestrian on the quiet backwater of the sidewalk.

My new bicycle is a sleek beauty. Single-speed like my previous one, but with skinny tires. A road bike rather than a commuter bike. Unlike my old bike, it only has one brake, a front brake. This makes the rear tire easier to remove, which is good for two reasons: 1) because back tires go flat more often, and not having a brake there makes it easier to take off the wheel and change the tube; and 2) because the back wheel can be flipped over to turn the bike from a freewheeling coaster into a “fixie.” This makes it safer to just have one brake. Riding in freewheel mode with just one brake felt a little sketchy to me.

Today after flipping it into fixie mode I started out doing an easy errand on flat terrain, then advanced to riding down the steep slope of the ISB bridge. (Which I refer to as one of the Daytona Alps.) I was gratified to find that I only needed to wuss out and use the hand-brake for a couple of seconds at one point on the downhill; otherwise I was completely able to moderate my speed just via that essential fixie skill of using the rear wheel to slow down.

A single-speed skinny-tire bike is super lightweight. Ah, I am finding it so refreshing!! I had become so dependent on having panniers and baskets to carry pounds and pounds of stuff. But I think I’ll do without for awhile, and just carry groceries and such on my back. I am loving it so far.

For heavy hauls and long-distance trips, I’m considering a Burley cargo trailer. They are very lightweight. Interestingly, the only solo multi-day bike trip I’ve ever taken, a six-day trip from Austin TX to Santa Fe NM, was on a road bike towing my stuff on a Burley. You wouldn’t think a road bike could be used for that but it was actually great.

Or I could be the wheeled version of my minimalist travel hero Ray Jardine, who routinely hiked the PCT for three weeks at a time, or more, with an 8-pound backpack!

Since long-distance public transport does not feel like a good idea right now, I’m exploring my options for traveling by bicycle to visit faraway loved ones. I would probably start with a trip across the state to the farm of some fellow permaculture folk.

Then who knows: By summer, I might even be fit enough to make the 759-mile trip to my family in Virginia. (I have already mapped it out on paper.)

Thanksgiving

This editorial in my hometown newspaper echoes my stance on Thanksgiving visits, and I’m sticking to it for all holidays, and for socializing in general, til there’s a very compelling reason not to.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for safety this Thanksgiving is straightforward: Limit gatherings to the people you live with, or already see frequently. Connect with everyone else via phone or through online platforms like Zoom. In the weeks following Thanksgiving, take extra care whenever you are out in public, with the understanding that many people who didn’t take precautions could be visiting the same stores, offices and restaurants as you – and could be contagious even without symptoms.”

Yep. That there.

I’m not trying to tell others what they should do or believe. (That’d be futile anyway.) I have spent some time and energy finessing how to state my own choices though. It’s been tricky to the point of being agonizing at times, but I hope I’m getting better at stating my parameters without hurting people’s feelings.

This is similar to the conflicted feelings I get when defending my eco choices. Refusing unnecessary rides in cars, refusing single-use plastic, etc. But, this is part of my work. Learning to do state my choices in a calm, matter-of-fact way (when it’s necessary to state them at all, which it isn’t always), while conveying to people that I love them, I value our relationship, I’m not rejecting their love or whatever.

Happy Thanksgiving, to all of you who celebrate. Gratitude is never out of season.

Further Exploration:

Thanksgiving Day, 11/26/2020: Speaking of gratitude, Today’s inspiration piece from DailyOM is “An Experiment in Gratitude.”

Developing Protocols for “Edu-Vacay” Guests

A trusty friend and fellow activist is acting as a test “edu-vacay intern” at my place this week. We are defining and refining social-distancing measures, and I am also devising more ideas for maximizing my beachside urban micro-homestead as a space to nurture my guests’ learning and creativity. Watch this blog for updates. Depending on how Covid situation progresses, deep-green education via my home may remain a strictly virtual experience for a while to come. Safety first!

As part of the above-described research project, I’m sharing some notes from this morning. The following is the kind of stuff I do on an everyday basis, and usually don’t take time to document. Enjoy!

Waste (reuse; landfill diversion):

As a city-dweller, dealing with the urban waste-stream, I am particularly fond of the Permaculture design principle known as “Catch, store, & use energy.”

I was impressed with what I saw this morning in my nextdoor neighbor’s recycling bin. The company that painted their house appears to have taken the trouble to cut the bottoms off of, and clean out, these plastic squeeze applicator bottles of painter’s acrylic latex caulk, so they’d be clean for recycling.

I have taken the bottles into my recycling bin for now. I use my bin as a storage buffer for steel cans and other containers that I might end up finding a re-use/upcycle use for. Thus capturing more of their embodied energy than would otherwise be captured. And diverting them from the need to undergo a higher-energy process such as being melted down etc.

If it ends up I can’t use them, I’ll just send them on out to the curbside recycling collection. See photos here.

Energy (solar cooking): Solar oven today. It’s breezy and partly cloudy, both of which influence the temperature the oven is able to attain and sustain. The easier task I had in mind for the ovens today was toasting some honeydew melon seeds that I started last night in a little toaster oven (it was left by some past housemate or guest; I use it occasionally).

Toaster ovens are a fairly high-watt appliance but they can be great for baking mini loaves of bread, small batches of cookies etc. The oven made a good start on the melon seeds. But, they toasted much faster after I spread them out in a wide black solar cookpot in the sun oven this morning.

The second task I had in mind, making hardboiled eggs, may not be do-able today, as the cloud cover seems to be increasing. The oven temp has reached 275 F but I really like it to be around 350 if I’m going to do a half-dozen eggs, especially if I’m starting with cold water.

I do have some warm/hottish water stored in the big old-school Stanley thermos ($5, thrift shop), because I boiled extra when making coffee this morning. So, it wouldn’t be as much of a temperature leap as starting with eggs in a pot of cold water.

Still, experience has shown that on a day like today, it’s better to use a stovetop or fire-based cooking method.

On the stovetop, I hardboil 6 eggs by bringing them to a boil for a minute or two, then turning off the stove, covering the top of the pot with potholders to trap heat in the pot, and let the eggs finish cooking in the hot water. This technique significantly saves fuel by reducing the amount of time needed for cooking eggs, soups, stews, and other boiled foods.

I call this technique my “modified” haybox method.

Haybox cooking, otherwise known as “retained-heat cooking,” is an energy-saving technique I learned via Aprovecho and the Kerr-Cole Sustainability Center. (Aprovecho’s series of booklets on “Capturing Heat” is excellent. As is Kerr-Cole’s booklet “The Sustainable Kitchen.”)

In brief: Haybox cooking involves bringing food to a boil for some minutes (duration depends on what you are cooking), then placing the whole pot in a towel-lined cooler, hay-lined box, or other insulated container. My modification simplifies things by not needing a container, just being able to keep the pot on stovetop. I have found that (presumably because heat rises) just covering the top of the pot seems to be good enough for hardboiled eggs, or rice or pasta.

Photos (see photos here):
1) oven #1 toasting melon seeds (tasty nutritious snack). Oven #1’s thermometer is broken but I can judge the approximate temp by sun conditions etc.

2) Oven #2’s thermometer, which reads accurately. This pic shows 175F. A little while later it had risen to 275. (3) And is holding steady there.

DIY Green New Deal Talk – Tuesday Nov 24, 2020; 7pm US EST

You’ve all heard me talk about my mission to spark a #GrassrootsGreenMobilization .
As I have written in my book and blog, I discovered that mobilization is well under way. And here is one manifestation of it! I hope you’ll join me in attending this online talk/event on Tuesday Nov 24.

In my experience and extensive observation, some of the biggest obstacles hindering people in making a living doing what they love, while helping the planet, are financial/economic. Permaculture design offers a framework that can very effectively be applied to navigating those obstacles and creating abundance for ourselves, while regenerating ecosystems and communities.

The organizer of the event is a colleague of mine, a permaculture teacher/designer named Mike Hoag, who is dedicated to helping people find livelihoods that are financially viable and right for them, while also helping to restore ecosystems and rebuild strong communities.

Writes Mike, “Here’s the event where you can find out about our plans to support a DIY Green New Deal. I hope you’ll join us! 💚”

This free online event is titled, Opportunity: Become a Community Transformation Leader, and you can go here to register. This will be a general introductory meeting, where you’ll also get to hear information about an upcoming permaculture design course and get your questions answered.

If you want to build real wealth while being the change you want to see, attending this virtual meetup is a great step. I’ve been active in the permaculture movement since 2005; have taken several Permaculture Design Certificate courses — and I’m still really excited about this event; expect to learn a lot. I hope to see you there!

Zoom Thanksgiving and Beyond

This article today in my local paper, offering tips for Thanksgiving family gatherings “apart, but together,” made me happy.

These tips are great not just for Thanksgiving but for any other holiday or family gathering, or just hanging out whenever. From creating screen backgrounds of family photo montages; to playing board games by video-conference; to cooking the same menu items apart together — using technology in inventive ways is what humans do, and now more than ever is a time when we really need to bring out that inventiveness.

One sister and brother who live far apart even figured out how to position their electronic devices to create the appearance of sitting together at one long family table!!

It occurred to me that remote technology might even make for better gatherings, as multiple clusters of extended family can gather virtually — with no space limitation; no travel expense; freedom from complicated logistics. And consider this: Even in loving families, differences in lifestyle and beliefs can lead to stress on holiday visits. If everyone gets to be in their own houses — “together apart” — that stress is greatly reduced.

Caution: Getting too tangled up in fussing with technology can lead to its own kind of stress. I think it’s OK for families just to text each other a photo or two of the holiday festivities. We do that a lot in my family, and I feel the love coming through even a still photo.

Board games do sound like fun, though!

Zoom holidays take the load off of Mother Earth too. All that holiday travel has a huge footprint.

I don’t want to minimize the pain of missing one’s family. If it felt safe, I’d definitely want to visit my family up north for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. It doesn’t feel safe though.

Speaking of that, friends and family members can have differing ideas of what feels “safe.” Some people barely seem to acknowledge there’s a pandemic going on. Others barely feel safe leaving their houses at all. In my family we’re fortunate; we have generally similar ideas about safety, and we’re also able to respect each other’s slightly differing ideas. Most of my friends are pretty respectful of differences too.

That said, even though we’re respectful, some of my friends have markedly different ideas of what’s safe. Me, I pretty much just want to stay outdoors and I’m fine. If I had to for a family emergency, I’d risk going into an airport and getting on a plane. Otherwise, no way. Air travel was already miserable even before Covid.

Bus or train travel are my favorites but don’t feel safe to me now either. They would if we could ride with the windows open.

With some friends, who seem to be back into indoor gatherings as if nothing had happened, I’ve got FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. Fear that, because I’m refusing invitations, I’ll never be invited again. But, just as I can’t tell other people how to act, I also don’t want to put others or myself at unnecessary risk.

Some of my friends who had been among the most cautious (wearing masks everywhere, even indoors) are now going completely in the opposite direction. I attribute it to a certain fatalism. Many of these friends work on the bleeding-edge front lines, forced to put themselves at risk every day so people can buy groceries or eat waffles or whatever. Many of these same friends have buried many friends and relatives over the past few months. In their shoes, I could imagine myself saying, “Screw it, might as well enjoy ourselves!”

I don’t know if that’s actually what’s at play with this group of friends, but it would make sense.

I get that some people are feeling lonely and burnt-out. But insisting on hugs, in-person meetings, postponing events “until we can get back to normal” (instead of just holding them outdoors or virtually, or cancelling them entirely) — all of that strikes me as a refusal to adapt to circumstances. And creatures who don’t adapt to circumstances don’t survive. That thought really struck me this morning. It’s true of species, and it’s true of individuals.

Anyway. I’m rooting for Zoom holidays. “Appropriate Technology,” we call it in permaculture when technology is used in a manner that helps shift things in a more sustainable direction. Telecommunication apps are a great example of appropriate technology right now. I think they actually have the potential to bring us closer to one another than we’ve ever been.

Speaking of togetherness, I’ve been hearing about a card game called Vertellis. I hear it was originally developed to spark more meaningful conversation among family members at holiday gatherings. (But it can be used anytime by any group of people.) The game sounds pretty neat. And it looks totally do-able by Zoom.