welcome to my deep-green blog!

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by.

This blog is dedicated to low-footprint living. I am out to promote a #GrassrootsGreenMobilization. Can you imagine what would happen if millions of people voluntarily reduced their carbon footprint? by 90%, 50%, or even just 10%? The impact would be similar to that of the household austerity measures imposed during World War II, except that this time we’d be doing it voluntarily. And instead of channeling our time, money, and energy toward a war effort, we’d be working toward a shared global aim of restoring the earth’s ecosystems to health, and preserving our life and wellbeing on this beautiful planet.

Does living at a fraction of the average U.S. footprint sound unrealistic or uncomfortable to you? The truth is, lots of us are already doing it, or are well on our way. And in the process of reducing our footprints, we’re putting money in our pockets, and freeing up our time and energy for the things that give life meaning (which of course differ from one person to the next).

And not only is it not uncomfortable (beyond a bit of manageable discomfort here and there), it’s fun!

At its root, a low-footprint lifestyle is a great way to improve your quality of life, even if planetary concerns were not a factor. In this blog I share a wealth of tips and resources to help you design your own version of a low-footprint lifestyle, or, if you’re already on this path, to go further than you’ve ever gone before.

Again, thank you for being here!

P.S. On this page (and on my Facebook page Deep Green Book by Jenny Nazak), I explore at leisurely length, and in no particular order, a variety of threads related to sustainable living. If you also want a handy, compact, ordered guide that contains in condensed form the basic principles for designing your own low-footprint lifestyle, get yourself a copy of my book Deep Green! It’s available on Amazon or direct through me.

The “Empty” Toothpaste Tube

This is definitely one for the “Little Things Add Up” files! You know when your tube of toothpaste is totally empty? You’ve squeezed every last bit out of it, and can’t even get one tiny speck more for one last teeth-brushing? Well, for a few years now, I’ve been cutting off the very bottom of the tube (easy — just use scissors) after it reaches that point. Then I stick my brush into that newly open end of the tube to get at the toothpaste. I’ve found that the “empty” tube ends up being good for about 7 to 10 more toothbrushings! Since I’ve probably done that with 10 toothpaste tubes now, that’s like a month of free toothpaste.

The “empty” tube that ends up containing a lot more toothpaste is a great find if you get a charge out of being thrifty as I do. It also seems like a great metaphor for many things in life. Though none come to mind right now, I bet some will, and I bet you can think of some!

Update: I just now heard from one of my most loyal readers (thanks HH!), who tells me he has been doing this since he was a kid, and that his parents did it also. Not just with toothpaste tubes but with mustard tubes, lotion pump-bottles, and so on. I bet many other people out there are doing the same.

Riot for Austerity Rules

I meant to post the Riot for Austerity rules file for your reference awhile back, but either I didn’t or it got deleted. So, here you go:

This PDF contains the Riot for Austerity (90 Percent Reduction Challenge) rules. This is a set of targets for reducing your personal or household eco footprint to 10% of the U.S. average. This set of targets has guided my personal practices since about 2007.

According to my understanding, these rules were written in the mid-2000s by Sharon Astyk and Miranda Edel, the two bloggers who started the Riot for Austerity movement. They are based on the global/policy targets set forth by George Monbiot in his ground-breaking book HEAT: How To Stop the Planet Burning. The phrase “Riot for Austerity” itself was inspired by Monbiot’s observation that no one ever riots for austerity (though it might be in our interest to promote voluntary austerity).

My book Deep Green was in turn inspired by all these people’s great work.

Low-Footprint Lifestyle with Roommates

Having roommates/housemates can be a great thing, even for those who could financially afford to live alone. Besides the cost-sharing, other benefits include more safety/security, less social isolation, and the potential for sharing tasks.

If you’re lucky (or skillful with the “Roommate Wanted” posts), the people you share space with will also share your commitment to low-footprint living. But that isn’t necessary. Very few of my apartment-mates or housemates have been particularly green-minded, but I’ve found ways 1) to not let that get in the way of my personal green goals; 2) to even sometimes motivate them to participate in green practices, even if they’re not doing it for eco reasons.

Here are some things I’ve found that have worked:

– Find people who are motivated by thrift. People who want to keep their expenses low are far more likely to be willing to share my lifestyle of doing without air conditioning, conserving water, etc.

– Don’t stress out too much about other people’s consumption. My low-footprint lifestyle is based on a set of targets called the Riot for Austerity, which gives numbers for reducing one’s footprint to 10% of the U.S. average. Many of the Riot for Austerity categories (such as consumer goods, trash volume, and water usage) are calculated on an individual level. So I just keep track of my own numbers. For the ones such as electricity usage that are calculated on a total family/household level, I hit upon the idea of treating myself and each housemate as a separate “household.” In effect, we are separate households; we are not family and have no longterm plans together. What’s cool is that because of how I run my house, our total electricity usage still only ends up being about 20% of the U.S. average! Water usage also. I have learned not to dwell on housemates’ trash volume, though I make reasonable efforts to fish their plastic bottles and other recyclables out of the trash can when they forget to put them in the recycling bin.

– If your housemates cook at home (my current ones mostly don’t), you can set rules and procedures for water-efficient dishwashing practices. If that doesn’t work, and things get too out of hand, you might have to be in charge of washing all dishes.

– I also try to keep sight of the bigger picture. My low-footprint lifestyle is important to me, but so is connection with fellow human beings. And ultimately, our ability to live and work with other people, not the fact that some people aren’t bothered by lights left on and plastic straws, is what will make or break human civilization.

I meant to post the Riot for Austerity file for your reference awhile back, but either I didn’t or it got deleted. So I’ll dig it up and post it for you here when I can. OK, here you go:

This PDF contains the Riot for Austerity (90 Percent Reduction Challenge) rules. Note, according to my understanding, these rules were written in the mid-2000s by Sharon Astyk and Miranda Edel, the two bloggers who started the Riot for Austerity movement. They are based on the global/policy targets set forth by George Monbiot in his ground-breaking book HEAT: How To Stop the Planet Burning. The phrase “Riot for Austerity” itself was inspired by Monbiot’s observation that no one ever riots for austerity (though it might be in our interest to promote voluntary austerity).

Repurposing with Style

As permaculture people & green-spirited folk of all stripes are well aware, sometimes an old “trash” item serves better than the original — while also boosting the STYLE quotient of daily life! Here, wine corks replace fallen-out handlebar-stoppers, with the added benefit of making a superior “padding” (buffer between metal handlebars and shop windows etc — for those times you park your bike by leaning it against a shop) . Got any favorite stylish repurposing tips/stories of your own?

The Value of Failure — BIG Failure

This might sound crazy, but I have realized the power of failure. BIG failure. By “big,” I mean failing at something that matters a lot to me.

Who in their right mind wants to fail? Most of us would say we hate failure and really want to succeed.

Nothing wrong with that! The problem comes when we are so afraid of failure that we never really try. Either we go for goals that don’t matter all that much to us, or we go for the things we really want but we hold back from putting forth our full effort. This stance feels “safe” to our reptilian brains.

I spent my whole life, over 50 years, saying I was going to write a book. Finally, I did. It was terrifying. I got a lot of other projects done, and a really clean house, in the course of “avoiding writing.” But the book got done, and it turned out to be good! Then I was still afraid of failure so I did a half-baked job of marketing it. But, people are buying it! (That book is the nonfiction work DEEP GREEN, the book that inspired me to start this blog.)

Truthfully, if I had been any good at waiting tables all those years ago (I was not), I might never have gotten around to writing a book, or any of the other things I have tried in my adult life. Many of the things I’ve tried, I have failed at. Then again … failure is in the mind.

By the way, I have great admiration and respect for the profession of waiting tables. I consider it a ministry (as just about any other profession can be). But, I’m no darn good at it, which is probably a good thing in my case because I was just using it as a pipeline to steady money. And using it to hide out from the work I felt called to do.

This week I did what might have been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and the undone thing that mattered most to me: I posted a piece of fiction writing in the public eye. Then something interesting happened: I realized that I did not care if people thought it was awful! I did not even care if it was actually awful! I realized that I still wanted to keep up the project! For a person who has done a lot of quitting and hanging-back in her life, this was big.

I am surrounded by people who are doing huge things in the world, making a major difference. Restoring landscapes on a large scale; making big public art; reducing single-use plastics on a regional level; making eco motivational speeches to audiences of thousands or millions. It’s very humbling. But interestingly enough, as I voluntarily experienced the crushing sense of feeling “less than” these people in terms of effectiveness, I started to get a spark of renewed energy for my own efforts. And I started to take joy in the efforts themselves instead of measuring how “successful” I was being.

My highest goal, the one that matters most to my earthly self, is to help ensure the survival of human life on this planet, and co-create a peaceful enlightened civilization. It’s something I will never quit.

But, another thing that matters almost as much to me is writing — not just as a vehicle for the above goal, but as a thing in and of itself. Overcoming procrastination, resistance, raw fear, the depth of the abyss … it feels as epic to me as I imagine that surfing must feel. Words, being able to transmit feeling in words — is so huge to me. Words are a low-bandwidth medium of transmission that can survive for millennia and maybe even cross galaxies.

Whatever your big thing is, I encourage you to tackle it! (By the way, one person’s small thing is another person’s big thing, so don’t think you have to make a grand splash on a fancy stage for your efforts to matter.)

In the course of tackling lower-stakes goals and still failing at them, I’ve found that a string of mediocre failures can be like death by a thousand paper cuts. Might as well go for the big enchilada, I say!

I have more to say about this topic but am going to let it percolate for a bit.

Update: It struck me that failure is like a good set of pruning shears. If I fail at something and then quit, that “something” must not have been very important after all. Or else, that “something” was an ineffective action toward an important goal. Either way, it’s a branch that needed pruning! All the better to focus on effective efforts related to things that truly matter to me.

Fiction!

Well, dear readers, I told you I was working on some fiction, and the time has come to share it with you! ALONE is my comic novel-in-progress about a washed-up eco-activist who wakes up one day to find that all the other people are gone.

I had originally planned to launch a complete novella today (February 14, 2020), but the story sort of grew legs, or maybe I should say tentacles! So it’s a work ongoing. I’m going to be posting it here on this blog in installments, as free downloadable PDFs. You can also subscribe to get installments delivered to your email inbox (weekly or weekly-ish). Just drop me a line at jnazak at yahoo dot com

Later, once the story is finished, I’ll be formally launching it as a book or series of books, which will be available for sale. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the wild and woolly “first cut”! Thanks for joining me on this ride! Below, I give you Installment #1 of ALONE.

UPDATE Feb 21, 2020: Early readers have been enjoying the saga so far! Thank you for your feedback. Early readers have also given me useful feedback on the page layout, and I have reformatted the layout to be more mobile-friendly.

Here is ALONE, Installment 1, improved for mobile-readability.

The Silver Lining: Turning Problems into Assets

A cornerstone of permaculture design is the idea that “The problem is the solution,” or “Turn problems into assets.” This is also expressed in the design principle, “Obtain a yield.” (As opposed to just alleviating or getting rid of a problem, we turn it into an asset or harvest.)

So-called “weeds” stubbornly growing in a corner of the yard turn out to be native wildflowers that support the pollinators who are essential to our survival. Instead of spending money and labor (and deploying poisons) to eradicate them, we can simply let them be. Providing a net benefit to the ecosystem for free!

The willingness to “turn problems into assets” can make the difference between life and death. One example: In East Africa, a bumper crop of locusts is laying waste to the land, threatening the food supply. However, locusts are edible! (by both livestock and people.) In Israel, where crops are also in the grip of a locust invasion, people have taken to eating the bugs.

Eating bugs might sound gross if you’ve never tried them, but insects are a staple food or even a delicacy in many cultures. I myself have eaten many a bug, and found them unexpectedly tasty. I once attended an “insect potluck.” Held at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, and organized under the banner “Man Eating Bug,” it attracted some 500 people. Note, for reasons of safety and flavor, it is best to cook bugs rather than eat them raw. Also, if you are allergic to shellfish, don’t eat insects.

Another example of turning a problem into a yield would be harvesting invasive plants and using them to make cellophane or biofuel.

On a personal note — I am channeling my sensitive, reactive temperament into FICTION GOLD, and will be publishing an eco-comedy novella series soon.

Can you think of some area or situation in your life where you might be able to turn a problem into a yield?

Further Reading:

Eating locusts: The crunchy kosher snack taking Israel by storm (BBC News). In addition to reporting the pragmatic snack craze in Israel, the article also mentions that “Locusts are a valuable source of income for women in Niger, who get up early to collect them from the millet fields, and then sell them at the market. They make more money from the locusts on the millet than the millet itself”.