One of the blogs that I read regularly is Chile Chews, "Eclectic musings on sustainable living, food, health and human-powered transportation... with a few rants thrown in for balance." Not only does what she write inspire me, she also offers up very specific challenges that just... well, they just make sense. They are things that I read and say, yes, this is something I want to address in my life.
Today's challenge is one that I most definitely want to address, though it's likely to be much harder than her last challenge of getting organized. This time she's challenging us to address our addictions, the ones that are barriers to learning to live the type of sustainable life that folks like me who regularly read her blog are presumably striving to live.
(ok, well I just re-read her post and she hasn't officially made the challenge YET but she wants us to start thinking about it, so I'm going to write about it anyway!)
She doesn't give any of us an easy out. I can sit here all smug about my lack of addiction to cigarettes, alcohol or fast food, about how we've learned to let yellow mellow and we wear clothes multiple times and only wash full loads and we never go to or rent movies and we're not addicted to spending and live well within our means with no debt and relatively generous deposits each month into retirement and emergency funds, blah diddy blah blah blah.
But what about some of the things that I enjoy but don't truly NEED in my life, like iced tea and sugar? Or about things that I take completely for granted that, in a totally collapsed economy or with dramatic oil shortages, might not be available - like *gasp* toilet paper?
OK, I may hyperventilate a bit over the idea of going without toilet paper, specifically the extra-soft TP on which I splurge because of my particularly tender hiney, but I recognize that it is possible to live without it. After all, I'm from strong Appalachian stock and I grew up around real, actively used outhouses. Granted, by the time I was around to use them they were all regularly supplied with rolls of white paper, but I also know that there was a time in my Granny's history, back in the holler, where there was no TP. In fact, history tells us that somehow -- in ways I don't even want to THINK about -- folks used *shudder* corn cobs to clean off stuck poop. Most definitely not something I want to consider if I don't absolutely have to.
But I do recognize that this overall lifestyle change I'm taking on is a process. I may not be anywhere close to considering giving up toilet paper (I'm a SLOWWWWcavore, remember?) but there are certainly many things that would put me one step closer towards living in a way that would benefit me in the long run.
So back to this challenge. What addiction am I ready to address, at least for a month? I want to take this seriously, but at the same time I know I'm not going to succeed with any addiction that I'm honestly not ready to let go of, like black tea or sugar or toilet paper.
Right now she's asking folks to just think about it, and thinking is something I can do. I have some limits, since though there are some things that I might be willing to take on if it were just me, I know that Partner would totally not buy into it, so I want to choose something that I can do without requiring the same commitment from others who aren't ready to go there.
So, just off the top of my head, here are ten things that I will consider as my challenge project:
- Paper towels. This is a tough one for me because I'm a bit phobic about food nastiness, especially chicken goo or other things that might harbor nasty bugs that might make me sick, so I tend to wash my hands frequently while working with meat and dry them with paper towels just in case I missed something that I don't want to get on a real towel, plus I wipe up frequently with paper towels so that I can then throw it immediately away. Could I go a month without using any paper towels or napkins?
- The garbage can. I'm still not recycling or composting anywhere close to as much as I could. What would it take for me to not put a single thing into the trash that wasn't truly trash?
- My car as transportation to my job which is only a mile away. Then again, I have three more days of work before summer break so this isn't exactly one that I could realistically take on now. Scratch this one for now, but if I don't readdress it in the fall I have no damned business keeping this blog.
- Keeping things powered on. I don't want to have to wait for my PC to boot up, the cable box to re-initialize, or to dig the charger out of the drawer. Plus we have lots of things charging at any given time that are, in our current lives, necessities (ok, ok - addictions): Cordless tools, cordless vacs (who knew how much pugs shed?!?), rechargeable batteries (though that's overall a good thing, right?!?), cordless string trimmer... What would it take for me to do some serious unplugging?
- Sloth. Honestly, tonight I should have worked on the bathroom wiring, cleaned out the fridge, built my compost bin, or done SOMEthing more productive with the six hours since I've been home than cook dinner and make phone calls for a surprise thing that I don't want to name just in case the person who it applies to is reading. If I set some minimum amount of time each day to accomplish things that need to be done, at least on average, I could combat this addiction to inertia.
- Late night eating. Of all of my eating habits, this is the one that is likely the greatest contributer to my over-weight, and the one that involves the most things that I really should not be eating. This so far seems like the strongest contender, though I've attempted to address it before with little luck...
- Clutter. I have to admit that despite some significant gains in this area, I'm still addicted to clutter. I honestly almost need it around me. I'm not sure how to truly measure this one, though.
- Procrastination. In a limited-resource world, procrastination could mean the difference between eating or not eating. There are a lot of things that I've been putting off for way too long that I could do. Perhaps I could make a list of things that I've been procrastinating on for weeks, months, years, and set some minimum number that I must accomplish during the month of this challenge.
- The Internet. This is a tough one because, just like you can't totally give up food because you need it to survive, I can't totally give up the Internet because I need it for my work, plus it's my primary means of communication with most of the people who are important to me (family and friends), and it's a primary means of learning about the things that are the very reason why I'm considering this challenge in the first place. But then again, I know I spend way too much time just surfing from blog to blog, checking and rechecking forums, researching this and that, wiki-ing, wooting. Another tough one for setting a measurable goal.
- Negativity. This could be an interesting one to take on which I truly believe would benefit me in all aspects of my life. What would my life be like if I stopped complaining, stopped ranting, stopped saying negative things about other people, stopped putting myself down, stopped staying "I can't," stopped making excuses?
Edited to add: I just realized that in order to address this realistically in the specified time period (or at least I think it's supposed to be done in June), it has to be something I can do while taking two full-day road trips (to and from western NC from Delaware), two half-day road trips (to and from Atlanta from western NC), and staying at my folk's house for two weeks while they're on a 50th anniversary vacation, including one week with Partner there and one week alone. That makes a lot of my list pretty unrealistic for that specific time period, but there are still obviously some things that I can do.