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Responsible Consumption: Week 3 of Family Practice
Submitted by Jonathan Kaplan on Mon, 4/16/2012, 2:58pm
So, it’s Week #3 of the challenge and things are going relatively well for our household. Here’s an update on what we’re doing and its impact.
We’ve been taking shorter showers (about 2 minutes per person), and the kids have been alternating baths with showers. As part of its Water Science curriculum for schools, the U.S. Geological Survey provides a convenient calculator to measure your water usage. Using this website, I estimate that we’ve reduced our water usage by over 400 gallons a week. Wow! Who knew? Inspired by this statistic, I guess that showering mindfully will have to be a shorter contemplation henceforth. < smile >
This was the least well defined goal for our family, and it’s been the most difficult to assess. On the positive side, we’ve started composting food scraps again. It’s relatively easy, though it piles up quickly. I’ve been keeping scraps in a bag in the freezer to be brought to my community garden’s composting bin or the Union Square Green Market near my office. According to the LES Ecology Center, New York City households send 3,000 tons of food waste to landfills each day. All of this material emits methane--a powerful greenhouse gas--as it decomposes in the absence of oxygen. Assuming that my own household continues this endeavor for the rest of the year, we’ll compost over 500 pounds of food scraps. Not bad, huh? (Oops, forgive me! I don't want to lapse into environmental materialism, the ecological equivalent of what Chogyam Trungpa identified as a barrier to contemplative practice.)
If you have the time or inclination, I’d recommend looking into vermicomposting, too--indoor composting with worms! I did this for a couple of years, after I moved to NYC. Once the bin is established, it’s easy to maintain and odor-free. Here are the basic instructions. You can also take a class or learn more information from the Lower East Side Ecology Center.
In addition to composting, we’re recycling plastics, even the non-NYC approved ones. As you might know, NYC only recycles #1 and #2 plastic jugs and bottles. However, if you live in Brooklyn (or elsewhere in NYC, I suppose), you can bring other #1, #2, #4, and some #5 to the Park Slope Food Coop. You don’t even have to be a member in order to recycle your plastics.
The downside of our week of watching the garbage pail is that I don’t think that we’re tossing anyway less of other things. We’re not washing our tissues and putting them in the sun to dry. We’re not finding alternative places for cat vomit either. Well, I suppose I need to draw the line somewhere. It reminds me of the Buddha’s talk with Sona. In it, he compares contemplative practice to playing the lute, which should have strings that are neither too tight nor too loose. This application of persistence and Right Effort applies to our practice of environmentalism, too.
This is proceeding well. My kids decided to diversify their crops, however. (Somehow, the idea of growing close to 40 vines worth of pumpkins seemed a little much?) So, we branched out, planting beans and lettuce. If you’re looking to grow your own seeds, I highly recommend 2 sources, Seeds of Change and The Seed Savers Exchange.
I guess that’s all for now. If you have some time, please let me know what ideas you have for responsible consumption on a family level. As you can probably see, even small changes have an impact as you multiple it by the number of people in your household.
Oh, don't forget that we are on this journey as a community. Read all the Responsible Consumption posts and follow along as we examine our habits.
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