How Not Having Money Reduced My Carbon Footprint.


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The following is a guest post from reader Jaimie Scott, who was kind enough to write an article for The Good Human while we are in the middle of moving. Thanks Jaimie!

I suspect that other factors played a part in this process as well. But the way I see it, not having money has resulted in me reducing my carbon footprint and changed my consumer mentality more than any other single factor in my life. It has taken nearly two years, but I have completely reinvented myself. I’ve almost become one of those people that I used to consider whackos ten years ago when I lived in the suburbs. I don’t have dreads yet, but I carry my own coffee cup, ride my bike nearly everywhere instead of driving, and eat healthy, organic, mostly vegetarian food. I’ve even started trying to eat more raw food for the living enzymes. I’m an avid coffee drinker, but I refuse to buy coffee at a shop that has only disposable cups — I’ll just walk right out and keep looking for another coffee shop that has real cups. You know, the kind that don’t end up in the landfill.

The transformation has been somewhat gradual. The first big change in my life that seems to have started me down this path was moving from the suburbs to downtown Portland. I have lived in the suburbs or rural areas all of my life. Moving to downtown Portland was a real eye-opening experience for me. Before that move, it had never occurred to me how radically different urban folks view the world. In my mind, there is one item that fairly well exemplifies the different mindset — garbage totes. In the burbs, everyone has a huge garbage tote supplied by the local refuse company and each week they do their best to fill it up. If for some reason there was extra room in the tote on garbage pickup day then you would go looking for other items to fill up the tote. This was in total contrast to the urban approach to garbage collection. Maybe it was just the household where I lived, but we made a point of trying to minimize the amount of waste we generated. We put all of the food waste and stuff that would decompose into a worm bin to make compost out of it. We called the garbage collection agency and asked them for a smaller tote. Not only was this cheaper than the large tote, but to us it was kind of a badge of honor. We were sending a message to others in our neighborhood, friends, and family members, saying, “Hey look at us, we can get by with this tiny little garbage tote.”But that was just the start of my transformation.

These days, two years after leaving my corporate job, I have made much more significant lifestyle changes that result in reducing my impact on the planet. Not having a steady income has forced some of the changes, but many others seem to have been brought on by those initial changes that took place – almost like a cascading effect with each new awareness brought on by the previous changes. As Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” As an example, I ride my bicycle everywhere I can now. In fact, if I can’t get there by bike, or by using a combination of bike and public transportation, I usually just won’t go. You would think that this would be a huge inconvenience, but in reality it has not been. I now feel that the planet is inconvenienced when I drive my car. This simple change in mindset has completely changed my life – and evidently I’m not the only one.

I heard a story on NPR last week in which they interviewed people that have stopped driving and started riding a bicycle. The general sentiment was that not driving and having to deal with traffic is so much more enjoyable that it changes the entire experience. People said that they were less stressed, more relaxed, and didn’t feel as though they were pressed for time when they got where they were going. I have found this to be true myself. When I ride my bike to the grocery store I will normally strike up conversations with a minimum of three to four people while I’m shopping, including the cashier. I watch people more than I used to in my old mindset as well and I see that most people barely stop talking on their cell phones long enough to pay for their groceries, yet alone have a discussion with a store employee. And as we all know, this is only one of the great many benefits of riding instead of driving.

Granted, I do skip many activities that I used to do regularly. But I have simply replaced them with activities that I can perform at home or places to which I can ride my bike. I’m fortunate in that I live right alongside a great bike trail. I realize that my life is considerably less complicated than the lives of most people I know, and I am very lucky to have the choices I do that result from where and how I live. Although, I am convinced that even those with much more complicated lives, especially those with much more complicated lives, will not only NOT be significantly inconvenienced, but can benefit tremendously, by reducing their footprint. Their lives might even become simpler.

Many thanks to Jaimie Scott for this guest post!

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  1. Thanks for this great post! I agree! We can make a lot of changes and realize that, hey, we can get by just fine (even better) without all the stuff we thought we needed so badly. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

  2. You are so right. When I moved to San Francisco after growing up in the L.A. suburbs, I was blown away by how city dwellers have very little use for cars, and how really they’re just a big pain in the ass in cities. Once I sold my car and dedicated myself to 2 wheeled transit, I was a changed human.

  3. Well said…

    I came across this post when I was searching for the “Carbon footprint of Money”

    I wonder if people have considered that earning money has a carbon footprint. Even if you have a zero carbon life style, zero emission home and transport. But the people who you trade with don’t. Somewhere down the economic chain, someone has done stuff you don’t agree with. The same applies to the money you spend, or invest.

    So limiting your income not only give you a new perspective, you literally lower you footprint.

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