Rethink R & R

Challenge #5: It’s All Fun and Games.

What rocks your world? The Feb. 27 earthquake in Chile got as much attention for its local destruction as well as its impact on the Earth’s axis. Apparently, the tremor shortened the length of a day by about 1.26 microseconds. Consider that! We complain that there are not enough days in a week, and now each day may have sped up! Life does indeed come at you fast. So if the world can change gears with a shudder, what does it really take for us to change habits to lessen our carbon footprint?

 “Going green” is not unlike any New Year’s Resolutions: best intentions that devolve into interruptions to our routine.  We too easily revert to what is familiar and nothing ends up changing beyond token efforts to behavior based on habit, choice, or fear. Until, that is, your world is rocked by unplanned change.

 Unplanned change that reoriented our worldview included Sharon’s dad passing away in January and me getting laid off in October. The axis of the world shifted dramatically for us. People you expected to be around are suddenly, sadly, gone. Strengthening your resolve and renewing your connections takes on new importance. Resources you counted on as a given are suddenly scarce. Now, change is not asking you to adjust, change demands you to submit.

 Adapting to unplanned change is different by degrees. We do it all the time. Maybe some can too easily recall the heavy-hearted loss of a loved one and the resulting changes that occurred. But most of us readily adapt to the smaller challenges like a neighborhood blackout. We quickly test our resourcefulness in locating flashlights with fresh batteries, tuning in radios (even finding a useful radio station requires skill) lighting candles, checking for gas leaks, and connecting with neighbors outside our front door. Suddenly the world is smaller. What is vital becomes clear. Necessities and luxuries are easily distinguished. Ingenuity is now valued. The power of your community is tested. Cooking dinner with camping gear clears a hurdle of providing food. Building a fire in the fireplace heats your home. Playing board games brings loved ones close together. Reading books by candlelight gives you appreciation for what our predecessors endured as a matter of routine. But in a moment like this, it always makes me question just how much energy and resources we truly need, and generally waste. And when the power goes back on we let out that familiar sigh and moan, acknowledging the distractions that we plug in to often conflict with how we’re wired: a desire to connect as a community.

Changing course. New routines have been introduced to our lives that impact our carbon footprint such as rethinking recreation. With one steady income complemented by unsteady contract work, the budget for entertainment naturally got the first overhaul. Dinners at restaurants—which import a lot of food, a big carbon footprint—are replaced by dinner parties with friends for a fun game night. Nights out at bars are not as fun to us as writing nights where friends new and old arrive with a bottle of wine and an open mind. We all write for five minutes about a topic drawn from a bowl, and then it is your option to share your creative writing. This continues until all creative juices are expired, or the wine is consumed. Gym memberships have been replaced by running the neighborhood and playing tennis in the park on the free courts. Metal water bottles sustain us for every workout. The iPod I use for running has been acting up, so I rummaged through the drawer of gadgets which, sadly, I think we all have, and happily rediscovered a Walkman, which now plays my old mixed tapes, powered by rechargeable batteries.

We walk to the library, a valuable resource for the imagination and already paid for with our taxes. Evenings reading and meals sharing our literary adventures makes life simpler, richer, and yes, a bit greener.

Alex Yates

Read a previous post from the Dewar-Yates Family, Light Are Off But Somebody IS Home.

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