Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Living sustainably?

Let's face it, unless you are willing to make what are today some very radical, and difficult choices, if you're worried about your carbon footprint and other environmental impacts, you should live in the city, and the bigger the city the better. For 20 years, I got to work and back on the MBTA, and I walked to the hardware store, pharmacy, restaurants, and even the grocery store except for the weekly big haul, which required a 1 mile drive. The impecunious could walk to the laundromat.

Out here, downtown, which is 2 miles away, consists of a quasi-old-fashioned country general store where you can get soda, sandwiches, auto fuses, and fishing gear among other odds and ends, a 1-woman post office, and 2 churches. It's 8 miles to an even half-decent grocery store and I don't even know about a decent restaurant. The commute to my job is 45 miles, and any jobs that are closer aren't going to pay for this house, unless WalMart has changed its pay structure.

This is a farm town and we obviously need farms and farmers, but of the 1,500 or so people who live here I doubt more than 100 are farmers or their dependents. Mostly it's a bedroom community for retirees or professionals who just like being here. So I ain't lying. It's an indulgence that I happen to be able to afford.

To my credit, I invested considerable money, as part of this deal, in preserving wilderness including stopping development of 35 acres which is now state forest. I am also doing some hobby farming which I hope to gradually develop into something more real, and making sustainable use of my abundant biomass for space heat. Nevertheless, since I've been spending time here I've been doing a lot more driving, and that's got to cancel out the good stuff.

What do people think about the ethics of my choices? How can I do better?


  1. It's the kind of thing we've been asking ourselves. We don't drive much, but we have other considerations, like how we heat the house at the moment. I think if I had to commute, I would want the most energy efficient car I could find. What do you drive? Can you convert to biodiesel?

    We're checking out radiant wood heat inserts to replace our stupid propane gas stove insert.

  2. If my life plan works out, I'll be even further in the back of beyond than you, so I can't criticize you. Unless the US goes all European-like and provides public transportation to rural areas (in rural Ireland, you can ride the post bus, which delivers the mail), we're going to have to drive a lot.

    While it can be an interesting thought experiment, I say do your best and don't beat yourself up over what's out of your control. Rural folks have to drive; that won't change in our lifetime.