Lately, I’ve received a lot of inspiration from my daughter Abbie, also known as the Farmer’s Daughter. Besides being a biology, environmental science, forensics, and botany high school teacher, she’s choosing to live her life as green as possible. She’s passed along some great reading material, like Sophie Uliano’s Gorgeously Greenand Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, (more on those later!) and even inspired me to spend a week with her last summer at a teachers’ conference on Cape Eleuthera in the Bahamas.
First, a bit of a side step to the Island School, because this was really a life-changing experience for me. Who wouldn’t accept the opportunity to go to the Bahamas for a week on vacation with your daughter? Granted, it was August (read very hot, humid here) and it wasn’t really a vacation, but a learning experience (read no AC, limited water supply, etc.), so this is what it really meant:
· Spending an entire day traveling: 3 planes, including one tiny one from Rock Sound to the Cape, an hour spent in a steaming, hot Caribbean airport waiting for a taxi that would take us for a 2-hr. equally steamy ride over rough roads at a hefty fee
· Absolutely no COLD water and NO ice for drinks. In fact, the basic beverage of choice was warm water, which we carried everywhere with us in refillable containers, which had been collected off the roof (and purified through an electrostatic process). Fortunately I didn’t see the multitude of frogs that inhabited the holding tank until the last day.
· An introduction to “Navy” showers, which means five minutes, tops, that the water is running, and turning if off between lathering up and rinsing
· “If it’s yellow, let it mellow . . . “ (OK, I thought this was just my Dad, many years previously, who said this because he was just plain cheap!) Later, I learned that I had grown up “green” in part before it was fashionable. This was probably the toughest habit to kick, because I had developed an automatic reflex to flush over the years. . .
· Sleeping in dormitory-style rooms (25 or so women in double-decker bunkbeds) sans air-conditioning, just a few overhead fans
· While sleeping in this heat, also being visited by “no see-ums,” which visited nightly, squeezing their tiny bodies in between the screens. (Fortunately for me, I must not have been as tasty, young and sweet, as some of my colleagues were, because if I spritzed with bug spray (probably a no! no!) before retiring, I didn’t wake up in the raised red welts that some of my colleagues did)
· Washing dishes, filling compost buckets, slopping pigs . . . and did I say washing dishes by hand?
· Filling large water jugs and lugging them to the dorms at night
· Waking up to the blowing conch at 6 am to participate in an hour long exercise session of running, biking, and/or swimming
OK, to be fair, here’s the UPSIDE:
· Swimming in the incredibly clear, turquoise, cleansing waters of the Caribbean
· Bonding with fellow, like-minded teachers from all over the world who were looking for a little adventure over the summer and the opportunity to learn something new
· Waking up to the lovely tune of the blowing conch at 6 am to participate in a morning greeting with friends and an hour long exercise session of running, biking, and/or swimming
· Crab hunting at night with flashlights and lots of laughs
Eating delectable island-grown salads and spicy Caribbean rice dishes, mostly from local ingredients, with fresh fruit for dessert
Discovering the local marine wildlife through snorkeling and scuba expeditions
Visiting local schools, also supported the Island School
Touring Cape Eleuthera Research Institute to learn about hydroponic gardening, local fish species, and efforts to preserve the coral reefs (a joint adventure with the Island School)
Oh, and did I say swimming in the brilliant, turquoise, clear, wonderful Caribbean waters?
That I needed to make some life-style changes!
So . . .
Here are a few very simple things I’ve done so far . . .
I’ve totally stopped buying bottled water and now use re-fillable aluminum bottles like SIGG or non BPA-plastic filled with my own lovely tap water.
Take my own bags to the grocery store and avoid piles of plastic, chinzy bags gathering in my pantry. (I’ve worked on this a while and now I actually REMEMBER to take my bags with me. I must admit that I’ve collected quite a cute collection of recyclable bags and that now I’ve expanded beyond the grocery store, taking them everywhere I go shopping.)
I actually DO recycle plastics, bottles, and aluminum cans now on a regular basis, rather than just pretending that I do (which was once in a while).
I actually LIKE it hot in the summer, even sticky, icky hot, because it’s an excuse to jump in the pool. My three guys can’t stand the heat after working outside in it all day, so we just have AC in the bedrooms for sleeping. I must admit that I shut it off during the day, keep curtains closed and doors shut, and only turn it on in time for it to be cool for their sleeping comfort.
OK, this might be crazy, but I heard this from a thrifty friend. At first, I thought it was a bit out there and then I tried it: I shut the furnace off during the day (and now after showers at night, too) because why heat it up all day and night to make hot water that no one needs it? In the winter, we use our combo wood/oil furnace, so we actually use very little oil.
OK, that’s it for now, but I keep adding to the list, as Sophia Uliano says, one step at a time. Do you have any other ideas for me?
So, what did I learn at the Island School?