Thursday, April 28, 2011

Staying Green

That our move halfway across the world has put some dampers on our lifestyle and our efforts to live sustainably is putting it mildly. The carbon footprint of the flight alone is frustrating. I can't recycle much of anything here because of our remote location and the lack of local processing facilities and markets for the raw material. While the Aussies are better about keeping their food close to it's natural state than the Americans - no corn syrup in everything! - and they don't seem to use as many pesticides and favor more sustainable farming, most everything has to be shipped in. Talk about an oil soaked diet!

I have lucked out on a source of eggs that makes me feel better about what they have in the grocery store. I can't get many right now, but hopefully that will change. I know a lady who lives up in Ti-Tree and teaches at a bush school where the kids are raising chooks for eggs to sell. She's got a bunch of us down here in Alice eager to buy the eggs, and the kids are excited to get more chickens to meet the demand. Yes, they have to travel 190 kms to get to me, but she has to come to town anyway to shop and see family, so it is a wash. And the price is right! At least until we get around to getting our own layers. One neighbor is a soon to retire contractor who has offered me help and scrap materials to build a coop/ark/tractor for them. And I would have plenty of people, between base folks and neighbors, happy to help take care of them when we travel in exchange for the eggs. So that is going well.

Composting is a bit of a funny story. When we first got here, I could not bear to throw away any of the food scraps we generated, after so many years of collecting them for composting. Of course, I had nowhere to put them, but I saved them anyway. Where did I put them? In the freezer! After a week or so, as I was running out of space, I came up with a solution. I took one of the boxes we had from shipping our stuff down here - can't throw those out! - and layered the scraps with shredded paper from said boxes - ditto! - and some coir mulch (like peat moss, but more sustainable). Stuck the box out under a tree and I am gonna let mother nature work her magic to get me some compost. All I should have to do is keep it moist and be patient, since I can't really turn it without wreaking the box. I have even been able to add to it as more food scraps build up and the composting ones shrink down. Once all our stuff gets here, I can use my worm composter to handle the food scraps.

One thing we were warned about in advance before getting here was that paper products were limited in selection and expensive. Good thing we do not really use much in the way of paper products, between our rags for messes, cloth napkins, cloth TP, and cloth menstrual pads! We do use some paper towels for things like bacon grease cleanup, but they go in the compost, so they end up being a source of brown carbon inputs there. We have not made the jump to cloth TP for #2, so we still need some toilet paper for that. The cool thing is that the recycled TP is actually cheaper than the stuff made with virgin pulp. Which only makes sense and I cannot understand why they charge so much back in the states.

One thing I am pretty dedicated to doing is growing as much food as I can for us. I was gifted with a whole bunch of pots soon after we arrived and I have started a ton of seeds for basic fresh salad veg, like lettuce, arugula, spinach, carrots, scallions, snap peas and some herbs. Even though I don't know if they will produce anything before it gets cold, I have some bush beans and scarlet runner beans going as well. A few strawberries are always good and I am trying some garlic and onions. We have a citrus tree in our backyard, but I am not sure what it is. The fruit are kind of lime sized and colored, but if you cut one open, it smells like an orange and is orange in color. The fruit is not ready to harvest yet, so it must be some type of orange. Whatever it is, it will give us lots of fresh fruit in a few months and that makes me happy!

Tomorrow, the base housing folks are coming to install solar PV panels on our roof. Not that it will help us financially, since the housing is provided here, but it will help our green sensibilities a ton! The house already has solar hot water as do most houses down here. Makes too much sense not to! So, those bases are covered quite nicely and are a fine addition to our normal conservation habits. Even if we don't pay for the energy with our own money, it is paid for with taxpayer money, so we will do what we can to save as much of that as we can!

OK, that is all I can think of right now, but I am sure you'll hear more from me about this kind of thing in the future.


Anonymous said...

It takes time to figure out what you can and can't do with regards to "green" when you relocate, but it sounds like you are doing an amazing job pulling things together to make it comfortable for you. I had a thought and I'm not sure if you do this already, but one thing I do for bacon grease is use paper grocery bags or other paper bags for draining my bacon. My grandma (coming out of the depression era) always did this. They don't absorb as well as a paper towel, but good enough. And, I almost always have something like that lying around. Keep posting. Love ya!

Anonymous said...

Oh, another thing I just thought of that I've drained bacon on before is chipboard (like a cereal box, etc). It absorbs some of the grease (the rest kind of pools where it is) but it can be composted after use. Just some ideas if you need them.:-)

Miranda said...

Thanks, Justine! I have used paper bags in the past, but the reason I use paper towels now is that after the bacon has "dripped dry" on the towel, I can use it to wipe most of the remaining grease off the pan I cooked the bacon in. Helps my drains out!

Hillary said...

Sounds like you are working with what you got--and really, that's all you can do!

I need to break down and get paper towels for our bacon. It's driving me crazy.