The Sustainability Report
Firinn Taisdeal - January 17, 2023
On issues of sustainability, many people have the attitude that responsibility for solving the issues of climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, ecological damage, species extinction as well as other issues lies exclusively with government and corporations. I do not share this view.
Of course legislation, government policy and responsible corporate governance are necessary and will always be necessary, yet we also all bear responsibility, personal responsibility, for our choices and actions that either make these problems worse, or contribute to solutions. I have chosen to concentrate on personal choices that contribute to solutions, and to do so comprehensively, because I have a moral responsibility to do so.
This means carefully considering every area of sustainability that applies to personal choices: overall use of energy and resources, source of electricity, type of heating, modes of transportation, sources of food, land use and land care practices, water use, beneficial versus harmful products, amount and type of packaging of products, and more. We all have a moral responsibility to consider these matters, and to make responsible choices.
Below is a less than complete list of the changes my partner and I have made toward ways of life which, if adopted by more people, would represent progress toward solutions to the major problems listed above.
Changes We've Made Toward Sustainability
- We switched over to getting all of our electricity from a solar farm, so now all of our electricity comes from solar, without our having to install panels on our house and with no financial outlay.
- Since we drive electric cars (one is a hybrid, but we use it in pure electric mode almost exclusively), and now get all of our electricity from solar, nearly all of our driving does not produce CO2 emissions, even indirectly.
- We bought an induction stove, because induction stoves are so efficient, and also because we wanted to stop using our gas stove in order to reduce our CO2 emissions. We bought a stove that heats one pot, for only about $50 online. It's totally great, like magic every time; the ferrous cookware gets hot, but the stove itself does not. We do most of our cooking with the induction stove now, partly because it's fun to use.
- We bought an air fryer, because an air fryer uses half the electricity of other forms of cooking with electricity. An air fryer also provides the qualities of fried food, but without the use of oils that when heated and combined with food generate chemicals harmful to health. Food cooked in an air fryer is crispy without any of the problems or mess involved in the use of oils.
- I've been testing various personal care products in order to reduce my use of plastic: refillable deodorant, refillable floss, shampoo bars instead of liquid shampoo in plastic bottles, other products. The results have been very informative, and I am using what I've learned to write articles for Eco Home Living.
- I read "Plastic: An Autobiography," an amazing work that includes the history of chemistry, the history of human conflict in the 20th century, the damage done to ecological systems by plastic, the damage to human communities near plastic manufacturing, all combined with the author's background of growing up in Los Alamos during the development of the H-bomb, in which styrofoam was a key design element. Yes that's true, and was a state secret for a long time.
- I went "Plastic Neutral" through a service that employs people in poor coastal communities to recover plastic along coastlines and then couples the plastic recovery with local repurposing and recycling operations. The average American is responsible for the production of 22 pounds of plastic per month. I now pay $8 per month to at least ensure that the equivalent amount of plastic is recovered and does not end up in the ocean. The service is from by Humankind through Plastic Bank, and is called "plastic offsets."
- We will be converting part of our lawn to a wildflower pollinator meadow this spring, planting 16 native species of wildflowers. When all the flowers bloom in the spring there should be lots of bees and other insects buzzing all over our meadow. We hope to turn this into a neighborhood attraction, to be enjoyed by all the people who take walks on our lane during the warm seasons.
- We will be doubling the size of our garden, to 8' x 16', in part in order to cut down on the size of our monoculture lawn, but also to promote organic growing locally, and to reduce transportation and reduce packaging of vegetables.
- We had a very successful giveaway of vegetable seedlings in the neighborhood last year, and are planning on expanding this effort in 2023, for the reasons cited just above of supporting organic agriculture, and reducing transportation and packaging of vegetables.
- We cancelled our mosquito spray service in favor of leaving a tub of water by the house with a mosquito dunk in it. This seems to be effective, and sure beats spraying a biocide all over our property. We may add a few more small tubs with dunks when the warm season returns.
- We bought a bat house that can accommodate up to 50 bats, and mounted it on the back of our shed. We hope to have some furry flying residents this spring, who will munch any remaining mosquitoes in the area.
- We cancelled the mosquito spray service also because we wanted to try to eliminate ticks on our property by applying soil nematodes instead. We ordered the soil nematodes through the mail, and used a hose sprayer attachment to apply them, mostly under and around the bushes and other plants on the property. This seems to have worked very well. We didn't see any ticks at all during tick season.
- We bought a bidet for each bathroom, so that we will never have to buy toilet paper again. A bidet is truly superior to the TP method.
- I've gotten to dislike gas powered lawn mowers for their noise pollution and emissions. I wanted an alternative, so I searched carefully for a modern manual lawn mower, and finally found a wonderful mower by Fiskars, known for their scissors. The mower is so easy to use, like walking up a very slight incline. I use it to mow the entire lawn, and barely break a sweat. Honestly, I wish it gave me more of a workout, but I love it.
- Gas powered leaf blowers are horrible: noisy, stinky, polluting. I bought a small corded electric leaf blower by Black + Decker, and am very happy with it. It's very quiet, but powerful. Yes, it still uses electricity, but since our electricity comes from a solar farm, it produces no CO2 emissions even indirectly.
- In order to further reduce my use of plastic, I made the following changes:
- Switched from toothpaste in a plastic tube to tooth brushing tablets packaged in a small cardboard container.
- Switched from anti-perspirant in hard plastic unrecyclable applicators to refillable deodorant packaged in a small paper tube.
- Signed up to receive a stainless steel toothbrush handle with replaceable biodegradable elastomer brush heads.
- Figured out a way to reload a standard dental floss dispenser with floss refills packaged in thin cardboard.
- In order to avoid buying plastic bottles, I bought a sparkling water maker with refillable CO2 canisters.
- I've been volunteering for Farming Falmouth, which is an effort toward expanding local growing of food on a community basis. Falmouth government purchased a tract of farm land, and now volunteers take care of the land. Farming Falmouth planted a large apple orchard, and I participated in the labour of applying cardboard sheet mulch as well as wood chip mulch in the entire orchard in November. Additional work involves weeding in the orchard, planting garlic, putting seaweed on the pawpaws and managing the large amounts of compost.
- I teamed up with the founder of LitterPic, based in Wells, Maine, to improve their web site and their service, and also in efforts such as suppling LitterPic-branded safety vests for those participating in litter cleanups.
- I do regular litter patrol locally, and have a list of areas in Pocasset I intend to clean up, such as the path behind the Corner Cafe, a section of Shore Rd. between the new park and the overpass above the train tracks, and the area behind the Country Market.
I encourage you to adopt any changes you believe would contribute to solutions to the serious problems of climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, ecological damage and species extinction. We all have a responsibility to do so.