As a faculty member of an environmental studies program, I really need to “practicar lo que sermonear.” Our stay in City Bell has given us a chance or, more accurately, has forced us to live with a lower environmental impact. As I ask my students “what is the minimum amount of material and energy we can use and still live a safe, healthy, and happy life?” Ok, it is hard to measure the happiness part but we are relatively safe and certainly well-fed. A note on feeding: the children like to point out that I am growing at least one more chin. Maybe I will grow back my beard and hide my new collection.
In the US we have: two cars, many bikes, washer/dryer, fancy stove/oven, dishwasher, microwave, large refrigerator, assorted mixers and blenders, electric knife sharpener, central air/heat, and lots of other goodies. Here, we have a TV, an ancient fridge, a dinky stove/oven, a fraction of the pots and pans, and a quarter of the clothes we own. [We do have our computers]. It is like being in a camping cabin for three months.
How can we survive? Life without a car works because we can easily walk to get groceries, ice cream, soccer balls, etc. To get to work, I either pick up a bus near the house or, more often, walk twenty minutes to catch a bus on the main road (Camino Centenario). Total bus trip is 10-20 minutes. Eric and Julia take an overcrowded minibus to and from school. If we need to get somewhere with Emily, we take a taxi. To transport the entire family, we need two taxis (hassle but workable).
While we have reduced our transportation impact, I am not so sure about the house. The house is uninsulated and the fridge runs most of the time. A rolled up towel keeps out the draft from the gap under the front door.
On the stuff side, we get by with what we have. We do miss some of our appliances and certainly a car, but that is mostly when we need to get Emily somewhere. Most of our food seems to come locally, although bananas still come from Ecuador and other fruits from the western side of the country.
OK, lesson learned. We can get by with less. Can we go home now and fire up the big gas grill?