Friday, May 02, 2008

What would I be willing to give up?

Wendy over at Happily Home posted a challenge to consider the modern amenities we're privileged to have from a trade-off point of view: what would we be willing to give up in order to keep?

This is a tricky post to write because truth be told we've already given up lots of conveniences to a large extent, and much of what we haven't given up are just vestiges. There are several things I'd be able to give up pretty easily if pressed. For instance, a flushing toilet. I'd have no problem switching to a composting toilet, but right now we have a flush toilet that goes into a septic tank, so not much point in ripping one out to put in the other. We're pretty temperate here, so I'd give up heat as long as we have our wood stove and fuel to burn, which is what we pretty much did this past winter with the thermostat set at 55° during the day and 50° at night. Television and a clothes dryer are non-issues for me, though I do like being able to watch movies at home. I do lots of things by hand around the farm rather than using gas-powered machines: hauling water and 50# feedbags, for instance, weeding, pest control. I like having the tractor to turn the compost pile, but we could do that by hand, too, if we needed to.

So there are lots of things that I can easily see giving up, especially if that meant getting the reward of keeping something else. But, that's really a false premise, isn't it? I mean, when things fall apart, we rarely get to choose in such a quid pro quo fashion. But it's a fun mental exercise nonetheless if for no other reason than it reveals a lot about ourselves. So at any rate, my list may have a bit of a doomsday spin to it, but there's some frivolity there as well.

1) I'd give up my coffee maker... if I could keep coffee.

2) I'd give up my small appliances... if I could keep my stand mixer.

3) I'd give up plastic bags and buckets and bins... if I could keep greenhouse plastic.

4) I'd give up air conditioning... if I could keep fans.

5) I'd give up the grocery store... if I could keep bulk supply.

6) I'd give up my electric stove... if I could keep lights.

7) I'd give up my dishwasher... if I could keep my refrigerator.

8) I'd give up my washer... if I could keep my freezer.

9) I'd give up my flush toilet... if I could keep running water.

10) I'd give up the internet... if I could keep the mail, libraries, and print production. (yeah, I know, that's 3 things, but the internet's a biggie!)

What would you give up?


karl said...

i like your list 'cept we could never give up the internet. there is no local resource that compares to it. tristan taught himself to read on it. tabitha home schools from it. i work occasionally using it.

like you said we have already deleted many things from a normal american household list. eventually as money allows we'll restrict more and more things.

queued improvements like steel roof to feed existing cistern, put up solar hot water system, build summer kitchen and solar dehydrator will make a huge difference.

Wendy said...

Great list!

Incidentally, we gave up a coffee maker, but found a locally ground/blended, fair trade brand of coffee, and we use a french press, instead, which seems to work pretty well. The only bad part is that it doesn't keep the coffee warm. So, there's the having to heat up water again, if one wants hot coffee :) issue.

I did want to say that you're right, if things get really bad, we won't be able to make choices, and I guess, for me, the point is to get it out there that we would PREFER to have a choice, and maybe if we all make similar choices, we can work toward preserving those things by giving up the other. It's a nice dream, anyway.

I'm with Karl, though. I can't see giving up the Internet. I'd give up public school to keep public libraries, though. Oh, wait, I already did give up public school ... ;). I guess I can't count that one. Darn!

Jenny said...

This is kind of funny because I just spent last night and this morning on a mini-getaway from the farm indulging in several of the things I have willingly given up. I took a long, long, hot shower (only have a tub at home due to unfinished owner-built house--also limited water due to solar pumping). I slept in a bed with clean sheets (rarely have them at home due to farm life/sharing bed with kids full of dirt and dust). I watched TV until 2 AM without worry (at home the overnight power is limited due to being off the grid). And while I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it, I still wouldn't trade what my family has achieved for the ability to take a good shower.

I'm actually having a hard time figuring out what else I'd give up! Not the internet. Not dance class. Hmmm, maybe travel. I am already bracing myself for that. Already gave up flush toilet, clothes dryer, dishwasher, air conditioning, and gas/electric heat. Just gave up online movies. I'd give up TV but not radio. Oh, here's one. I'd give up coffee and tea if I could keep my red wine. I'd give up chocolate if I could keep avocados.

Oh, and FYI on the composting toilet: septic tanks are pretty bad for groundwater contamination, especially the black water, and all of the nutrients in the humanure are wasted. A sawdust bucket toilet can easily be used for the humanure while still using the septic for the gray water. What I have found to be the real question with regard to a composting toilet is whether one would be willing to give up their marriage if they can keep their composting toilet!

Danielle said...

I'd give up the internet only if it meant keeping the other things. As much as I love the internet and computers, I'd *much* rather keep mail and publishing.

Karl, I agree: with time and money to complete projects, we're moving steadily in the right direction.

Wendy, my point wasn't meant as a criticism. I think this was a hugely fun exercise!

Jenny, yes, I think there are loads of benefits to composting toilets. But most of the time I think it would be much easier to start from scratch, building a green house from the get-go, than trying to retrofit a typical American home.

Sure, we could pull out the existing toilets and rebuild composting toilets in their place (and we're seriously considering putting a composting toilet in the basement, though that doesn't address the running water issue down there). But honestly, that's not a high priority project. There are, as you know, several things ahead of something like that on our to do list, bringing us back to the money enough and time dilemma.

What interests me is how incredibly dependent I am on electricity. Not that it's a big surprise, but my list showed me the things that I reeeally didn't want to part with, given the choice.

Although, personally, I'm still not convinced that wood fuel is much of an environmental panacea either. It sure comes with it's own load of environmental affects.

Ren said...

I really don't ever want to give up the internet. Too valuable as a leveling tool for the masses...keeps the higher ups from controlling information.

I have lived without electricity just fine for days at a time and actually enjoy it. Except I really would want a woodstove. So very nice for getting hot water when you don't have a shower and for cooking and heat etc...

That's one thing I hope I can keep, my hot showers. It's one luxury I really love. Internet and hot showers. Yep, my list is more about what I won't give up.:) ha

If I have a root cellar I'm ok without the refer. If I have a woodstove I'm ok without electrical heating/cooling. Oh, and a cistern if I have to live without running water...or better yet, a clean creek from the mountain tops.:)

Maggie said...

When I first read this post it made me feel a little panicky. What would I be willing to give up? I'm so spoiled by my easy life. But I did come up with a few things. (And I realize that you and a lot of your readers have already given up a lot of these things, but don't laugh.)
I'd give up my microwave if I could keep my coffeemaker.
I'd give up my hot water if I could keep running water.
I'd give up my dishwasher if I could keep my dishwasher.
I'd give up my TV if I could keep my computer.
I'd give up everything if I could wake up every morning next to Kent.
Sorry that last one is so hopelessly sentimental but it's true!

Maggie said...

Duh, I meant I'd give up my dishwasher if I could keep my washing machine.