I just watched the movie I Am Greta and was inspired to think about what we are doing right and what we can do better. I am trying to run all my decisions through the filter of “is this sustainable?” You are probably doing the same, but I believe we can all learn from each other. Here are some of the things Paul and I have incorporated into our life, and some things we are working on. Maybe you can leave a comment with additional suggestions. I would love to hear from you and get more ideas.
We are using less fossil fuel
The pandemic has helped with this as we are driving our car very little. We take it out about every ten days to go for groceries that are too heavy or bulky to carry on foot. I also didn’t fly to the US last summer to visit family as I normally do. Paul is quite the saver as he has only flown to the US once in the last 13 years. The pandemic has shut off our Mexico travel also. Where we live it is easy to walk most places. If it’s a first time going somewhere for me I will check how far it is on Google Maps first. As you can see our car is covered with old bedding in the garage. If we ever buy another car it will be an electric one for sure.
In another energy saving strategy most of our laundry is dried in the sun. We are lucky to live in a very sunny climate. All shirts are hung out on hangars so there is very little ironing needed too.
Eat Less Meat and Dairy
You know I’ve been a vegetarian for 35 years or so but over time I’ve noticed Paul is also eating less meat. Large scale meat production is one of the biggest contributors to climate change and also a huge polluter. This is an easy one for all of us, just add meatless meals to your week until you are using it more as a condiment than as a main course.
Use Things Over and Over
We don’t buy plastic bottles of water, we have water bottles we fill at home. We don’t go to coffee shops for to-go coffee anyway but if we did we would bring our own cup. We save all our waste paper and plastic for use over and over (see the picture below) and also use beeswax wraps in the kitchen. Have you noticed how many grocery items are packaged in high quality zipper bags? I use them over and over.
We like to give our used items to charity thrift shops and that’s almost always where we go first when we need something. If we can’t find it we will try to find it locally but if it isn’t available (and we still want it) we usually consult Mercado Libre or Amazon Mexico. I know this means there is shipping involved, unfortunately. But everything in all the shops got shipped there somehow so this is still a bit of a problem for me.
Use Renewable Energy
We don’t have solar on our house. We have a nice open south facing roof that will likely be excellent for it but we just haven’t decided to do it yet. We live in a climate where we don’t need heating or cooling so the savings would be very small. Here the solar connection sells the overage to the electric company so even with solar you aren’t insulated from outages. In order to do that we would need to have battery storage. All of this is getting more efficient and coming down in cost so I imagine we will go ahead with it in the future one day.
Recycle and Reuse
One thing I love about living here is how easy it is to informally recycle and reuse things. For example, a month or so ago our aluminum waste had built up to the point it filled two good sized bags in the garage. As I was out walking one morning a block away an older woman was rummaging in someone’s garbage looking for cans so I asked her if she would like mine. She knew exactly where I lived and came and got them an hour later. I see her often and will let her know when they accumulate again. Same thing with cardboard – I put out a neat pile and off it goes. In Mazatlán there were “pickers” who went through the garbage on our corner so I would put out bags of used but decent clothing and shoes and they would find a new home. The photo above is our composter, another way to recycle our kitchen and garden waste.
Grow Your Own Produce
We have excellent access to delivered organic produce here so I don’t grow that much but I do have six or seven black storage bins that are our veggie garden. What do you like to grow? By the way, if you’re in Mexico you can order and even get free delivery of seeds from Baker Creek Seeds. Look at what I got, above. They took a month to get here.
Use Less Water
We are always careful with water but the reality of water is obvious to all of us living at Lake Chapala. Our water doesn’t come from the lake (I guess Guadalajara gets a lot of it) but from wells nearby. At the end of the dry season the water gets limited and very smelly and dirty as they get to the bottom of the wells. Most people aren’t aware of these types of connections, and I think it’s a good thing to know. We are happy we have a decent cistern but people who only have a tinaco on the roof sometimes have to get the water trucks (pipas) to deliver them water at the end of the dry season.
Most people in Mexico rely on bottled water delivery for their drinking water. This is because the pipes aren’t pressurized and any small breaks in the pipes allow bacteria to enter from the dirt in the ground. We decided instead of having garrafón delivery we would invest in a Berkey water filter. We love the Berkey for its wonderful tasting, clean water and very long life water filters. Our house has an ultraviolet filtration system so I feel very comfortable with the cleanliness of the water and just hope the wells here stay stable.
Buy Locally and Fair Trade
I like to buy from the local tiendas and tianguis as much as possible. We are lucky to have a guy who brings coffee from his family plantation in Veracruz. But I still have some work to do as some of my “gringo treats” are traveling a long ways to get to me, I’m sure. I don’t buy clothes at “fast fashion” retailers and try to choose good quality clothes that I can pass on when I’m done with them.
Use Eco Friendly Household Products
I had a bit of a battle with my housekeeper to get her to quit dumping her buckets of Fabuloso in the cobblestone street… she had never made the connection that all that junk just goes into the lake. I actually lamented weaning her off Fabuloso as it is so beloved here but a week ago after a couple of weeks of allergy symptoms while she worked we decided she would just use vinegar. Hallelujah!
I hope that this post has inspired you to watch I am Greta and to comment with your ideas and tips for living a more sustainable life.