We Need To Do Better

November 17, 2020

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.

Share and Enjoy !

More about Nancy

I'm Nancy, a US expat living in San Antonio Tlayacapan, Jalisco after 11 years in Mazatlán, México.

    1. Thank you Nancy for great and important ideas. I need daily reminders as i have a busy life and sometimes go the quick and easy route but am so inspired by Greta and you and anyone who has sustainability at the forefront of their consciousness. Sadly corporate and government practices sometimes drown out our efforts but we can’t give up! And we need COOL spokespeople who promote these practices to give it a COOL signature and make EVERYONE want to join in. Thinking of Beyoncé or Labron James…what do you think? Gracias Nancy!!!

      1. Hi Mary, Thank you so much for commenting, it was a really inspiring movie. I know we all want to do what’s right and sometimes that just isn’t clear. I really worry for the future of the planet. I love your idea but unfortunately people (I know I am) are on outrage overload right now. xoxo N.

    1. Thanks so much Nancy, Bodie is downloading I Am Greta now. I’m finding it particularly tough right now, and admire what seems to be a greater success level on your part, than I am managing now. But, when I took my kindle and cover, now held together with a few elastic bands, to the spa the other day during my pedicure, when I saw the woman’s face as she spotted it, her horror was palpable. Because of the language issue there was no point in my telling her she should be proud of me. Sigh.

      1. Hi Wendy, I hope you enjoy the movie, I had wanted to learn more about her for a long time. And she is still so young, only 17 now. There are so many things we can do that are small and make a difference but it’s the big things of course that are more worrying. I hope you are feeling better these days, what a challenge for you I know everyone wishes they could help… xoxo N.

    1. Nancy com I really enjoyed this blog post. It was inspiring and informative. I am intrigued by your lifestyle and the changes that you have made in the last few years. We all miss you in Mazatlan but rejoice in your joy of life in your new home.
      Maybe we can have a sustainably grown organic coffee together ( in our own cups from home) in Bellingham next summer if we are all able to travel. My best to Paul.

      1. Hi Mary, Oh yes, I would love a coffee with you next summer! For sure! Thanks so much for writing and Paul says hola. xoxo

    1. Hola Nancy –

      Great information, thank you so much.

      Might I ask re your Berkey water filter: what size is it please, and were you able to buy it here in Mexico? I don’t need a large one as it’s just me, my small dog, and the water I use for cooking.

      Also I’d like to know if you’re happy with your compost system, and whether you’d recommend a few raised beds or big pots for a vegetable garden?

      Thanks again so much for your insight and information. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Paul! It will certainly be one to remember.

      1. Hi Barbara, We bought a Royal Berkey because it’s both of us and two dogs. We bought it from Amazon Mexico but if you knew someone driving down I believe they are easier/cheaper to get in the US. A Travel size might even work for you but you will find you drink more water as it really is delicious.

        I love the composter but it was a beast to put together. I would always choose raised beds over pots for veggies, they just seem to do better but everyone needs to adapt to what they have as far as space and sunlight etc.

        Thanks for writing and I hope you stay healthy and have a nice Thanksgiving too.

    1. I really enjoyed this post. My husband and I live on the Pacific Coast in Mexico and follow most of your regimes for decreased carbon foot print. We are sheltering at home and have found a new upstart catering business that uses reusable containers and delivers by bicycle. We get a daily meal of Mexican comfort foods. A Canadian also has a cater company which delivers once a week freezer ready Canadian comfort foods like meat loaf, chicken pot pie, Shepard’s pie and Nanaimo bars. We also have 2 Berkey Water purifiers. One for the upstairs folks and one for the downstairs folks (us). The large garrifons where getting too heavy for our aging strength and we wanted water security no matter what the state of the public water system or electric infrastructure. Ii would love to garden and compost, but lots are too small in a beach town. Cheers, Susan

      1. Hi Susan, Thanks so much for your comment! We lived in Mazatlán for 11 years, we are enjoying the garden here near Lake Chapala. Good for you two on working towards a more sustainable life. I think it’s kind of fun and every little bit helps. Take care.

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