~Yes, it's a thing ... and we do it!~
WALK, BIKE, TAXI, BUS...let me tell you about it 😉
So today I thought I'd delve into our lives as a 'car-free' family and answer the classic five W questions, starting with the WHY?
First, let me dispel the notion that many people assume when they hear we don't have a car. It was NOT because we couldn't afford one. We had a van which I affectionately named 'Madame Blueberry' and I loved her. Until we made this big decision, I had always owned a vehicle. Growing up in the country meant that buying my first car came hot on the heels of getting my driver's license.
But in my growing awareness of the horrendous cost of oil and gas production on the environment, on real people and in its role in war, and I just looked and saw oil saturating everything around us. I wanted to escape it. How could I continue to rail against oil and gas companies when I was so dependent on them myself?
It is so hard to extricate ourselves from our systems of production. I'm trying, but every item we buy in the grocery, hardware, clothing, dollar stores -- it all has an imprint of oil and gas on it. Every bit of plastic is a result of it. It just sucks that we are literally swimming in it daily.
So, what was one thing that we as a family could do? Well, we could stop filling our thirsty tank with gas every week.
I read everything I could find on the internet from families who had gone car-free. I scoured YouTube for videos of biking with kids, biking in the winter, biking in the sun, you name it, I was looking for it. I was obsessed. And I had no idea if we could do it.
But here we were, in a city that DID have a transit system. We lived within walking distance of a mall that had a grocery store, bank, drug store and library among other things. Sure, the grocery store was more expensive than the one I usually drove to, but maybe I could splurge on a taxi home when I wanted to stock up on staples at the cheaper place? There was a walk-in clinic a block away...
What else, what else...
There was so much to consider, but finally our van developed a cough and it was going to need some work done in the near future. It seemed like a sign.
So, we thought of a compromise for our own peace of mind. We could keep the van and get a year's worth of storage insurance. If we couldn't do it, if it was too hard, we could just re-insure it and, tail between our legs, go back to our car dependent life.
It was settled then. We were taking the plunge with a safety net in place. When I went to change the insurance on the van, I had a great chat with the insurance lady. Far from looking down her nose at the idea, she was enthusiastic about our coming adventure and was interested in how it worked out for us. She said that she was trying to walk more and wished she could do the same.
Oh, and there was another little challenge -- I was pregnant when we parked the van that December 31st, 2014. I was staying true to my motto: "What's the hardest possible way to do this? LET'S DO IT!"
Yes, so I feel I can say with some degree of certainty, that if we could do it, then many others could too. At least those who live in cities where there is a decent transit system. It does take some shifting of priorities, some patience as you learn to wait for buses and take the extra time to walk or bike to places, but these are the deep changes that we need to make when we see the environmental crises for what they truly are.
We have been going like this for nearly four years and we are completely used to it now. It hasn't been without it's inconveniences, and there has been grumbling on many occasions, but on the other hand, we haven't had to deal with car breakdowns, accidents or close calls, unexpected costs and the headache of driving kids everywhere all the time simply because there's a vehicle in the driveway. My teens have learned how to take the bus and when there's a crisis of any sort, there are taxis ready for hire. But I will get more into the 'How' of it in another post.
I hope you stay with me as I add to this series. I also hope that it will encourage you to consider making similar changes if you are able!
Until next time,
Many twists and turns, stops and starts and stalls led me to a whole-food, processed sugar-free and plant-based life. If we had never had to deal with health issues, I may never have looked at it. So, with one child who suffered from allergies, horrible excema and a gluten-sensitivity and another child who is haywire when he has processed white/brown sugar, I was forced to look at how I was feeding my family.
We eliminated eggs for a period of time around 11 years ago (the Grade 5 immunization in Canada is egg-based, and our daughter's body had trouble dealing with it) and moved to a gluten-free (due to gastrointestinal issues) way of cooking. It was Difficult. My repertoire of recipes were no longer viable and in 2007 the gluten and egg-free options were hard to find...and I found myself dreading cooking. Over those few years, I experimented-many fails, few successes-and eventually got better and started to feel good about my cooking again.
Enter the 'Hungry For Change' documentary....and then 'FoodMatters'...and I shifted again. These movies called attention to the incredible amount of sugar in our North American diet and processed food in particular. We clearly needed to eat more vegetables. I realized that this was contributing to why my son was so difficult - too much sugar was going into his growing body. I learned so much from these documentaries and they really supported me as I implemented going sugar-free.
I would just like to note this mistake I made as a warning for other moms: DO NOT TELL YOUR CHILDREN THAT YOU AREN'T BUYING SUGAR ANYMORE and expect them to be as excited as you are. We had a revolt.
But I was stubborn and prevailed hahaha. We have been white/brown/molasses/corn syrup-free for about 5 years now. Not perfectly! We have icing on cakes and treats from friends and school still make it through the gate but it is WAY less than it used to be. We've even changed Hallowe'en...but I'll write about that in a different post 😉
When we were first married I had a sugar bin, and bought a 10kg bag of white sugar about once a month. Now I have coconut sugar, maple syrup and honey to sweeten our life (yes, I know that honey is from bees and many vegans abstain. We have quite a few bee-keepers in our area who are passionate about their bees and no bees=no growing food, so I am happy to support them). We eat very little processed sugar, preferring fresh and frozen fruit and raisins as sweet treats over the kid-friendly fruit snacks and store-bought cereals and granola bars. The kids still like those things but I don't buy them as a regular staple anymore.
So while I was transitioning to sugar-free and increasing the amount of vegetables in our diet, my sister Carla had been moving towards Veganism and while I was there for a visit, she introduced me to 'Forks over Knives'. While I was always sad when animals die and had to pretend that they didn't when I ate meat, it hadn't really hit me as something that I could or would be willing to change. We need meat, right?? Well, between that movie, Cowspiracy and great support on www.Foodmatters.com...I was done with Meat. Now to get the family on board....
Thankfully I remembered my "DON'T TALK ABOUT SUGAR-FREE" lesson and started with myself. The first week was hard, the cravings while cooking meat for everyone else were sometimes overwhelming. The second week I was tired and had brain fog and thought 'I don't think I can do this' about a million times. By the third week, I was feeling proud of myself and in the fourth week I watched the documentaries again to bolster my spirit. I was still cooking meat, but it was no longer attractive to me. Yay!!
Somewhere around month 4, as I stuffed a Turkey (not for the last time, but I'll get into that later) I realized that I couldn't even cook meat anymore. My Spirit was screaming at me. I was a hypocrite. How could I spout the health and spiritual benefits I was experiencing of living animal-protein free and still feed it to those that I love the most? It wasn't enough for me to just abstain...I needed to remove it from the dinner table. So, a few months later I told my husband "I'm not cooking meat anymore. Period. I just can't do it. I can't feed it to the kids anymore. If you want it, you will have to buy it and cook it yourself." Fight ensued. Not a deal-breaker one, but one that definitely shook things up!
So there we were, a somewhat divided family for a period of time while I once again dreaded cooking dinner and the inevitable discussion of 'where's the beef?' at the table. And I had to learn how to cook food that my family would eat and hopefully enjoy! Some wins along the way...a lot of misses. But we got through it.
In the spirit of compromise, I taught my husband how to stuff the turkey the next Yuletide and washed my hands of it completely the second year..and last year he said 'Why don't we just not have turkey this year?' so we had a Harvest Vegetable Pot Pie and it was a bigger hit than the turkey had been all those years!
Over the last year, I have let go of dairy. It's not always perfect - I love dips and caesar dressing and sometimes slip, forgetting that there's probably dairy in them. Letting go of cheese was tough, but I found that once I stopped looking at it like a nutrient source and more like a garnish, it was easier to give up and convert to Non-Dairy cheeses when I feel the craving. Dairy-free options in restaurants can be hard to find, so occasionally I send an energetic Thank You to the cow or chicken who provided me with that aspect of my meal. I have learned to Forgive Myself on this path.
Overall, the dairy consumption in our home has DRASTICALLY reduced - in the past we used to buy FOUR 4L jugs of milk a week..yes, you read that right...and now we buy none. There's still cow cream going into some coffee mugs, cow butter for those that still want it on their toast and cow cheese going on kid pizza and nachoes (still working on a good melt-in-the-oven cheese!) but waaay less than even a year ago! I'm excited for a further reduction in this next year!
As far as the kids go...I have one daughter who transitioned easily to about 98% meat-free (parties and friends homes are the other 2%) in the first few months of my cooking completely meat-free, a son who has discovered that veggie hotdogs and nuggets are now his favourite (yes, they are highly processed, but this is a Journey, not a race!), another son who craves Udon Noodle Miso Soup (from www.itdoesn'ttastelikechicken.com - LOVE her!!) which is loaded with straight-up tofu! And because my eldest is out in the Great Big World living her life...all I can do it hope that her Food Choices are a Blessing to the Earth and her body and encourage her where I can. My husband and children may never be completely vegan, but through discussion and taking the time to really acknowledge where our food comes from, their food consciousness has definitely improved.
It has been over 3 years now that I have been fully vegetarian.
I feel good, from the Inside-Out. My kids are healthier, we talk about food differently now. This was the right path for us and I'm glad I implemented it for my family. This journey began with excema, tummy troubles and a child who literally bounced off the walls, challenges that felt frustrating and very unfair at times, but the strings weaving our Family Food Story led us to where my Spirit always wanted our family to go. 'Do what you will, and harm none.' We're getting there and I am Greatfull for that 🙂
One of the things that I felt would help me on the way to a Plastic-Reduced kitchen was Beeswax Wraps!
These handy sheets and bags were made with an old, clean duvet and napkins that were destined for goodwill, a block of Beeswax from our Health Food Store, my handy dandy sewing machine and some string from Dollarama. Thankfully my Mom was around while I sewed the bags and she grated up all the beeswax for me (thanks Mom!)
First Step was to create the bags...I used no pattern and just eye-balled the size and shape (which is why this rectangle is not perfect - I am a 1 hr-project girl after all!), creating a 1/2 inch hem at the top for the drawstring.
Next I used aluminum foil to line my oven rack and cut to size a piece of parchment paper to go inside the bag to keep the two layers separate. This way I could do 1 side at a time without them fusing together 🙂
Oven preheated to 200F, it only took a few minutes to melt into the cloth...keep an eye on it! When it looks all melted, pull it out of the oven and let it cool ~ I like to pick it up and wave it around 😉 Once it is cool, it is ready to use!
They aren't perfect or overall as pretty as I would like...but that's what trying something new is all about! Next time, I want to choose some fabric that is more colourful and create some sandwich/snack bags for school lunches ~ when I have done them, I'll post some pictures!I find that they keep my vegetables fresh for waaay longer than plastic bags!
Here's an example of mushrooms that I bought in a plastic container, removed the plastic and replaced it with a Beeswax Napkin:
TWO weeks later....
a little bit brown but Still Edible! That's a WIN!
The rogue or thief is one of the standard playable character classes in most editions of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. A rogue is a versatile character, capable of sneaky combat and nimble tricks.
So there are times when the current state of the world in politics, corporate hegemony and the biggest existential threat our world has ever known -- climate change -- get me so angry and freaked out that I just want to run into the streets and scream at everyone. Which would be super weird because everything around me just rolls along as usual. I suppose if I turned off the news, stopped reading books and articles, I could just nestle in and pretend these issues have gone away.
But of course, they haven't.
And so, as I frantically try to figure out what I have to offer to this fight, it occurs to me again that there is a very subversive way to live our lives that can truly 'stick it to the [corporate] man'.
Now, for most of my life, I've had this frustration while watching movies: A car/truck/train is barreling down a road/track chasing someone who is running for their life. They are running flat out in front of this terror. And all I can think is --
"For the love of God, jump off the road!"
That one person is not going to be able to either: a. Outrun that vehicle or b. Turn around and stop it.
So here is my challenge to everyone who sees what is happening:
Get off the road!
Now I realize that what I'm about to say is really nothing all that new [with the exception of eating animals -- environmentalists seem slow to pick up on that one], but here is where I would suggest it is still important enough to put into bullet form: the changes we need to make are not little pretty changes that make us feel good. These changes must be profound and deep. But before that scares anyone away, consider this: we get to forge a new and better way of living that is less dependent on stuff and potentially much more satisfying. So here are my bullet points:
If everyone that could stopped driving and took public transit, demand for oil would drop. And demand for better public transit would lead to better public transit!
If everyone stopped eating animals and their by-products, demand for the cruel and environmentally devastating animal 'agriculture' would drop.
If everyone stopped using plastic, demand for plastic would drop.
If everyone stopped buying so much cheap, useless and essentially disposable crap, demand for that crap would drop.
No government or overseeing trade organization can force you to drive, eat animals, or buy something you don't want to buy.
Instead, how about we:
Ride a bike, walk, take public transit. And yes, support a taxi driver when the other methods won't work.
Grow a garden, buy local produce, eat plant-based [it's cheaper and healthier too!]
Find more beautiful ways to store our lunches, cover our left-overs, sip on our drinks, furnish our homes and kitchens. Forego single use plastics -- they're blah anyways.
Spend less on cheap, disposable stuff, and more on quality goods and actual experiences. Buy local, buy carefully, buy only what you deem beautiful and/or useful in your life. Minimalism is a powerful trend that could really have an impact on our wallets and our psyches, and it has as many different versions as people who adopt it. You don't have to live in a stark white home with one set of clothing to embrace the mindset of minimalism.
Buy used. Second hand finds are the best!
Compost plant-based left-overs. Use the compost in the garden.