After years of reading posts from green bloggers trying to dispel the "myth" of costly green living, I am very aware that the great majority of green bloggers out there believe that eco=frugal.
And I agree, to some extent.
The "R" of "Reduce" really brings this point home- the less we consume for the most part the more we save in money.
But what I find unendingly frustrating is the lack of discussion around what the other "cost" may be, and how some of us (many of us) are unable to meet that cost. Oh I know many of you will read this and get defensive super quick, I know how annoying it is to work hard to get people to make tough changes and have someone say "yeah but...", at the same time if we never acknowledge some real challenges we'll never find solutions.
Each area of living has some green components where we can make changes to better the environment. And each area of change comes with a financial or non-financial "cost" associated. Not sure what I'm talking about?
My husband and I are a one car family. My car is 8 years old and little (yaris hatchback) which equals pretty fuel efficient. That said- now that we live a 45min commute to the city (and work) and we carpool, we've noticed some definite challenges financially. Its costing us in our time and fuel- if I have an evening community meeting, want to meet up with friends, go to a yoga class, it's either force my husband to stay in the city waiting for me or an extra trip and back just for that meeting. The result- I miss community board meetings that I participate in, don't take yoga classes and our friend time is restricted to the weekends. On top of this, several times a year I need to travel to rural communities around the province for my work... so we've been forced to rent a car so my husband can actually get to and from work (the city link bus would be a 45min walk from our house where we live AND the carshare option is more costly than renting).
Add the fact that I need a reliable car to safely drive all over the province and mine is getting old...truly we need a second car. Eight years ago we were hoping that by this time electric cars would be available. Oh and they are. But only if you are rich.
Currently in Canada the Nissan Leaf costs over 60,000$... Yeah not even CLOSE to being in our budget. The hybrids, which are a sad copout honestly, still cost 23-25K... which we would have considered if my husband hadn't just lost his job.
The answer to "move to the city" is not a reasonable fix. (and a whole other post). For a variety of ecologically minded, philosophical and mental health reasons we decided to move to a more rural setting. It was the right choice for us and we're "stuck" there for another four years, mortgage wise.
Even if you did live in the city- bus passes are effing EXPENSIVE, the Halifax bus system is terribly unreliable and impractical and restrictive. If you need groceries, to get anywhere outside of the downtown core or even just get someone ON TIME, the public transit system is not your best bet. I say this because I have lived in cities where the public transit is amazing (Montreal). Even bicycling in Halifax can be a scary thing- lack of bike lanes, ginormous hills and narrow streets and you have a bunch of people who *would* bike but don't in fear of their safety.
I always get frustrated when I hear people talk about how shopping at the farmer's market is cheaper. I have no idea where they are shopping, but the Halifax markets are NOT cheaper than shopping in the grocery store. Overall we always spend at least 20%-30% more on produce and meat when shopping at the farmer's market. For a while we bought local milk and yogurt, which was almost twice the price as in the grocery stores and lasted half as long. Same applies to certified organic options- they are more expensive. Now- if we can afford it, I say this is money well spent. That said- we can't always afford it. Right now we're just trying to make ends meet until hubby can get another job.
This year we'll be trying to grow some of our own food. But you know- the start up for that costs money. We need to purchase the right kind of soil (too late to compost) and my husband had to build raised planter beds (which wood costs more money here than in the US). On top of that, gardening takes TIME. When we both work full time, only get home at 5-6pm Monday-Friday, eat supper and then have to spend a few hours gardening? Sure I figure we'll grow to supplement some of our food, but no way do we have time for a garden big enough for ALL our food needs.
Time. Here is the kicker to all our food woes really. Making foods from scratch takes time. We could bake our own bread- but it's hours of time... Which we only have two of the seven days of the week. Making soups and preprepared meals, all of that takes time. It's not say we don't try, but there is only so much we can accomplish when we work full time and have realistically a few hours each evening to get anything done.
Nova Scotia is an oil based heating province. I had all these dreams of having an eco-friendly home for our first home. Hah. There was NO way we could afford a house that already had eco-friendly heating options. We have an oil tank. It's gross. We've discovered that the windows in our house are crap quality and I can FEEL the cold air leak through. We've adjusted to living in 18 degree temperature (celsius), wearing sweaters and blankets, closing doors and blinds each night. Our house stays at 13 degrees overnight. But we still use oil.
I had hopes for solar panels... but we'd have to cover our entire roof and STILL we wouldn't get enough sun to power much in our house. Geothermal isn't an option since we live on bedrock. Add to that all the costs of actually installing these retrofits and since we're struggling just to make ends meet as it is, well.
I'm hoping that having Efficiency Nova Scotia come in and do an assessment (and replace all our bulbs to CFLs for free) will help- but I'm unsure if, beyond replacing all the windows which we cannot afford, anything extra than what we already do will come out of it.
I know this is a negative nancy post- but I honestly believe that our challenges aren't unique. I cannot be the only one who just looks at all the "green" superhero posts out there and just wants to be like "seriously??". I'd love it if we could all be realistic and open about the changes that we recommend and recognizing that some of these changes or green choices, are only available to those who are privileged enough to be able to afford (either with the time or money) them.
That and I guess the reality of my husband losing his job RIGHT after the holidays is getting to me...