The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. (Economy) Walden, Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau is talking about the race of men that are born into an ideal that one must work and toil the best parts of his life away in order obtain the trappings of success.  I think this is one of the most important sentences in Walden and resonated with me as I read it while in the midst of a career crisis – 15 years into a career that I realized I hated.  While I don’t agree with everything in Walden, Thoreau is right that if we allow ourselves to  get sucked into the trappings disguised as luxuries, we will toil in desperation, worried about keeping that life going and thereby limiting our choices when by fate (bad economy) or by design (unhappiness) our current jobs are no longer an option.  By simplifying we open avenues that we never knew existed and allow us to sing in ways we never before considered.

I will quote a lot from Thoreau, after all he did go into the woods and idealized the quintessential simple life in Walden.   We can learn a lot from his experience but we should also remember that his extremism, while a goal, isn’t always obtainable.  Thoreau enjoyed a luxury most of us don’t have – friends that tolerated his philisophical minimalism, in the name of Ralph Waldo Emerson who owned a home in Concord Massachusetts in which Thoreau often lived and the land on Walden Pond on which Thoreau built his famous cabin in the woods.

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Do you pick the fruit?

July 16, 2007

One of my frugal/simple/organic message boards is having a review.   Simple/ecological living acts are designated as fruit and embarking on the simple/light lifestyle you begin by picking the low hanging fruit and moving up the tree as you get more comfortable.  Have you reached the top of the tree?  I am proud to say we have.   I have placed an asterisk next to the things we do to be more simple, ecologically friendly.  We do a lot but we could clearly do more.

Low Hanging Fruit

  • Bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store*
  • use reusable containers rather than plastic bags or ziploc bags*
  • shop at a local farmer’s market to reduce petrol use in shipping food to your grocery store*
  • shop once a week*
  • increase ac temp/lower heat temp*
  • use compact florescent bulbs*
  • shop thrift stores and second hand when purchasing items*
  • Install a clothes line*
  • Drink out of one cup during the day, refilling it as necessary*
  • ditch bottled water, fill a pitcher in the fridge for quick access to cold water*
  • wear clothes more than once*

Medium Hanging Fruit

  • Plan car trips for maximum efficiency*
  • bike/use public transportation for work
  • have a producing garden*
  • mow lawn with reel mower
  • replace grass with native plants to reduce water and work* – in progress
  • compost kitchen scraps*
  • install gutters/rain barrels to collect rain water

Top of the Tree

  • buy appliances with high energy star rating*
  • install solar panels
  • install tankless water heaters
  • install solar powered water heater
  • buy a Prius
  • telecommute to work*
  • switch to front loading washer*
  • move closer to work