Like most young families we didn’t have any extra money. We would have cherished a sleek, fuel-efficient car but we couldn’t afford to turn down my grandmother’s leviathan, hand-me-down station wagon. Our rented house was not well insulated but it needed to stay warm, especially while we had babies, so the furnace ran all the time. There were lots of trips to the market and the pediatrician. I wanted to minimize my negative impact on the planet but I needed to care for my family. I felt I needed to stay engaged with my life in a modern society.
If I stopped holding myself to an unrealistic standard, I found I could take great satisfaction in small achievements. The landlord was happy to pay for the materials and helped me install new insulation in the attic. It made the house a lot cozier, and cheaper to heat. We found an inexpensive, fuel-efficient used car. I kept the leviathan for my short commute to work, but the daily family errands and longer trips could be taken in the smaller car. We bought a living Christmas tree and planted it in the backyard after the holidays. When spring came, we planted a bigger garden. Gradually our life became more sustainable and more satisfying.
We’re still working on it.
This essay is excerpted from Beautiful and Abundant: Building the World We Want published by B&A Books in December, 2010. The book is available now on the Mother Earth News bookshelf.
Photo by Bryan Welch