I think it's a good thing that Earth Day falls hard on the heels of April 15th in this country. Like it or not, that paper trail left by months and months (and months and months) of spending affords one a stark look at one's true politics.
And enlightenment is rarely pleasant. I still remember culling my old, big-time-ad-gal tax returns a few years after I'd left the corporate world. I was by turns mystified and horrified at the profligate spending I managed to justify while high on the Korporate Kool-Aid. I spent how much on dinner...how many nights in a row? Or worse, I gave how little away? Clearly, I am the Asshole of the Universe.
My life is much, much simpler now, but I'm also more awake. (Old people sleep less, you know.) Of course, the more veils lifted from your eyes, the more unavoidable what still needs to be done: the blessing/curse of awareness. There's no turning back, only a weird, muddly phase of running in circles, scratching one's head, figuring out what happens next.
So here are my observations, along with some figuring (I'll spare you the annoying scratching that came in between). Nothing's written in stone: I'm sure more hindsight will point out additional follies and better/stronger/faster opportunities for growth, but it's a start, anyway...
PROBLEM #1. I use way too much gas.
My 2004 Corolla supposedly gets 35 MPG (32 city, 40 highway). Not as bad as SUV Nation, not as good as electric or hybrid. Declining auditions (boo hoo!) and increased work from home (yay!) have gotten my annual mileage down to around 7,000, but The BF drives us around a lot, so I probably still burn up at least 10K miles' worth of fossil fuel: too, too much.
Alas, L.A. is not a walking city. When I can, I run errands in nearby Larchmont (or in Silver Lake when I'm staying at My Country House). But I can't hoof the 10, 20, 50 blocks I used to clock in New York and Chicago because more often than not, my destinations are even farther than that, and public transportation is too slow since the buses (and connecting buses) are caught in the same heinous snarl.
If I were more alert and my fellow Angelenos more considerate, I'd buy a (used) bike and cycle more often. As it is, I get a little nervous just crossing the street. Too many people (especially those from SUV Nation, you know who you are, motherfuckers) blowing through too many red lights.
SOLUTION: Honestly? While co-habitation would shave 40 or so miles off of my weekly log, I think the only way to substantially improve my ecological footprint in this quadrant is to move to a smaller/more navigable burg where I can bike and/or walk and or take public transportation more readily. I'm down with that, although I still have to get The BF on board. (To be fair, if I lived in My Country House, I'd probably find L.A. more liveable, too.)
PROBLEM #2: I spend way too much on television.
This isn't as obvious a "green" issue as burning up petroleum, but there are larger ecological implications to turning over such a substantial portion of my time and entertainment dollar (over $90/month) to canned, passive entertainment. I'm not supporting my local community of artists; I am helping corporate America (and, by extension, all the thoughtless waste and consumption it promotes) to maintain its stranglehold on the world.
On the other hand, it's the best way I know to stay plugged into what mainstream America is doing and thinking. That, and The Sopranos fucking rocks.
SOLUTION: Get rid of one of my cable boxes and dump the premium channels. (After Sopranos is over, of course.) Or figure out an exact thing I could treat myself to with that money which would help me to create, rather than mindlessly consume.
PROBLEM #3: I spend way too much to be fit (especially since I'm not).
Three years ago, I got an incredible deal on my local Gold's Gym. But even at the low, low price of $120/year for my membership, it costs me 60 bucks per workout. Plus I have to drive there. Plus gyms suck major heinie.
SOLUTION: Give myself until renewal to go. If I don't, quit and use free weights at home. And walk more. (See #1.) $120 is $120. Don't flush money down the toilet! Untreated money is bad for the metropolitan water supply!
PROBLEM #4: I spend way too much on groceries.
This one is a little tougher. Since I make virtually all of my own food from scratch, and since my gut is kind of delicate, I spend more both to get quality ingredients and to find things that are appetizing. Believe me, before I got sick with Crohn's, I was dandy-fine with living a tiny-footprint life on brown rice, vegetables and tofu (with the occasional Filet-O-Fish Extra Value Meal and salt-n-vinegar potato chip binge for variety), provided, of course, there was booze, and GOOD booze, at that. (Really, what's the point of drinking shitty liquor? If you need to pass out that badly, hit yourself on the head with a hammer and be done with it.)
When I'm in a flare, I also have a hard time determining what I'll be able to eat. I was doing fine on almost-normal people food when, a few days ago, I fell off the SCD wagon and stuffed my face with three three THREE pieces of bread. Now I'm back to Baby Tummy (sucks) and with a fridge full of undigestible matter like salad, strawberries and members of the onion family.
Besides, making a smaller impact on the earth will probably entail spending a little more for products from sustainable growers. So my food expenditures will likely rise if I start taking all this peak oil stuff seriously.
SOLUTION: Spend more on what I have to, and get back in the habit of going to my local Sunday Farmer's Market.
After all, it's within walking distance...