The Challenge and Opportunity
We are Leslie MacKenzie and Peter Foster, a married couple in our 50s, living in South Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our kids are grown and have left home. We’re in a new phase of life – free to try new things. (If you’re an empty-nester, you know something about that surge of freedom.)
In 2007 we took on a challenge to get radical about being thrifty. What we discovered was that as we became more thrifty, we also became more green. It wasn’t such a jump, then, in 2011 when we set our sights on reducing our carbon footprint after hearing a talk by Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute. That talk shook us to our core and we knew we had to make some big changes.
Leslie had some good role models for mindful living, many of them from the Quaker community. She had experience with some of the things we were going to do. Peter had a very powerful model of frugal living from his mother. He was a good sport about trying a lot of different things: co-op shopping to minimize packaging, using gray water, taking the light rail. But there were a couple of areas where he was hesitant.
- Housing: For most of us, housing is the biggest strain we put on the environment. That’s especially true in the frigid north. We can’t shrink the size of our house so the next best way to minimize our footprint is to share it. We started taking in roommates (after all, the kids are gone).
- Transportation: Peter was not keen on buses, whereas Leslie loves mass transit, so it was a real leap of faith for Peter when we sold our second car and became a one-car, one motor-scooter family. Leslie carpools, buses or bikes most places. Peter rides a People 50 to work from April to October. (He gets 90 miles per gallon and has put more than 5,000 miles on it!)
Despite his initial hesitation, Peter discovered that these changes were, at most, a minor inconvenience. We have experienced transportation problems fewer than a handful of times in the past 3 years. We have had a lackluster roommate or two, but we’ve also had some wonderful roommates who’ve greatly enhanced our lives.
Three things have been a challenge for us:
- Health issues: We’re not as young as we used to be 🙂 Our completely sedentary jobs have taken a toll on our stamina and our low backs. In 2014, we’re committed to getting more fit. Leslie even did some biking last winter when it was well below zero! That was a first for her.
- Deskilling: Like many Americans, there are a lot of things our parents and grandparents knew that we don’t. We need to relearn some skills, especially how to repair thing.
- Money: In general, we are looking at what we can reasonably afford to do with a typical 1920s South Minneapolis bungalow. Over the years we’ve insulated and replaced windows and doors. When some money came our way with the death of parents, we used it to install solar electricity and solar hot air on our house. We were perfectly situated to take advantage of that technology and it was the most significant change we could make to reduce our carbon footprint. We’re always on the lookout for the next big step we can take.
We anticipate that the pressure of keeping a blog updated will help us stay on track with trying new things. We also hope that readers will engage with us and that you will share new ideas and inspire us – or at least wish us well. We expect to post the following things:
- Monthly mini-challenges, tackling an area of daily living where we think we can do better and focus on it for a month.
- Information sharing documenting what we are learning about energy efficiency, alternative energy, sustainability, permaculture, climate change, etc., and what people are doing in our community around these issues.
- Legislative updates on critical energy and climate issues where public input is essential.
- Inspiration sharing as we talk to people who are further down the road, who have put better methods into practice.
- Events and announcements so you, and we, can attend things happening in the Twin Cities area.
- Musings. We are very aware that a) change is difficult, and b) the environmental issues we face are, let’s just say, emotionally draining. At no time in history has it been more important to understand our thought processes and how to build psychological health and resiliency.
Policy on Comments
We have zero tolerance for insulting comments that infect so many websites. We will allow no name calling and no disrespecting of scientific facts. THIS IS A CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL FREE ZONE. Climate change is a reality, the evidence is overwhelming. We aren’t going to spend time having a meaningless debate about it. 98% of the climate scientists in the world agree that the world is warming and that human actions – specifically the burning of fossil fuels – has caused it. We’re interested in solutions.
We hope you find what we are doing interesting and we’d like to hear from you.