Sunday, March 21, 2010

Have bag, will shop

So, a few days ago I did my bi-weekly shopping expedition. In everyday life this is not overly exciting but I was thinking about how much simpler my shopping life has been made by using re-usable shopping bags. Even though re-usable bags have become more available in stores, it still has not become a routine for many people. I actually see more of these bags being used to carry people's stuff in other situations and not their groceries. Although I am happy to see large companies offering shopping bags in their stores, I have not been overly impressed with the quality of these bags. So, I thought I would share what I use and how much space these bags save in the back of my car.

So here is the back of my vehicle after a usual grocery shopping day. I drive a Saturn Vue which is considered a mini SUV so the storage in the back probably is not much different that the average mid-size car. The brown bags are my reusable shopping bags. I purchased these from a couple of years ago. I absolutely love these bags! They are the same size as a standard brown paper bag and fold up the same. They have black straps for carrying your bags and are very sturdy. I have probably stuffed these bags with 10 pounds of groceries and have never had a problem with breakage. I actually have six of these bags but only needed four on this particular day. I have found on average that 4-6 bags will adequately carry all of my groceries. Now compare this to how many plastic bags it would take. These bags stack neatly in the back of your car, they look nice, and you are helping the environment.

Now some of you may be wondering just how much am I buying in the way of groceries. Well, we are feeding two adults and two boys so you can imagine how much food we pack away. Because of this, we like to buy in bulk on certain items. So the brown bags are the grocery items we buy at the regular store. The rest are things we buy at the warehouse store.

On the right behind the Sunkist boxes are more sodas, (mostly for my husband), but on the left are two large thermal bags. I love these bags because they will hold some of the bulkier frozen things that we buy at Sam's and they come in real handy in the summer time. As you can see, these bags are big and work very well at keeping things cold. When you are finished, they fold down to a compact size and secure with velcro. I found these bags at Sam's Club for about $8 each. They have been a wonderful addition to my re-usable bag arsenal.

By using re-usable bags, I am able to keep the back of my vehicle fairly organized on grocery shopping day and I am helping to keep those obnoxious plastic bags out of the environment. Many people may say, why bother with re-usable bags when you can recycle the plastic ones? Well, to be honest, I suck at remembering to take back those plastic bags. The re-usable bags don't roll all around in the back of my car letting everything spill out and they have come in handy for other uses as well. Yes, it takes some time to get used to remembering your bags, but in my opinion it is well worth the effort. I hope that by seeing how we utilize our bags it will inspire you to do the same.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The New World

For many of us, when our ancestors came to this country it was with the hope of finding a better a life. There is no doubt that many of us have lives that our ancestors could only dream of. We have comforts and luxuries that would make us appear to live like kings. We have grown up with these things without ever believing that one day they may not be available. We have all had to deal with periods of inconvenience due to some sort of natural disaster or storm but this usually only lasts a few days to a few weeks. What if a few weeks stretched on indefinitely? What if the amount of electricity that was available to you was limited to just a few hours every day? These are some of the realities of a world after Peak Oil.

Now I will admit, when I first began to really think and learn about Peak Oil it freaked me out. My initial thoughts were we needed to move to the country where we can grow our own food, learn skills such as making cloth so we can make our own clothes, and how in general to live without all the things we have today. Granted, this is a knee jerk reaction and one that I am sure is quite common. However, now that I have had time to think about it and absorb some of the information, I can begin to see that there are some positive things happening out there.

One movement that is gaining ground is Transition Town. This is a grass roots effort of people coming together who have a shared concern over Global Warming and Peak Oil. The purpose of this movement is to help communities prepare and make a plan for the decent from oil. It focuses on re-localizing and finding ways to meet a communities needs that are less energy dependent than what we do now. Go to to find out more. There may be one near you or you may be inspired to start one yourself.

Permaculture is another movement that is growing in awareness here in the U.S. Permaculture is a system for designing sustainable communities and environments. I actually came to an awareness of Permaculture through my concern for the environment but it goes hand in hand with the issue of Peak Oil. Personally, I feel that Permaculture is the key to coming off of our dependence on oil.  I plan on using Permaculture principles as we develop our homestead so I will be talking more about that as things develop.

I'm sure there are other initiatives out there but these are the two that I am most familiar with. We can't keep living in the dark about these issues so once you get past the initial shock, start looking around your state and your community to see what's going on. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The future is....bright?

Only if you're burning candles. Low tech and powering down. That may be the future that lies before us. If you haven't heard of Peak Oil, it really is something you should begin to educate yourself about. The story of Peak Oil goes something like this...

There once was a guy named Dr. Marion King Hubbert who was a Shell geologist. Dr. Hubbert predicted that American oil production would peak in 1970. Well, it just so happened it did. Now most people thought he was a little off his rocker at first, until folks were waiting in gas lines in the early 70's. So how did he figure out that our oil production would peak and never recover here in the U.S.? Basically, he noticed that oil fields would peak in production around 40 years after drilling began. This proved true for all oil fields. Now, fast forward to present day.

Oil seems to be in a never ending supply. Not only do our cars run on it but just about everything we use in our everyday lives comes from it. We depend on it to transport our food and clothing, we make toys, computers, appliances, lights, etc. from it. It has become such a part of our lives that we cannot imagine living without it. Remember that bit about oil fields peaking around the 40 year mark? Guess when the last major oil fields were discovered?  A little over 40 years ago. So if the last major oil fields were found over 40 years ago, how much global oil is left?

The graph that I have included will give you an idea of where most experts think we are. Granted, there are always those out there that will argue that Peak Oil is way off base, but that's what a lot of people have been saying about Global Warming and we see how well that is working out. No matter how you look at it, oil is a finite resource. It won't last forever. Just like coal and natural gas have their limits also. Weather we experience the effects of decreased global production in 100 years or in the next 5 years, it really doesn't matter. We need to begin to prepare our communities for living without oil. And as for the decrease in gas prices from a year ago? Well, look how many people began to cut back on their driving. The demand went down but I can still see the price increases when I go to the grocery store. Gas prices fluctuate and sooner or later demand will go back up and so will the price.

So what does all of this mean for us? Well, to be honest no one is really sure. It is very possible our economy will collapse. It will only take a 5% decrease in global oil production for our economy to fall apart. There could be mass layoffs, people losing their homes, food scarcity, and price hikes. Hmmm....sound familiar? It is a bleak picture and not one that most of us care to envision. The future may not look that bright right now but it may not be as bleak as what we first think. First, consider what a life without oil availability may be like, then we will look at what is being done to help cushion the decent off of oil.