Omnipresent Consumption

I’ve been thinking that while I may not actually buy things all that often, I do still consume things constantly. Mainly what I mean is electricity.

I of course have lights, but my heating and oven are also electric based. My heat especially must take up a lot of electricity because it gets really cold here in the winter  (it’s not suppose to get above 0C for another week or so).

Currently, I don’t actually know how much electricity I use or what it costs as its built into my monthly rent. My rent is a set price all year long, so I’m honestly not sure what percentage goes towards my electricity.

My boyfriend lives in the UK and his electricity in his apartment works on a pay-per-use basis. There’s a meter in his apartment that tells him how much money he has left and he can top it up at any point, almost like a pre-paid cell phone works here. I think this type of system would work really well for me in monitoring and curbing my electricity usage. Being able to see, in dollar terms, how much I have used and how much I have left would be really motivating to me to use less. Also, in other parts of the world (India and the UK at least in my experience) you can actually turn off your power outlets with a little switch next to the plug which I imagine helps with conserving power as well.

Currently I do try to not waste too much electricity unnecessarily. I turn off lights and unplug things I’m not using, like my phone charger, but I could be more diligent about it. I feel like without the monetary motivation it’s harder to remember to be more proactive about my electricity usage. I’m sure though this is something I could improve on if I work at being more mindful of it.

Living in a basement apartment however in Canada in the winter (when the day light hours can be quite short) I’m not sure that its possible to live without having the lights on most of the time, but I suppose I could always begin to test that theory.



Back to the Grocery Store

So I had more success at the grocery store this time around with my purchases.

To begin with though, I got confused over carrots… I usually buy baby carrots because they’re fairly cheap (usually cheaper than full sized carrots) and convenient. The ones I usually buy is not organic but I wasn’t quite sure which ones were organic. I ended up buying some full sized carrots from Quebec which I figured was at least not too far away for shipping. I think next time I would get a brand called Organics Biologique, though it’s a bit more expensive with smaller bags than the larger bags of baby carrots I usually get.

I did have more success with soap. My roommate and I needed more dish washing and hand soap. I didn’t find a whole lot of options except for a Clorox line called “Green Works”. They claim to be mostly made up of organic materials, and the ingredients list seems to be very  specifically written to be understandable and clear. It was $0.491 per 100 milliliters, while the usual options I would have gotten was $0.345 per 100 milliliters. So more expensive, but it could be worse.

Other things I usually buy to help reduce waste are things like tubs of yogurt instead of individual packs and bread made at the grocery store instead of pre-made breads.

We’ll see what I can continue to improve upon next time.




So, back from India, and man does it feel cold now!

The whole trip was definitely an interesting experience of consumer consumption.

I mentioned the whole big issue of flying so far, so I won’t bring that up again, but in all I took four different flights which I still feel pretty guilty about.

I did end up eating quite a bit on the planes though. Most of the planes I was on served at least two meals/snacks. All of it was individually wrapped and sometimes miniature versions of things. I was happy to see some hard plastic, assumingly reusable, plates and cups. Still, I have no idea if the rest of the packaging was recycled in any way. All of it seemed to be out of material that could be sorted and recycled but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was I suppose (I was flying mainly Air France if anyone knows the answer to that).

India itself felt like a bit of a conundrum. There was often trash everywhere. It mainly looked to be made up of consumer goods, things like wrappers, containers, etc. Even in the most rural school which was made up of clay and wood buildings there was some tinfoil lids or other random debris around (though I was happy to see that that same school still had a recycling program). Now, as much as it looked like there was a lot of trash around, there also didn’t seem to be any overall trash removal system either. It made me wonder if North America didn’t have our waste system to truck it all away if our cities and streets would look the same, and honestly I think they’d look even worse with our consumption levels. We did pass an Indian landfill on one of the highways that looked pretty massive, but it’s hard to know whether they really produce more waste than we do. I think it would be safe to say that they recycle less of their consumer waste than North America, but I’m not sure if they consume less because of their economic standing than say, the U.S., or more because of their much greater population. I was impressed with how much they can often achieve with the limited resources and goods they do have. I visited some NGOs which seemed much more efficient with their resources than North American ones, though possibly out of necessity rather than choice.

My own consumption habits felt pretty limited while I was there. Bottled water was a must, but I also had a bad habit of forgetting my bottles at various places, requiring me to get more than I probably needed. Buffet food was mostly served which, at least from personal experience working at a banquet hall, can be very wasteful. I avoided buying random trinkets and gifts as much as possible. We did drive a lot while I was there. The first three days was pretty much all driving, and then there was regular transportation after that to and from places. Plus the driving to and from airports which were longer hauls. They did give me a large metal reusable water bottle which I’m very happy about, even if I couldn’t use it while I was in India. I had been really needing a new one.

Overall it was a very interesting trip and an interesting experience in ideas regarding sustainable practices. Lots of interesting new social enterprises trying to improve sustainability and its a beautiful country so hopefully they succeed.

Sunrise in Goa, India
Sunrise in Goa, India