Tennesseetransitions


Frugal Friday and An Environmental Disaster
April 22, 2016, 10:55 PM
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Michael and I, along with my best friend, have just returned on from a 12-day trip to California. We don’t travel much, but this trip made me realize that travel is expensive, not only in terms of money but also in terms of energy use (both human and fossil fueled) and making concessions about my own values. I thought I’d share some extraordinary frugal things we did to make this ‘cross country trip more affordable, as well as some things that were incredibly expensive in terms of harm to the earth.

The friend that went with us has a close elderly friend that is no longer able to travel, after many years of doing so extensively. When she heard that we were wanting to make this trip she insisted we use her ‘frequent flyer miles’ to pay for the tickets. There were just enough miles to pay for our three round-trip tickets (by flying mid-week) so the most expensive part of the trip didn’t cost us a dime! We did however have to pay that very unfrugal $25 per checked bag (or $35 for each traveler’s second bag) but we worked it to our advantage by checking Michael’s best friend (his banjo) and packing around the instrument in the case with all his underwear and tee shirts! I also checked one suitcase, sharing it with him for the rest of his personal things. My friend and I then shared a second case, for a total cost of only $50 for all 3 of us. We were also allowed one free carry on bag as well as a laptop, purse or backpack  I layered my laptop amongst the safety of the clothing in the checked bag, which left plenty of room in my carry-on for all that I wanted to take. But here’s what we learned: if the flights are full (and they all were, both ways) the airlines ask you to voluntarily check your carry-on bags, compliments of the airlines.  We simply transferred meds, snacks and immediate needs items to our backpacks and never had to worry about hauling those carry on bags from gate to gate during layovers. Then, when we arrived at our final destination our luggage was among the first off and corralled together, both checked and unchecked. Sweet!

About those snacks: we stayed in a hotel the first night we arrived and the night before we left, saving a full $20 each night by booking ahead on line. I saw the online price of $99, but called to reserve the room and was told it was $119. So I politely declined and booked thru the website. The wonderful accommodations there included a full breakfast, with fresh fruits and bagels, along with waffles, etc. We ate our fill in the hotel breakfast room quite early both mornings, and then took the liberty of taking a piece of fruit and a bagel with us, which we enjoyed mid-flight much later in the morning. That held us over until an early dinner time both days. Upshot being we only had to purchase one meal on those travel days. Was that dishonest to take the fruit? I didn’t see any signage against it, and the breakfast room attendant didn’t say a word, so I think not. Michael and I also learned that to share a cup of airport coffee was much cheaper than buying two individual cups- only 50 cents more for the very large cup. Savings on airport coffee alone: $4.20.

It turns out those hotel stays were a bonus too: about 6 weeks ago we had paid a $600 medical bill that the hospital had insisted our insurance had refused to cover. Two weeks before the trip, we received a $600 limit debit card in the mail from them, saying a mistake had been made and they were reimbursing us because we had ‘overpaid’. What a travel bonus that was! We paid for the two nights in the hotel, many many of our meals and more with that card and came home with $150 still on it! To make this trip even more unbelievably affordable, we cashed in our accumulated credit card ‘points’ to completely cover the cost for 12 days rental on a brand new Toyota Corolla and we cashed in our the coins from our ‘savings pot’ and got $234.40 before we left (making sure to take the coins to our bank for free counting, rather than to a counting machine that is handier but charges 10% of the total, saving us $23.44 in the deal! 

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OK, now the negatives of our travel: Trash. Aluminum cans. Paper. Styrofoam. Plastic. Compostables. Times 100! I’ve recycled and composted and avoided these items for so long that it’s become second nature to do so; it was with great distress that I threw away more of this crap than I want to admit. Michael and I had also forgotten to bring our personal water bottles, but I finally broke down and bought a cheap one that at least stopped the constant flow of disposable water receptacles. But the trash we participated in generating was nothing compared to the environmental degradation that was caused by our flights! I’m going to have to give a great deal of thought now to ever flying again. I want very much to travel to Cuba in the future though and I’ve learned that now you can take a ferry from Miami to Havana, so if I go, I’ll likely rent a Prius and drive to Miami, then take the ferry. That sure won’t work for any other country so that’s why I’ll have to do some major soul searching about it. No matter where or how I travel in the future though,  I’ll always remember to take my own water bottle, as well as a personal tea/coffee mug too so I wouldn’t be forced to use disposable ones again. Add to this short list my own spork  and a cloth shopping bag. After a short while there, I did begin refusing all plastic bags, and just carried my items open handed to the car. We bought post cards each day, filled them out and mailed them on the spot to loved ones with stamps I’d purchased beforehand. This offered the impact of a little hand written souvenir, as we had no room in  our suitcases for much more than we came with anyway.  We did share towels and shampoo, soaps and everything else we could think of but I’m not kidding myself thinking that this trip wasn’t a personal environmental disaster.

So there you have it…our travel was lean on money but high on environmental costs. We had a fabulous time, took lots of pictures, and made life time memories. But I personally took note of our country full of trash, waste, homelessness, poverty and massive traffic jams as well. My hope is that this post will serve to remind you to plan ahead for the every day things we use at home that you can take along when you travel to make it less wasteful. Consider driving or a slow boat to China too, okay? From the Redwood Forests to the Gulf Stream Waters, Happy Earth Day.

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Lean In

When we were kids, my group of friends would always say “Lean in!” when we had something earth-shaking we wanted the others to hear. We all knew it was time  to ‘listen up’ and ‘pay attention’. So, lean in, I’ve got stuff to share. I’m noticing more and more and MORE that average, every day folks are beginning to transition their lives. In some cases its subtle, in others, major. But, as Bob Dylan sang to us 50 years ago, “the times they are a’changing”.

For example, yesterday I read a blog post from an ordinary suburbanite mom that was encouraging her readers to prepare for emergencies by putting together bug out bags for each family member, complete with a list of suggested items to include. In part it reads: “I am not talking fear or panic.  I am promoting intelligent, practical, thoughtful preparation.  I don’t know what is around the corner, but I must admit to a growing need to learn all that I can and adjust my outlook to one of greater self-sufficiency and resilience”.  I totally agree with her, and have had my own bug out backpack for over 10 years now, but her post reminded me that I should recheck and update it. With the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing over the last few years, and becoming more extreme it seems with each passing season, it’s a suggestion that every person should consider. My friend in Pensacola, FL is unable to get to work due this week due to washed out bridges and roads from Tuesdays’ storms, while many in Mississippi and Alabama are devastated and homeless after getting hit by tornadoes. This ‘before and after’ picture is from his Facebook page…

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Are you prepared for such things? Lean in and take heed.

I’ve noticed an uptick in local community gardens and food forests. There’s keen interest in the canning classes I enjoy giving…

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…as well as a renewed desire to learn other kitchen skills such as pie and biscuit making and cooking meals from scratch. Classes are full for cheese-making, bread-making, fermenting foods, as well as making yogurt, kombucha and kefir. Workshops on everything from organic gardening and building raised beds to woodworking and soap-making are sold out. The local beekeeping school had 400 people attend this year, by far the largest number ever, and clandestine chicken coops are all over the city now. I  went to a well-attended lecture Tuesday night at the local college, called “Brightening the 21st Century” given by ‘The Solar Sister’. Her story of turning an old chicken coop located on the nunnery grounds where she lives, into an environmental learning center was enjoyed by the room full of folks that were there. During April, our local university held a month-long calendar of Earth Day celebrations and events for the first time ever. When I left the lecture hall, I saw this out in the hall and wanted to show you too: the ‘Mixed Paper’ and “Cans&Plastic” bins both had stuff in them, but the container on the far right which was marked “LANDFILL” was empty.

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In the two years I’ve lived in my urban neighborhood, the number of red recycling bins I see out on the curb on Monday mornings has quadrupled. (That’s not saying a whole lot, since I had to call the truck drivers almost every week for the first month or two we lived here because I was the only one on the street at the time that was putting it curbside and they would ‘forget’ to stop), but the point is, lean in here, more people are recycling, growing some of their own food, and using renewable energy than I’ve ever noticed. I received an email from a friend just this morning: “I finally ordered my own solar cooker today!” Lean in friends, this is all good news!

People are also learning to reuse and repair again, as well as recycle. The local shoe and bike repair shops have long ‘wait times’ they are so busy. I recently went to a small engine repair shop to pick up new belts for my 23-year-old tiller and  was fifth in the line of customers buying their own parts to repair their own stuff. My youngest daughter has recently begun to renew her long-neglected sewing skills, and the Bernina sewing shop that opened downtown a couple of years ago seems to be always quite busy. Lean in: people are indeed transitioning to a future that is based on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being.

I am thrilled to see the changes taking place! Not only are we taking control of our lives again, according to recent articles I’ve read, we’re also saving more for retirement and carrying far less debt than we were when the ‘economic depression’ began in 2008. That downturn has brought about some rather nice changes in my own life: in response to lower incomes and higher prices, my circle of friends has been getting together for potlucks and cookouts and birthday celebrations more often these days, ending these festive times with board games or music jams. Fuhgeddaboud cover charges or drinks by the glass. We brew our own beer or wine or herbal sun tea and enjoy the comfort of being in our own homes, saving clubs and restaurant outings for rare special occasions. Now there’s even talk of forming an intentional community, right here in our urban area! There’s hope and light everywhere, you just gotta lean in to find it.

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Frugal Friday- April 11, 2014

I’ve stayed at home most of this week, either in the garden or finishing up some easy ‘indoor’ projects that were on my winter ‘to-do’ list. Un huh, I KNOW winter is over but such is life. I save the most time, energy and money when I stay home, because I don’t spend money here, so there’s not a lot of dollar savings this week, but one special one I want to share with you.

Monday: In my position as the Carver Peace Gardens coordinator, it falls to me to make sure the tools and equipment we offer the community gardeners are kept in working order. Enter: ‘Big Red’ the 20+ year old Troybilt tiller that’s still got plenty of life left in her if people would just treat her kindly. Anyway, seems a gardener pulled Big Red out of the toolshed and ‘she was broken’. As in, one of the handlebars made of 1″ steel tubing was sheared in two. We are a nonprofit of course, and our bank account reflects that. (There’s really no bank account, it’s all kept in an envelope in my desk drawer 😉 because the bank wanted a $3 a month service charge for balances under $1000.) Which is every month. But I digress..I figured a weld would fix it so I called the nearby high school and spoke with the weld-shop instructor there, who said if we’d bring Big Red to their on- campus shop, the students would fix her pronto. I did, the instructor was the only one on hand when I arrived, so he welded it expertly for free for me in about 5 minutes. I don’t know what this would’ve cost to have it welded at a local shop but the instructor’s good nature and encouragement to bring all my future welding projects to the school was: Priceless

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See that large black spot of welding on that handlebar, down near the engine? Fine job!

Tuesday: Last week Michael and I met friends at a local bakery for breakfast. Smoky Mountain Bakers in Roan Mountain has great breakfast sandwiches, along with fresh breads and pizzas that are baked in their wood fired oven. We paid $1 a piece for bagels to bring home and it inspired Michael to try his hand at making them. Though not as beautiful as the bakery’s -YET- the cinammon/raisin wonders were really delicious and we figured they only cost about 10 cents a piece to make. He made six on his first attempt, saving us $6.00 since there was also tax on those bakery bagels. Let me say this about those bakery bagels before I move on:  The hard working couple that own that Roan Mountain bakery (and all other entrepreneurs like them) deserve our business and support but that’s simply not possible since their bakery is a 35 minute drive from my home. To my knowledge, there are no locally owned bagel shops near me, and until there is, we’ll continue to make our own baked goods. The Farmer’s Market is opening next weekend, with several vendors selling fresh baked bread there that we’ll try to support during the summer months when we don’t like to heat up the kitchen with oven baking anyway. But, that’s next week. Just sayin’

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Wednesday: This time of year finds us watering trays of seedlings twice a day, using almost 1/2 gallon each time. We’ve started pouring the water collected in our dehumidifier into the watering can and using that de-gassed  water for this chore. Savings: 7 gallons a week x 4 weeks= 28 gallons, enough to wash my car and a sink full of fresh spinach! I’m noticing more documentaries, webinars, books and blogs devoted to our growing water crisis, and I heard a speaker at the local college last night say our next wars will be over water, not oil. If not already, we all might as well get accustomed to being as frugal with our water as with everything else in our lives. Do  your part, don’t waste a single drop!

Thursday: About that speaker: our local college brought him here from Berea College in KY as part of their month-long Earth Day celebration. His name is David Cooke, and he is the director of Grow Appalachia, a nonprofit that is planting seeds for a sustainable future here in the Southern Appalachians. His foundation is doing good work and he’s trying to expand their reach into my area of TN, which is why he was here. There was no charge for the presentation, there were great snacks, and I got a free Earth Day tee shirt, all while listening to an engaging speaker talk about some of the very things this blog ponders! Again, if you live in or near a college town, take advantage of all they offer beyond the paid classes! My new teeshirt —————————————–>sam with t shirt 4

Friday: OK, I’m stretching here, including this on Frugal Friday, but it’s definitely consistent with what this blog is all about, and that is eating locally, using resources wisely, and building community. New neighbors have been moving in this week and I decided to take them a spring time loaf of Lavender Tea Bread as a ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ gift. I’ll be dropping it off to them this afternoon when I walk by their house to go to the drugstore. As a special bonus, I’m going to give you the recipe for this bread because it is frugal and fabulous. It used my home-ground locally raised wheat, eggs from my friend Sandy’s eggs, lavender from my own plants and sugar, lots of sugar 😉

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Lavender Tea Bread

3//4 cup milk (I used soy)

2 TB dried lavender flowers, finely chopped or 3 T fresh flowers

2 C all purpose flour (I used half AP and half wheat)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

6 TB butter, softened

1 C Sugar

2 large eggs

 

 




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