When my husband and I made a move across the country to check out a new place and get a new perspective, little did we know that it would turn into a great exercise in greensizing. In the process of downsizing and choosing a new community in which to live and work, we found ourselves inadvertently reducing our carbon footprint exponentially. I say inadvertently a bit tongue in cheek, as my husband and I have both been working in the green space for decades. However, our initial choices of a town, apartment, and amenities were instigated by our desire to keep things simple and downsize financially, not to go uber green. We achieved both in the process. Below is a list of choices we made, and the green benefits we gained along the way.
Location: Small town vs. Big City We like small towns and we like to be able to walk and bike everywhere. This was our desire to slow down the rat race, and maintain a high quality of life. We found a small town in the northwest in which to settle and explore.
Green benefits: Small means that everything is close at hand. Not only can we walk to dine and shop, but to do any errands necessary.
Small in our case also means a tight-knit community, one that supports local agriculture and business, and one which celebrates that every week with a farmers market featuring many delicious organic options. Boy we love berry season!
It turns out we also picked a town with great public transportation, a well established and extensive system of trails in a community that values greenspace and open space. This means that our recreation opportunities are right outside our door as well.
An added benefit is that we are on an Amtrak route so travel to two big international cities for culture and entertainment is green, economical and efficient.
Housing: Apartment vs. House Due to the fact that we still own our home in another state, we wanted to rent while we check out our new location. We chose an apartment over a house or townhome to keep our monthly cash commitment to a minimum. (It also didn’t hurt that it has killer views and is close to everything we needs from groceries to post office to great restaurants.)
Green benefits: An apartment means less area to heat than a house which means using less energy and lower utility bills! We also chose one with western exposure and waterfront views. This means we have great passive solar lighting and heating, again, reducing the bills. Our bills are one quarter of what they were for our house. It also helps that we moved to a slightly warmer climate, which in itself reduces the need for fossil fuels.
Additional unforeseen benefits of living in smaller quarters means that we have limited storage space so we buy less, spend less, consume less and waste less. Less space also means we need less furniture so our moving costs and fuel cost to move it were small. We did purchase a couple of items and were thrilled to be able to find furniture made in by local companies, thus supporting the economy and avoiding the fuel costs of products shipped from elsewhere.
Work: Consulting vs. Corporate Life My husband and I are fortunate enough to have a few years of the working world under our respective belts so consulting is our current preferred mode of making a living. This has afforded us the flexibility to make a geographic move as we can live anywhere.
Green benefits: With advanced technology, ie, email and phones, consulting is a breeze. No commuting except to the occasional client meeting is necessary for either of us, therefore, we are not polluting the planet every day to get to work. We are also saving money and are not currently stressed out about gas prices. Ok, I lied - I hate gas prices going up anyway.
A strange green benefit is that by working from home, we have smaller wardrobe requirements and therefore, consume less and do less laundry, thus saving energy.
Climate: Consistent Temperate vs. Changing Alpine We moved from a seasonal alpine climate with potentially harsh winter conditions to a temperate coastline to experience a water-side lifestyle for a change.
Green benefits: In addition to the aforementioned energy savings due to a milder climate, we are spending less on clothes. One season fits all when it comes to what to wear. The need for fewer clothes also means fewer shopping sprees which translates into less gas used.
Another benefit of a temperate climate is that we have shifted from a semi-arid climate with water restrictions, water scarcity, and limited agriculture, to one rich in water, agriculture and a great local food supply. Sustainability is inherent in such a location.
In addition to finding the fun in downsizing and greensizing and learning new ways to do it every day, we are thoroughly enjoying a fun, simplified new lifestyle in a new place. Our biggest green vice is the occasional extra flight to see friends, family and clients. But we can live with that knowing we have been able to make easy green changes in our every day life. Who knew going cheap would mean growing greener?