DECEMBER 30, 2013 BY 

Read the previous posts and about the Challenge here
This post provided by YVSC Program and Marketing Director Andy Kennedy

When Sarah came to me with the Live Simply Challenge idea for YVSC, my mind went straight to the idea of tracking my reduction, because I’d seen a show about a family in Austin, Texas that “went zero (waste)” and I wanted to try that.  We already try to live pretty simply in our house- trying to make as little impact on our struggling global environment as possible. We shop local and avoid the big box stores as much as we can, we do online billing and say no to junk mail, we grow our own vegetables in the summer, we use reusable bags instead of plastic, we compost, do large loads of laundry, keep the lights off in rooms not in use, let the yellow mellow, and all the other green methods I brought with me from Oregon and “the farm” (Lost Valley). But we know we could do more. Despite our best intentions, food in our fridge sometimes goes bad, we still use paper towels – albeit less, and we still use plastic bags for kitty litter scooping.

So for me, tracking our numbers meant taking this one step further.  I pictured it like Weight Watchers and a New Year’s Resolution rolled into one – I’d pull out last year’s bills, measure our waste, and challenge ourselves to shrink the belt.  I created a quick spreadsheet (download here) and began gathering our history.

For the utilities, all of our local energy companies offer this information online, so it was easy to gather (YVEA, Atmos, and the water companies).  Unfortunately for us, (well fortunately) we’re starting fresh… we moved homes just last Sunday. I did ask for the history of the previous owner’s utilities, so I’ll be starting with that – and a head start to our advantage, we are only two dwellers, where they were four.

On to the waste – for us, this one will be harder to reduce – we already compost and recycle like champions. In addition, we now take our soft plastic to Safeway when we shop, and “upcycle” our chip bags and wrappers through Terracycle to help fund YVSC’s Sustainable Schools program.  So our landfill trash is extremely minimal, but I’ll weight it nonetheless- we’ll take the scale to our trash bag, recycle bin and compost bin and track our progress. While we currently divert a lot of waste, we can still reduce – making less recycling by buying things with less packaging, and throwing out less food for starters.

Below Energy and Waste on the spreadsheet above, I created an Other category and filled in three other spending areas that I felt my house could stand to reduce – including gasoline, dining out and groceries. Take these, add to them, or skip them – it’s up to you.

I feel strongly that it is our collective human impact on the environment that affects the whole- you’ve heard this before, we’re all connected.  So what you do on a small scale to reduce your individual impact can and will affect the world. From the small changes you make that filter into the habits of your fellow locals- county and state wide- to those large changes our community makes that ripple out to our friends around the globe (that watch closely through connections like Facebook).

Of course, this is just my take on the Challenge – starting in the new year, YVSC launches six weeks of living simply as a companion to your annual resolutions. These tie into the standard new year goals of getting fit, saving more, eating healthier, and spending more time with family and less time in the office. But the challenge also ties into the environment and your impact on it.  Collectively, our bite-size changes take a big-gulp out of that impact. Follow along with our Live Simply Challenge guest bloggers, and learn more about reducing your global impact without compromising your comfort or happiness.  In fact, our goal is to get more enjoyment from life by slowing down and living simply.  The planet will thank you.