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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Budgeting for sustainability

There is often the perception that being sustainable is expensive. While that can be true, it doesn't have to be. In fact, the goal of my blog is to show how we live sustainably without spending a lot of money. And while I think I've done a pretty good job of that, I thought it might be helpful to show how we actually make it work.

If you have spent enough time with me and Josh, you'll know that we stick to a very strict budget. It hasn't always been that way but now that we own a house, have careers and are planning to start a family, our goal is to live below our means and save for our future while maintaining an active, fulfilled life. And we do that by budgeting very carefully.

Josh and I both have stable careers in our field of choice and make enough money to meet our needs and contribute to our savings every month, but not so much that we don't feel the pinch of life's expenses. Of course we would like to make more money but we are very thankful for where we are at and want to make sure we take advantage of this situation because we know it could change.

We currently have some pretty major financial goals that we are working toward. The most important and short-term goal is financing a domestic adoption without going into debt. Our other goals, both short- and long-term, include buying a second car, upgrading to a new and larger home, saving for retirement and traveling.

If all you can see are dollar signs when reading that list, then we're right there with you. Reaching all of those goals will require a significant financial investment. But we have figured out how to balance our spending in a way that will set us up to meet them, and believe it or not, it's by living a sustainable lifestyle. 

Here's how we do it:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

An introduction to DIY attic insulation installation

An introduction to DIY attic insulation installation.
An introduction to DIY attic insulation installation.
An introduction to DIY attic insulation installation.

Can you say that fast, three times in a row with out messing up? 

Yeah, me neither. 

But, what I can do is tell you what DIY attic insulation installation involves, and how to do it, because after attending a three-hour "Guide to Insulating Your Attic" workshop with Community Energy Project, I am now well-versed in air sealing and insulation speak, and could even tell you what a baffle, dropped soffit and a mushroom vent are. 

I've only been in our attic once in the two years we've owned our house and honestly, it was not fun. It's dusty, dirty and scary because if you lose your balance and take one misstep off of a joist (another term I learned), you'll fall right through the ceiling.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The surprising benefit of public transportation

I don't talk about it much here but I have a form of muscular dystrophy called Congenital Myasthenic Syndrome (CMS). It's a rare disorder that weakens my muscles, making prolonged physical activity difficult. I won't explain it here but if you'd like to know more, you can visit my blog Kelly's One Mile Challenge

The other day I had a miserable commute home on the bus. The window ahead of me was open, blowing cold air on my already freezing face, somebody near me had terrible body odor, and the person sitting next to me was playing an obnoxious game on their phone with the sound turned up. In that moment, I decided that I hated public transportation.

But the truth is, while I don't always enjoy public transportation, I am thankful for it. 

I grew up in McMinnville, Oregon, where there was no public transportation system. Everyone drove everywhere, including me, even though the city is fairly small. Even when I lived three quarters of a mile away from work, I drove most of the time because it was normal.

That changed when Josh and I moved to Portland in 2011 and rented a small apartment right off NW 23rd Avenue. We quickly learned that owning two cars was unnecessary because we were close to grocery stores, the library, post office, restaurants and shopping. Plus, Josh’s office was a few blocks away and I had easy access to the bus to take me to and from work. So to save money and to lessen the pain of scarce parking, we became a one car family.

Friday, November 21, 2014

10 ways to reduce food waste this Thanksgiving

In my family, the holidays seem to be synonymous with eating. Not only is there a large meal that our Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings are centered around, but there are also the parties with lots of food and alcohol and the gifts of sweet treats and baked goods from friends, neighbors and families that seem to arrive every day during December.

The consumption of all that food means one thing (well, except for the stomach aches and weight gain): a lot of food is going to be wasted.

I recently read that in 2012 (the latest year that data was available), Americans threw out approximately 35 million tons of food. Of course there are many reasons why so much food is wasted and a lot of it is out of our control, but there are things we can do to reduce food waste in our homes, especially during the holidays when food consumption increases.

It's a shame that so much food is wasted, especially when you factor in how many people experience food insecurity and the negative impact food has on the environment when it ends up in the landfill.

But it doesn't have to be that way because we can do something about it. So in honor of Thanksgiving, which is a mere week away, here are ten ways you can reduce food waste:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kelly, Kelly, how did your garden grow?

The 2014 growing season at the Merrick household is now over. It was definitely a learning experience, as we had our fair share of pest problems, mysterious fungi and some under-performing plants, but the positives far outweighed the negatives and I'd call it a success! We learned a lot about gardening and hope that everything we learned will result in a better garden next year.

This is mostly for my records, but I thought I'd recap the success of our crops. The project manager in me planned to keep a detailed record of how much we harvested and then compare that to what we would have paid at the farmer's market to calculate the financial return on investment, but that just didn't happen.

I didn't get into gardening just to save money, and I felt like keeping track of every pound we harvested would take the fun out of gardening. Plus, we ate a lot of the cherry tomatoes, berries, peas and cucumbers while standing in the garden, so there wasn't much chance to weigh them anyway. So, you'll just be getting our estimates of how much we harvested.

Here it goes!