Triumph of the Weeds

Moving to Greener Pastures
July 17, 2009, 1:08 am
Filed under: community, food, shopping, transportation, travel, walmart

I’ve moved. Yayness! I’m now living near the Cumberland Gap. I am also going to be starting school in a couple of weeks. I will try to keep posting regularly, but if a long span of time goes by without an update, then you’ll know why.

Time past, whenever I moved, I simply took stock of the chain stores in the new location. Despite their many drawbacks, box stores have the advantage of comfort and familiarity for people, like myself, who move often and/or have RoadTripping in their blood. I know that wherever I am, I can walk into a Walmart anywhere and know that I will can get exactly what I need and that it will be solid quality for a low price. I’ve got the inventory memorized, and the stores only have two layouts which are mirror images of each other, so it’s also easy to get in, get out, and get on with my life without even thinking about it.

But mindfulness is the name of the game now, which means that moving entails not only physically transferring all my possessions from one place to another, but also reassessing how to acquire all the goods and services I need in the most sustainable manner possible. I’m now living in a small rural town as opposed to living right in the city, which requires quite a significant adjustment in this regard. Aside from Walmart, the town has a Kroger and a Food City, a handful of fast food and casual dining, a smallish mall, a Good Will, and a handful of smaller stores. Like many small rural towns, the downtown is a bit shabby and most local businesses are struggling, though there is supposed to be a nice coffee shop that is a popular hang out. I’m going to be good and check out the local businesses to see what they are like, but I suspect that they won’t carry most of the goods that I use on a regular basis. One promising thing is a farmer’s market downtown that I have yet to check out.

This sounds a little limiting the way I’ve written it, but frankly, I’ve never been a fan of cities or suburbs, and I’m far happier living in the middle of nowhere, like I am now, than be within a stone’s throw of all the shopping I need. It just requires a bit of planning and strategizing, like scheduling long distance shopping trips, mail ordering, and doing without. What I’m hoping to do is make a once a month trip into the city to visit the food coop and Earth Fare and any other shopping that I need, visiting the farmer’s market on a regular basis when it’s open, and shopping at Kroger and Walmart as sparingly as I can. It’s possible that I’ll be able to network at the farmer’s market and find some more local food sources. I’m particularly hoping that I can find milk locally, since I really liked being able to buy local milk from pastured cows when I lived in Raleigh. It’s pretty much the only thing that I won’t be able to get from the food coop, since milk only lasts a couple weeks at most.

There are other advantages of living here too. One is that the town is very amenable to walking and biking, much more so than Raleigh. I may even be able bike commute to school (which is in the next town over). So I’m hoping to limit the driving to these once a month trips into the city and any other necessary long distance trips. That will be a great relief for me, because as much as I love RoadTripping, being forced to drive to get around anywhere in town has always really bugged me. I’m also planning on move to a much more rural location eventually, so living here will be a good way to transition.

As I’ve been packing and unpacking, I’ve found myself pondering about how people moved in the olden days, before our infrastructure supported such a mobile lifestyle and people’s wealth was much more tied to place and community. I guess that the only people who moved frequently were the very rich, who could bring enough material wealth with them to survive comfortably until they could establish themselves in a new place and build new social ties, and the very poor, who having nothing left to lose, either hit the road and survived any way they could…or they didn’t. As much as I love the mobility of contemporary society, I can’t help but be troubled by how it contributes to the eroding of community and the ties between human beings and their environment, when there’s the expectation that almost anyone can up and move to a new location if needed or wanted because of a job or anything else, but wherever one goes, it’s exactly the same, comforting and familiar. Migration patterns end up being based more on economics than on the ability of the land to sustain population.


Personal Audit I

Here is a breakdown of my personal habits and commonly used items at the start of the year, before I decided to change. This is just to see where I was starting this journey from and to later use as a frame of reference to see how far I’ve come.

*Health and Hygiene
-Acne pads
-Mouthwash strips
-Body soap
-Diaper rash cream
-Liquid Bandage
-Bug spray
-Foot lotion
-Tampons and pads
-Rubbing alcohol
-Hydrogen peroxide

*Hair Dying Supplies:
-Disposable gloves
-Paper neckband


Cleaning Supplies:
-Disposable floor mops pads
-Plug in air freshener
-Spray air freshener
-Laundry stain stick
-Laundry spot cleaner
-Laundry detergent
-Disposable Lint brush
-Dish washer detergent
-Paper towels
-Toilet paper
-Toilet cleaner
-All purpose cleaner
-Disposable dusters

Cat Supplies
-Anti chew spray
-Cat toothpaste
-Cat litter
-Cat food
-Cat treats

Office Supplies
-Canned Air
-Cleaning Wipes for computer
-Printer ink
-Paper Clips
-Thumb tacks
-Scotch tape
-Duct tape
-Packing tape

Misc Household Supplies
-Light bulbs

Kitchen Supplies
-Plastic baggies
-Saran wrap
-Tin foil

Utility Use
-Water: my water’s not metered, so I’m not sure exactly how much water I’ve used in the past, but according to the USGS, the average American uses 80-100 gal/day.
-Electricity: According to my utility bill, I averaged using 9 kwhr/day.

Note: I don’t have a washer and dryer so I use a laundry mat (1 load/week), so my utility bill and water use don’t reflect that.

I’m most comfortable in t-shirts and jeans, so that’s usually what I ended up wearing day in and day out, except when circumstances dictate otherwise. Most of my clothes come from Walmart; my fancier clothes I bought in places like Lane Bryant or department stores. Shoes-wise, I’ve got sneakers, Crocs (Birkenstock before), flats and heels. And a pair of combat boots.

Travel and Transportation
I’ve got a Toyota Corolla, which has about the best mileage around for a regular car. On average, I drive around 10-20 miles per day to get to work/school and I get about 25 miles/gal in town, 37 miles/gal on the interstates. I’m an avid traveler, both by car and by plane (though that’s been curtailed a lot due to the post 9/11 restrictions). I’d say that I use approximately 1 gal a day to account for the occasional longer trip.

Growing up, my family lived in various houses in various suburbs. In high school and college, I lived in the dorms, and since graduating, I’ve lived in apartments, also in the suburbs. My ability to make changes to my apartment is naturally very limited and my choice of a new apartment tends to be dictated by location and price, not sustainable building or maintenance practices.

Waste Production
I’ve done the basic reduce, reuse, recycle thing since it became in vogue in the early 90s. I’ve also practiced re-purposing, though not as much as my mother, grandmother, or great grandmother. Like everyone else in my family, I suffer from a tendency to be a pack rat, acquiring things (particularly freebies) I turn out not to need and which later need to be disposed of.

Again, I didn’t calculate the amount of trash that I was producing, but according to the Clean Air Council, the average American produces
4.39 pounds of trash/day.


I hate to cook, so I’ve relied on packaged foods, easy mixes, fast food, and take out as much as possible. I’ve also usually opted for low fat and low calorie versions. I’m a regular old omnivore; I tried on numerous occasions to give up meat, but discovered that I loved it too much to do so. On the brighter side, I think I’ve probably consumed slightly less soda and junk food and slightly more fruits and vegetables than the average American, though that’s not saying much.

(As of January of this year) I’ve got a BMI of 40, which falls into the obese (cut off is 30), though fortunately, I’ve never looked like I weighed as much as I do. I’ve never had any major health problems, though my blood pressure and blood glucose level are borderline.

I hate shopping with a passion, but when I do, I usually go to Walmart as a default. In general, I’ve tended to prefer big name stores to smaller ones, and aside from the big purchase items, primarily used price and then quality to guide purchasing decisions.

I have moved around a fair amount in my life and I anticipating making several more moves before settling down (maybe), and for this reason, I’ve tended not to feel a real connection with the communities that I’m a part of (with the exception of high school and college, which are by nature transient). As a result, I’ve been shamefully uninformed about local politics and the communities I’ve lived in in general.