State of the (blog) union

Podium with microphoneSince Maggie’s off camping and I’m feeling under the weather, I’ll just talk about the state of the (blog) union.

We’ve published 85 articles (now that this one is up) since January 23rd. That’s almost four months and meets our goal of 5 posts a week. I’m not making any claim on consistent quality over a week yet, though.

I especially enjoyed everyone’s thoughts on houses, but the most active articles have been Maggie’s post about the ecological soundness of babies (she tells me they aren’t recyclable, so I’m not sure how green they can be!) and our announcement about the Extreme Eco-Challenge.

Our most popular articles have been about Maggie’s car (and the veggie oil it uses), making pizza, and doing laundry, followed by my number-crunching on getting places.

Maggie and I plan to think about how we want to proceed from here on the trip to my brother’s wedding next week. It’s at least a 10-hour drive, so we’ll be desperate for stuff to think about! That makes this a good opportunity to ask you all what you enjoy about it as-is and what you’d like to see change in the future. More analytical articles? More personal stories? Absolutely never another story about what we eat?

In addition to topics, I’m interested in knowing your feelings about the images in each article. Sometimes, they can be as much work as the article itself (!), so it’d be nice to know if they add something to your reading experience.

I continue to be amazed and gratified by all of the comments we’ve gotten. I read most of my favorite blogs because of the quality of their comments. GreenCouple is well on its way by that metric! Kudos to all of you!

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Lazy Friday links: convertible furniture, an expensive drought, and community gardens

I haven’t been reading my blogs regularly this week, so now that I’m back home, there was a bunch of interest stuff waiting for me.

From Treehugger (a new read for me) comes mention of convertible furniture. Dwell, a British company, sells a coffee table that becomes a dinner table and a coffee table that becomes a laptop table. As Maggie and I have been looking at houses, I’ve been thinking about how much space I really need. It seems like a lot of the space we’ve got is only used part of the time. I don’t really want to do anything but sleep in the bedroom, but I hardly ever use the dining room and the living room at the same time. If there were some way to combine rooms, I could probably be comfortable with a place that’s 10% smaller. I don’t know if this table is a good way to do it, but it’s a nice possibility.

I try to keep track of my hometown news and ran across some in an unexpected place today. North Carolina has had a terrible drought for the past year, so everyone has been conserving water. My parents got a rain barrel and now use the old bucket in the shower trick. According to Freakonomics, because NC residents have cut their water usage by a third, the water utility company in Charlotte-Mecklenburg is raising prices! I know that most of the cost of water production is constant, but it’s still a weird disincentive for conservation. It makes the free rider problem even worse. Why bother saving water if it not only doesn’t help you personally, it hurts you.

It’s almost officially spring and the weather is definitely spring-like, which means it’s time to really think about gardens. Maggie has already started planning and digging with some friends. Planet Green has a short blurb about community gardening connected to a Natural Home article that I can’t find (I left Planet Green a post about it, so maybe they’ll fix it before you read this). Community gardening is a good way to get some gardening in even when you’re in an urban area. I was able to set aside a 1’x1′ plot at my last place, but don’t want to dig things up at our current place. Maggie still needs her gardening fix, so she’s helping her friends with their gardens.

There are also some actual community gardens in Bloomington, where you can sign up to use a small part of a larger plot on unused land. I love the concept because it encourages community and give novice gardeners like myself a good place to get advice. There isn’t one within walking distance but there might be if we move downtown. That’s good, because most of the houses we’ve been looking at are too shady for good gardens.

I’ll end with a mention of blog style. I really like the way that JD at Get Rich Slowly emphasizes a couple of key phrases within his articles. I’m going to try and do the same (when I remember). If I’m lucky, that might help me focus on no more than a couple of key points too!

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Can compound interest save the evironment?

A stock graph bursting out from green paperThe site was down for a while this evening, so Maggie didn’t have a chance to post anything before she went to bed. In lieu of a real post, I’ll leave you with something I’ve been thinking about today. A lot of people feel like it isn’t worth changing their lifestyle because they’re just an individual, so they can’t make a real difference. Think about where we’d be if an individual could make an immediate and obvious difference, though. That world would be in terrible trouble if it was at a point where one person’s additional greenhouse gases or electrical use would be enough to plunge the world into chaos.

Wouldn’t you rather be where we are now, where you don’t have to make a huge difference to do some good?

It reminds me of compound interest. When you hear about Adam who invests $12k and lets it sit for 30 years versus Bob who invests $100 a month for 30 years, the obvious winner seems to be Bob. After all, Bob put three times as much money in as Adam, so he made a much bigger difference, right? Sure, if you’re talking effort. But if you’re talking results, Adam is the real mover and shaker here. His initial $12k is worth over $300k, while Bob’s take is half that even though he put in more money!

If you wait until change is forced on you, you’ll have no choice but to make a huge difference (or die off). But, if you start making little changes now, you’ll make it so that you won’t have to be a super-sacrificing Bob.

Call it the compound interest theory of sustainability.

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It’s your idea (unless it works)

The green couple - Maggie and WillThis was not my idea. In fact, I’m not sure how the idea started. It might have begun when we were looking around for extra income beyond selling plasma or recycling the neighbor’s copper wiring. It might have been spurred by Will’s fascination of all thing Web 2.0 and his frustration with my utter lack of comprehension. (I can never remember if Web 2.0 is the old stuff or the new stuff.)

I think it may have been a combination of two events – Will reading an article about the fabulous blogging life and me lamenting that I didn’t feel experienced enough to live my dream of being a sustainable lifestyle consultant .

“You know, you could start by writing a blog about living sustainably. Ooh, or we could write one together! We could talk about our quest to live sustainably as a young, poor, soon-to-be-married couple,” he said.

“Who on Earth would read it?” I replied.

“Well, that depends on how good your writing is. I’m sure lots of people would read *my* articles.”

Gritting my teeth, I sat down at the keyboard and promptly cranked out a couple dozen articles – my experience composting with a worm bin, my futile attempts introduce low-impact beans & rice dishes into our dinner rotation, my confusion about whether it is better to live car-free in the city or homestead in the country, my endless quest to keep up with my reputation for environmentalism… He wrote three articles and declared the project a success.

So here we are. We have about nine months until we’re officially married but we already live together. We’re slowly transitioning to a greener, simpler lifestyle in tune with our values, our budget, and our creative abilities. A compact fluorescent light bulb here, a back porch tomato plant there. Did I mention that my engagement ring is a bicycle? (And yes, I love it.) We’re learning lots about each other as we go. Luckily, our strengths seem to complement each other. I have more of a background in green living and am more likely to embrace “radical” hippie techniques; he is willing to do the research and help us make the best choice when the options are unclear.

This blog is a record of our journey together as we join paths towards enlightenment or at least happiness, fulfillment, and pride in a life well lived. I expect the topics will range widely with everything from eating organically on a tight budget to increasing the energy efficiency of our rental apartment to finding useful and meaningful work. We want to share our experiences and let you know exactly what worked and what didn’t. The “no flush” water conservation method? So far so good. Cloth toilet paper? Well, we haven’t tried it yet but I’m willing to make the effort in the name of science.

Perhaps this blog will also lead to fame and fortune but that’s not really my goal right now. It wasn’t my idea but I’ve become very fond of the idea of sharing my knowledge and dreams and radical bathroom experiments with the world. Besides, there’s probably no one out there reading. Is there?

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