Thursday, March 9, 2017

ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT: 10 Ways We Reduced Ours When We Retired in Mexico

Feedback from the Ecological Footprint Quiz!

Damage to Our Earth by Copper Mining is Huge! 

     Since we retired in Mexico, we have had more time to focus on living simpler and reducing our impact on the earth, reducing our Ecological Footprint, also referred to as 'carbon footprint' or simply 'footprint'. Living in a warm climate helps in many ways, as you'll see in my examples below. Retirement gives us time to be more careful about shopping selectively, repairing items rather than replacing them, preparing food at home rather than buying packaged food, and thinking about how our choices impact the earth. In retirement, we aren't in a hurry to rush off to work, so we have time to walk where we need to go in our village of Sayulita. Once or twice a week we drive our electric golf cart to town to buy groceries or take laundry to the lavandaria to be washed. Our recreation is simple and easy on the earth. We boogie-board, golf on a course that is only green when it has rained recently, do Stand Up Paddleboard in the bay, walk and hike, do Zumba, and occasionally take a bus ride to Puerto Vallarta for entertainment. Life is simple but fun.
     I felt that we had reduced our carbon footprint, but I wanted to evaluate how well we were really doing and how we could improve. I took the Ecological Footprint Quiz online created by Earthday.org. (I used Ecuador as our place of residence since Mexico was not an option. Living in Ecuador is similar to living in Mexico from our experience). We scored very well on the Ecological Footprint Quiz! You can take the Ecological Footprint Quiz and see how you score at: http://www.earthday.org/take-action/footprint-calculator/?gclid=CJHY77T3xNICFc26wAodJyYCBA#ecofootprint

     Our low Ecological Footprint is partly due to living simply, partly due to living in Mexico, and partly due to being retired and having the time to apply the principles needed. Here are 10 ways that we have reduced our Ecological (Carbon) Footprint:
Crockpot Cooking Uses Very Little Electricity

1. Reduced our use of electricity (Average bill of $60 US per month)
  • No dishwasher, an electricity and water hog.
  • No clothes washer or dryer, which are electricity hogs. I hand-wash delicates and line-dry. Most of our laundry is done at the lavandaria. 
  • Seldom use the vacuum cleaner. Our maid says it uses too much electricity. She only sweeps, mops, and shakes out our few small rugs. 
  • LED light bulbs. We switched all light bulbs from 60 Watt incandescents to LEDs that give the equivalent light but only use 9 Watts.  This reduced our monthly electric bill by almost half!
  • No heater in the home. Winters are mildly warm and our concrete block home holds the warmth in during the cooler nights.
  • A mini-split air conditioner in our master bedroom is used very little, mostly at night for sleep, starting in late spring. Our electric usage is highest in June and July when daytime temperatures are high and we choose to air condition the main three rooms of living space in the afternoon as well as at night, but no usage in the winter offsets this.
  • Cooking in a Crockpot uses very little electricity
  • Hang our towels outside to line-dry after a shower and reuse them for 3 or 4 showers, reducing the use of electricity and water by washing them less often.
Our Simple Gas Range Top Uses Very Little Propane

2. Reduced our use of natural gas (Propane) (Average bill of $16 US per month)
  • Cook on a simple gas range top
  • Heat water in a 6-gallon gas hot water heater for showers and washing dishes

Refillable 5-Gallon Plastic Water Bottles Reduce Plastic Usage

3. Reduced our use of plastic and styrofoam
  • Refillable 5-gallon water plastic bottles and a kitchen dispenser. We exchange the empty bottles for full ones from a purified water company that delivers to our door each week. Sayulita has its own water purification plant, using reverse osmosis.
  • Reuseable water cups and bottles rather than individual plastic water bottles.
    Reusable Water Cups & Bottles Reduce Use of Disposable Plastic Bottles
  • We only buy milk and juice packaged in paper cartons rather than plastic containers. If a store only stocks milk in plastic jugs, we say "no plastico, por favor" and we go to another store to find milk packaged in paper cartons.
    We Only Buy Milk & Juice Packaged in Paper Cartons, Not Plastic!
  • Reuseable Shopping Bags rather than accepting plastic bags at the stores.
  • Reuseable Mesh Laundry Bags rather than plastic bags to take our dirty laundry to the lavandaria.
    I Make Yogurt in Reusable Glass Jars to Avoid Buying it in Plastic Cartons
  • Make yogurt at home in reusable glass jars rather than buy yogurt in plastic containers.
  • "No Straw Please" at restaurants. We are still working on remembering to do this.
  • Take our own bowls with lids to a restaurant when we order food "to go".
    Biodegradable Trash Bags Available in 3 Sizes at Home Depot
  • Use biodegradable trash bags (we use "Verde" brand from Home Depot).
  • We don't buy movies on DVDs or music on CD's any longer. We loaded our old CD music onto our i-Pods and then sold the CD's in a garage sale, passing their use on. We still enjoy listening to our old tunes though many are over fifteen years old. We download new music online through I-Tunes or Zumba.com. We use Netflix Mexico to watch movies. Spotify is available in Mexico for music, but it isn't in our budget.
    Our Electric Golf Cart is Perfect for Hauling Our Paddleboard to the Beach
4. No car! Sayulita is a small pueblo (village) so we walk to town for dinner, Zumba class, dentist appointments, haircuts, etc. We use our electric golf cart once or twice a week to drive to town for groceries and laundry and to haul our Stand Up Paddleboard to the beach.
Our Simple Casita's Front Porch & Kitchen Window 

5. We purchased a small, simple Mexican-style home (casita), about 800 square feet, and we don't remodel. This reduces the use of our earth's resources.
Jon Installed a New Ceiling Fan When the 8-Year-Old One Failed

6. We only replace appliances, computers, Kindles, and televisions when they become unusable. We replaced the old, motel-style refrigerator with a medium size energy-efficient Whirlpool model when we moved into our casita, reducing the use of electricity. When one of our 8-year-old ceiling fans finally quits working, we replace it. 

7. We rarely purchase new clothing, shoes, or jewelry. In the moderate, warm climate of Nayarit, we wear shorts, sleeveless shirts, bathing suits, and flip-flops. Once a year, we replace a pair of flip-flops and Zumba shoes because they just plain wear out. Minimal purchasing of new clothing and jewelry reduces the use of the earth's resources.
We Ride the Sayulita Bus to Bucerias, Puerto Vallarta, and Lo de Marcos
8. We use public transportation, the bus, when we travel out of town to shop or pay bills in Bucerias and Puerto Vallarta. Big points on the Ecological Footprint Quiz when you use public transportation, plus it's relaxing to let someone else do the driving! Once a month or so we take a taxi for excursions when the bus doesn't suit our needs.
We Shop Locally at a Sayulita Produce Stand

9. Most of the food we eat is produced in Mexico. This reduces shipping of product which reduces the use of fossil fuels to move the product.
I Publish My Books Only as eBooks, Reducing the Use of Earth's Resources

10. We rarely buy paper books, magazines, or newspapers for our home, reducing the amount of paper and wood that is used. I also publish my books only in eBook format, avoiding the destruction of trees to print my books. We read books that we download onto our Kindles. We read magazines and news online, saving on the use of the earth's resources.

     Our score on the Ecological Footprint Quiz reinforced my feeling that Jon and I are having a small impact on the planet. I also learned that, although we are helping by separating our recyclables from our trash and hauling them to the Recycle Center in Sayulita, it is far better to avoid using single-use plastic and glass items when possible. According to EarthDay.org, "the largest reductions in Ecological Footprint can most commonly be achieved by reducing the total amount of matierials consumed, rather than attempting to recycle them afterwards."

     I also learned from our quiz results that the ways Jon and I could improve our Ecological Footprint Quiz score revolve around what we eat. Things we could do to reduce our Ecological Footprint include:

1. Eat less meat. We eat beef about once a week, but we could eat it less often, reducing our impact on the planet. EarthDay.org explains the reason this way: "A cow grazing on one hectare of pasture has a Fooprint of one hectare for both creating its biological food products and absorbing its biological waste products. This single hectare provides both services, thus counting the Fooprint of the cow twice...results in double counting the actual area necessary to support the cow." Now I understand one reason people become vegetarians.

2. Buy fewer items that are shipped into Mexico, such as Triscuits, Atlantic Salmon we buy at Costco, Hershey's Chocolate Chips, Ghirardeli Brownie Mix, and Nalley's pickles. We do have a few weaknesses. After living in Mexico for almost two years, we do crave a few comfort foods from the United States. We give in and shop at Costco once every two months so we can enjoy these things occasionally as special treats.
Our Motorhome is a Gas-Guzzler, But it is our Home for 3 Months a Year

3. Drive our gas-guzzling motorhome fewer miles each year or purchase a smaller, more fuel-efficient motorhome for our trips to and from Oregon. This is a subject of debate by us and many others. We only get 8 miles per gallon and drive it about 5000 miles each year. This includes a few trips within Mexico such as to Puerto Vallarta for a long weekend, a week at Club Roca Azul on Lake Chapala in Jocotepec, Jalisco, and a few days in Mazatlan on our way north and south to the U.S. That means we use 625 gallons of gasoline per year to move our "home" from Mexico to the United States and back again, a figure we could reduce by half with a smaller, newer model. But, this is hugely offset by the amount of the earth's resources it requires to produce that new motorhome. Or, we could fly back and forth to Puerto Vallarta, storing our motorhome in Oregon, reducing the miles we drive it by about 4000 each year. But, each person who flies that far is responsible for the use of a huge amount of jet fuel burned to move bodies and their supplies back and forth. Last year we evaluated selling our motorhome, possibly buying a new motorhome, and we decided it is more efficient to continue driving our older model until it won't run any longer. I'm glad. I love our motorhome trips through Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon!
     
     I encourage you to read more about our adventures and decision to retire in Mexico. My two eBooks are available on Amazon. If you enjoy them, please take a few minutes to leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. I would appreciate it very much!
'Look Inside' on Amazon by Clicking HERE

'Look Inside' on Amazon by Clicking HERE

4 comments:

  1. Terry this is a very good article, very educational.mom



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  2. Thank you, Kyle, for the nice compliment! And thank you for reading my article.

    ReplyDelete