Saving the planet – one pair of socks at a time.

I am balancing precariously on the intersection of two conflicting intents. The conflicting intents? Saving money so I can retire and saving the planet.

Personal savings intent:

I am 59, and I have a huge mortgage as a result of getting divorced and needing to start again. I don’t want to downsize as I am already in a small villa. I want to retire by 62. I have set myself a goal of saving a little over a third of my net pay for the next four years. This should get the mortgage paid off and means I won’t end up homeless.

I am achieving this through a number of strategies which I set out in my Year of Zero Post. Essentially I’m saving money by:

  1. Placing an embargo on buying new things and only replacing stuff if it gets broken or wears out.
  2. Being much more frugal in terms of food, entertainment and lifestyle in general.

Saving the planet intent:

I want to be a more sustainable and ethical buyer. I want to buy from smaller companies, not multinationals. I want to buy local more often and hyper-local wherever possible. I want to buy from people who have bonafide planet-friendly strategies. I want to buy Australian made and Australian owned.  I want to buy from those companies whose triple bottom line includes, profit in terms of money, environment and people.

My dilemma? I need new sports socks. The ones I have are disappearing inside my shoes as I run.

Weighing up the options

I can go to the local chain store KMart, and get three pairs of socks for $2. I won’t buy those because I know they won’t last long and are probably synthetic and will end up smelly. I can afford to splash out and get 3 pairs for $12. KMart has an ethical buying commitment. They are establishing a framework to ensure their suppliers’ employees are paid a living wage.   Their sustainability policy concentrates on sources of cotton and cocoa, social responsibility and saving energy by installing LED lighting. Their environmental bona fides are not great, but they are working towards it. They’re are thinking about it, but they are not there yet.

On the other hand, I could buy from a company like Boody. Boody is an Australian family company which manufactures underwear and socks from ethically and sustainably sourced bamboo. Their environmental credentials are impressive. The bamboo is grown and treated in China. Some of their products are made in Australia, but from their website, it is hard to tell where the items are actually knitted or stitched together.  They employ local people, pay a living wage,  and have a close to zero waste production cycle. They give to planet-friendly charities. They tick the environmental boxes but not the manufactured in Australia box.

Given the KMart socks are also not Australian made, this factor can be cancelled out.  BUT one pair of bamboo socks will cost me $10! I can get a discount if I buy five pairs. This brings it down to $8.80 a pair.

The Decision?

And here is where I get stuck. This is, I fear is where most people get stuck. Do I spend 400% more buying the eco socks or stash the cash in my own account? What wins? The now or the later? My economic future or the future of the planet? What legacy do I want to leave?

The answer becomes clearer when it’s personalised, and I think about my own family. What impact will my actions have on my offspring? What impact can I have as one person?

The journey has to start somewhere, and this time I am going to give the eco-socks a try. My desire to ensure that this one planet remains liveable and viable for my grandson has won the argument.

DISCLAIMER: I have no connection to Boody. They just came up when I searched Google for ethical and sustainable socks.


Nearly $60 later; the socks arrived, they’re soft and fluffy and good quality.  They are labelled “Made in China”. I hope they last!

 

Go Solar!

In my quest to reduce my carbon footprint I am seriously considering installing solar panels. I am coincidently doing a unit of work on energy with my Year 7 Science class.  Since our school is “learning from home”,  I  had time to play with some new apps and techniques to prepare a lesson for remote learning, I put this clip together as a bit of fun. Three parts learning new skills, 3 parts lesson prep and 4 parts just fooling around!

Video footage using my iPhone, screen capture using Loom. Music from Purple Planet. Adobe Sketch with an Apple Pencil and iMovie to put it all together.

 

To-do list or ta-da list?

A to-do list is helpful, right?

Have you got a really long to-do list of all the things you should be doing in this Age of Corona? Now you are not commuting every day because you’re working from home or your place of work has closed down, you’ve got heaps more time! Right? You might have more time because you are not going out to the movies or drinks with friends and EVERYTHING in your calendar has been cancelled? Right? You should be using this time productively, right?

Empty Calendar
No events! The P&C meeting was cancelled too!

Is this to-do list making you feel guilty as you sit in front of the TV and watch one more episode of the latest binge-worthy show? Just one more and THEN I‘ll go to bed! Promise!

I started off ISO with this big to-do list. It ran to three A5 pages. I wrote it before the lockdown started in an effort to avoid getting to the end of this and thinking “oh darn that’s right! I should have done….XYZ.” XYZ being whatever the really important thing that I could have been doing but didn’t get done! I also have to keep in mind my overarching year-long plan – the Year of Zero.

The list became a yoke across my shoulders. A burden to bear. One that didn’t allow for the contingencies and emergencies of daily life. It didn’t allow for the weather. It didn’t allow for my mood.

From to-do to ta-da!

So I put that list aside for reference and created a new one. I have simplified and broadened it considerably. Now my list has only four things on it. It is flexible, adaptable and infinitely adjustable.

Here is my daily to-do list:

  1. Learn something.
  2. Create something.
  3. Organise something.
  4. Move everything! (as in exercise)

So for instance today,

  1. What did I learn? I watched a lecture about sustainability and learnt that if we returned to a 1970’s level of consumption (of goods and energy), we could work 80% less.  The 1970s wasn’t too bad, we just didn’t have as much STUFF. The lecture does not suggest we return to 1970s technology (or fashion!) just the level of stuff we accumulate. It’s the first of 12 in a series from The Great Courses which I accessed for free through Kanopy. Kanopy is a video streaming service which I get for free with my library membership. Lots of public libraries offer it. Check to see if yours does.
  2. What did I create? Well, this post for my Sunday Post series for a start! I also finished off some of the tea cosies I started the other day.
  3. What did I organise? I am working on a document called “Death Admin” which has information for my family if/when I die. This was triggered by a podcast  (The Pineapple Project) I listened to recently.  I am getting together the information and documents I need for that.
  4. Did I move? Yes! Before breakfast, I did a 30-minute online exercise class which has been provided by my (closed) gym. Later today I will do a Zoom session with my sister, the personal trainer. While I was watching the lecture in Point 1 above I stood up and stepped from side to side and did squats and all sorts of in-place moves so I wasn’t sitting on my bum for another 30 minutes!

My to-do list is now a ta-da list! I can shrink or expand the items to suit the day, the mood and the life that gets in the way!

Smoke and mirrors maybe, but it’s making a difference to how I feel!

Year of Zero Quarterly Review

Edited to Add 22/3/20: I wrote this post in early-February when things were a little less dire than they are now.  Australia was yet to be placed in lock-down due to the Corona Virus. Last night our Government announced Stage 1 of the process, with most public venues being closed down. I feel like an oracle or at least the start of a conspiracy theory. Here I was thinking I was doing something novel when a novel virus comes along and means EVERYONE is having a Year of Zero forced upon them. Hope you are all OK.

Stay safe, stay away and wash your hands! 


At the end of last year, I announced my big project for 2020, The Year of Zero. My aim is to spend as little as possible, save up plenty of zero’s and try to live a less wasteful lifestyle.

Three months are up and here is my first-quarter report.

1. No Overseas Travel

Tick! Nope, no international travel! I have been nowhere!

Score: 10/10

View in a car's rear view mirroe
No road trips this year! Or plane rides.

2. No extended travel within Australia

The only places I have been to were not at my expense and were part of my volunteer response to the devastating bushfires in NSW in January 2020. So tick, done!

Score: 10/10

3. No new stuff

I bought a handbag. It satisfied the rules for purchases as it was replacing a worn-out item and was second hand. It’s a stylish leather backpack that fits my zero waste kit in it (more on that later). I did get a few NEW new things for my grandson including two train sets.  I  bought some glass jars to make kombucha kits. I am hoping to sell these on.

A major expense in this quarter has been getting my dining chairs reupholstered as the crappy vinyl was peeling off and shedding everywhere. Kudos needed though! I repaired rather than replaced even though it was cheaper to buy new!

Score: 7/10

 

4. Reduction in Expenditure on Groceries.

I decided to cut my fortnightly budget by  40%. I thought I would struggle.  For the last three months I have been:

  1. Carefully planning meals and batch cooking after checking what’s in season and cheap.
  2. Following a frugal flexitarian diet  – Plenty of lentils and no fresh salmon fillets!
  3. Shopping from my cupboard – and it’s still not empty!
  4. Making use of the chest freezer that has been sitting empty in my garage for the last 6 years.
  5. Buying in bulk.
  6. Not shopping at Woolworths.
  7. Tracking my expenditure using an app.

These strategies have meant that most fortnights I actually have money left over even after the 40% cut. I have an inkling that a large proportion of the saved money would have previously been spent on booze as “booze-drunk-at-home” came out of the grocery allocation.

I am no longer buying the treats I used to buy, only having meat if I eat out and I’m making nearly everything from scratch.  Comment: Pasta is not worth making at home. Preserved lemons, on the other hand, are totally worth it! (A post about that soon)

Score: 10/10

5. Side hustle happenings

This is coming along slowly. I launched a photography business – OCE Photography – but have no bookings yet. I ran a couple of courses at the local community college and I sold all my 2020 calendars!! That’s good news because last year, I had 20 left over and lost money.  I have listed some greeting cards on my Etsy site

The most exciting news though is that I have had my first freelance article for money accepted.

I’m heading in the right direction but not about to replace the day job just yet!

Score: 5/10

6. Only sign up for Free Courses

In 2019, I spent a lot of money on courses and I have vowed to do only free courses in 2020. I have discovered Future Learn which has great courses.  It has a paid option as well, but the free version is working for me. I don’t want a certificate. So far, I have completed a course on Upcycling and Humanism. There are enough courses to keep me busy forever!

Score: 10/10

7. Sell some of my stuff

With the double aim of getting rid of clutter and making money, I plan to hold another garage sale. This has not happened yet.

Score:  0/10

8. Concentrate on free activities

Not sure what to report here. I didn’t spend much in the most recent school holiday period as I was assisting with fires. I generally go out with a group of friends once a week to trivia and since I’m not drinking, it’s a very cheap night out.

Score: N/A

9. Rewrite my 60 for 60

My revised 60 for 60 plan includes many expensive activities, mainly travel-related, which are now in conflict with my new goals. I have not rewritten them yet. I have completed 22 of the items on the original list.

Score: 0/10

10. Zero-waste eco-warrior.

I have been doing lots of reading and signed up to some blogs, newsletters and podcasts. However, I am still struggling with getting rid of plastic packaging. My worm farm is already at maximum capacity in terms of dealing with my food scraps. I need to get a compost bin too.

Wins on this front are much less food waste and creating a zero-waste kit which I am carrying around in the “new” backpack. This consists of a reusable coffee mug, cutlery kit, reusable bags and metal water bottle.

I feel I can do much better in the eco-warrior princess department.

Score: 5/10

11. Year of Zero Booze

Although not declared as an aim at the Year of Zero launch, I decided to stop drinking alcohol as a way of saving money and looking after my health. So far no booze since December 29th, 2019. I am aiming to do the full 12 months.

Score: 10/10

three bottles of kombucha
Brewing my own Kombucha saves a packet!

My overall score on a very arbitrary scale is 67%.

I’ll report back at the end of June for the half-yearly review.


Let’s hope the curve is flattened by then! And I think pasta has now become worth making at home!