Blog Post: Collective Living for a low Impact Lifestyle
It has been a big change moving from a university residence to a shared house. This Fall I was lucky enough to move into a house with friends who share my value of living a low impact lifestyle. The way we decided to structure our house is inspired by the idea of collective living. The main difference between a shared house and a collective house is the idea of shared decision making and working together towards common goals. In our house a major common goal is to make our environmental footprint as light as possible, while ensuring there is always an abundance of tasty healthy food.
Naturally, if one person is consuming as a solo unit, they will incur an excess of waste since so many products are designed to be consumed by a family unit. I found when living on campus, with no real cooking facilities, there were often times when my personal food would go off before I had a chance to use it. In a collective house, since all food is shared, it is far less likely that things will have a chance to go off. We save costs and ensure that we always have our favourite food staples on hand by buying much of our food in bulk. Since we moved in together in October we have placed two bulk orders from Sprouts, the University of B.C. on-campus natural food co-op. While we are still testing to see which foods we use most rapidly (in our case walnuts are number one), we have each only spent $80 and our supply of legumes, flour and rice will last us at least another few months. I have found it incredibly helpful to have the basics on hand, and now I am able to make many things that in the past I found daunting because of the variety of ingredients required.
At this time of year the kitchen is definitely the heart of our home, but earlier in the autumn we were spending a lot more time in the backyard and vegetable garden. This year's harvest gave us more kale than we know what to do with, including chard, leeks, beets, baby carrots, about 8 pumpkins, and an abundance of arugula. We are eagerly awaiting the garlic to sprout which we will harvest it in May. We also have heaps of herbs growing on the back porch, so there is never a need to buy cilantro, basil or sprouts from the store. Living a low impact lifestyle is synonymous with eating locally and organic whenever possible, but many students feel that the price of these products is out of their price range. This is why growing one's own produce is so beneficial – and fun! You really don't need much space to start a veggie patch, and it can be exceptionally rewarding to watch it grow.
One thing I didn't expect from this living arrangement is how much I am learning about cooking and food. One of my roommates bought the book 'Wild Fermentation' from her workplace (Banyan Books) and we have been experimenting with making a lot of tasty things, like our own apple cider, for instance. We have also been dehydrating a lot of fruit, and just the other day another roommate made a large batch of rice milk. We have a set up where Monday through Friday we sign up to cook for the household; sometimes in pairs, sometimes solo. Since I moved in to the house my diet has become far more diverse and I have noticed a great improvement in my energy and general well-being, a very welcome change from the way my diet and health had suffered for the past two years of travelling and studying abroad.
I will post periodic updates about some our house projects to reduce waste, as well as what I am learning about sustainable healthy eating.
More information on collective living can be found at: http://vancollectivehousenetwork.blogspot.com/