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Convincing the 'Prove It!' majority  RSS feed

 
Kim Annon.
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Permaculture is grand. It’s smart, it’s healthy, it’s saving the planet and saving humanity. But a lot of humanity doesn't seem to care enough to be saved.

A few of us are the innovators, holding on with both hands and trying to drag our mule-stubborn brothers back from the brink. A good number of us are the early-adopters, who felt the tugging and started pulling along by trying to spread the word and changing their own habits.

The majority of humanity, though, are wearing blinders and are numb to our efforts. Sure they hear, but they don’t listen. They don’t change because they can’t see how close they, personally, are to the cliff. Or, because they see all the symptoms but refuse to believe that the inevitable will happen because it ‘can't happen to them,’ like folks living at the foot of a failing dam.

They frown at the dirt on our knees and under our nails. Then, they declare it’s too much work, or that they have no time for it, and go back to their fast food and prime-time TV.

We need to show them that starting isn't so hard, that the little things do add up, and that they can make a difference with just a few minutes worth of time. So let’s put our brains together and come up with a list.

A list of things that cost less than $10 or $20, things that take less than 5 minutes a day, but will add up if everyone pitches in. Let’s show them that one restaurant meal’s worth of money, or one commercial break worth of time, can help change the world and their own lives for the better.

And don’t think that I’m not going to post these all over Facebook, either. I might even pitch in my own 5 minutes to make them picture-quotes that will travel around even faster.

Here's a couple to get us started:

Cost: ~$5. Time: <5 minutes/day, occasional trip to a recycling center if your town or complex doesn't pick up. Benefit Planet: Less demand for new paper. Benefit Person: Might save Money.
Buy a second trash bin for your kitchen, and place it next to the first. Use it for everything paper and cardboard that gets thrown out in your house. This will save you money if you live in city with a pay-as-you-throw trash pickup system.

Time: ~5 minutes extra Benefit Planet: Less energy demand, less money on fast food. Benefit Person: Save time, Save money.
When you make dinner, cook double the usual amount. When you're done eating, put away the left overs: In the fridge for tomorrow's lunch, or in the freezer for next week.
 
jimmy gallop
Posts: 196
Location: east and dfw texas
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That's why were where we are
they do think like that and the snow ball is rolling down hill almost to the bottom
It will take everyone to catch it and they wont do that because
it don't mean there survival yet.
when it does they will want someone else to do it for them.like now!

 
Ben Stallings
Posts: 159
Location: Emporia, KS
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Oh boy, Kim, you have touched a nerve. Particularly since you give recycling as an example.

As it happens, I currently own and run a curbside recycling business. I say "currently" because the business was started (by a friend of mine) out of frustration that the city was taking so long to implement curbside recycling -- they've been studying it since 1986, and there's finally a plan in place to begin citywide collection this fall, if it doesn't get canceled. So in the meantime my friend started this company, and when she got too busy to run it, I bought it because I didn't want to see it go away again as an option while the city was dragging its heels.

So my company serves about 1% of the households in town. We've tried all kinds of advertising, sponsoring public events, etc., and we're plateaued at about 1%. That's OK, if the city does take it over in the fall, participation will go to 30% overnight and probably 70% within 5 years. That's a big step worth celebrating.

But recycling is not enough. It's been said that no civilization in history has ever been saved by recycling; in fact every civilization that has failed in history has recycled. Its value is usually taken to be as a gateway drug, to get people conscious about doing something, anything, for the environment. Accordingly, the name we do business under is The Green Door (raising the question: what's beyond?), and my not-so-subtle reason for buying the business was to get those 1% of environmentally-conscious people interested in doing other environmental things, such as home energy efficiency or permaculture gardening. I've had no success at that.

Why not? Because the 1% who pay me to pick up their recyclables are not the most environmentally-conscious people in town, they're the busiest and/or laziest. By making recycling easy -- by focusing on the simple and easy things people can do -- we are selecting the people who are too busy or lazy to make the effort themselves, and these are not the people who are receptive to doing more.

A similar plateau has been reached with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). The idea was that you get people to change their light bulbs first, and then they're interested in doing more. The reality has been that after they change their bulbs, they think they've done enough. Same with insulating houses (I am also a home energy auditor)... in many cases people use more energy to heat and cool their houses once they have insulation, because they think they can afford it now!

I'm afraid that's what your project will lead to, as well. If you focus on little things, you may get some people to do those little things, but then they will be satisfied that they've done their part. IMO what we need instead is to offer an alternative vision, a comprehensive vision of how living more lightly on the earth is a better way to live. Then people can be convinced to try more major changes, such as moving to walkable neighborhoods where they don't have to drive, raising food instead of lawns, sharing with neighbors, etc., changes that really make a difference.
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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Kim, in a sense you are talking about what Paul Wheaton refers to as "bricks". Bits of knowledge/information that are small, easy to grasp and implement, and that, bit by bit, add up to a major structure.

One of the tricks is to try to choose things that really are easy, that can clearly make a difference, that save money, etc.

Telling someone to make a run to the local recycling center may not be one of those things. Their recycling center may be much more than five minutes away, may not be open on a schedule that works for them, may cost enough in gasoline for their car trip that it's a net loss. Might be a good one, too, but it is not universal.

One of the challenges is that there are such different target groups. Urban apartment dwellers have a very different situation than suburban home owners. While there are likely to be some ideas that apply neatly to both situations, there are lots of others that work for one, but not the other.

For the suburban crowd, I think there are a couple of questions that lead in our direction.
Do you garden? Can you eat your garden? You can have a beautiful garden that helps feed your family and takes no more effort than your current garden!

For the urban crowd:
Do you grow potted plants? You could grow your own herbs for cooking in just a small space, and many herbs are quite pretty. Plus fresh herbs are much more flavorful than what you buy in the store and much less expensive.

I am sure there is an almost endless list of small things like this, ideas that can be offered up to the masses with a suggestion of the benefits provided. Like seeds, some will fall on fertile ground and grow and some will never germinate, but the more you put out, the more likely you are to get a crop.

 
Dale Hodgins
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"Why not? Because the 1% who pay me to pick up their recyclables are not the most environmentally-conscious people in town, they're the busiest and/or laziest."
This doesn't seem like the sort of statement that you should use in your advertising. If I were a customer, I'd rethink that choice upon reading it.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The thousands who have bought recycled building materials from me, are amongst the better educated, more environmentally conscious, hard working and productive citizens. Word of mouth advertising is very important to me. One customer leads to another which leads to a job lead ...
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Back to proving it.

People respond well to health and wealth.
Show them that your lifestyle is really helping out in those departments. I have seen people claiming to be permaculturalists, who live in a degree of squalor which few would like to emulate. My neighbor Julius has probably never heard the word permaculture. He grows his own food, built his house from trees on the property, heats with wood, has a naturalized swimming pool at the side of the river, and generates his own electricity. He and his wife look younger than most their age and their house and property are far above the average in both functionality and dollar value. He started out with nothing, just like most people. ( I find that I have to add that statement after every good example of financial success on this forum, in order to avoid a whole lot of trite about how the person mentioned, must have been given some huge advantage in life.)
 
Adam Klaus
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Ben Stallings wrote:
A similar plateau has been reached with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). The idea was that you get people to change their light bulbs first, and then they're interested in doing more. The reality has been that after they change their bulbs, they think they've done enough.


I think what happens with CFLs specifically, is that one you try them, you run screaming and never want to endure that terrible light quality again.
 
Kim Annon.
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Such strong opinions 'round here. Yikes! Not that it's a bad thing.

Ben Stallings wrote: ...the city was taking so long to implement curbside recycling -- they've been studying it since 1986, and there's finally a plan in place to begin citywide collection this fall, if it doesn't get canceled.

28 years?! Seriously! Holy poop on a stick couldn't they just look at other counties/cities and how landfill costs went down. Yeesh.

Peter Ellis wrote:Telling someone to make a run to the local recycling center may not be one of those things. Their recycling center may be much more than five minutes away, may not be open on a schedule that works for them, may cost enough in gasoline for their car trip that it's a net loss. Might be a good one, too, but it is not universal.

The recycling Schtick is on the list there mainly because it's the first thing that comes to mind when 'easy help the planet' is mentioned. I know that the recycling center isn't always just down the street.

Dale Hodgins wrote:People respond well to health and wealth.

So freakin' true.

Personally, my journey started with baby steps or 'bricks,' and none of them taken because of the impact on the environment or local economy. A lot of them were my parent's decisions, before I had much of any say in the process, but that perhaps makes it a better example as it's not Me, specifically.

We started cooking at home more, 'cuz it was cheaper, mostly doing double meals to eat two nights in a row plus dad's lunch. Then we got a chive plant, because it was cheaper than keeping ourselves in chive cream cheese, a bit of a house hold addiction. Then we got a tomato plant a couple years in a row, 'cuz it was cheaper than getting a good heirloom at the store. We tried the cfl thing pretty early on, with dad trying to save on the electric. We hated them, so we switched off all the lights we didn't absolutely need on, saving more money for dad. We got the low flow toilet and shower head before they became really mainstream, again 'cuz it was cheaper to run and they needed replacing anyway. We play the 'bundle up' game in the winter inside the house, again for the cost -savings. We use mostly vinegar and baking soda for a lot of our cleaning, for the savings and to avoid the chemical fumes in our own lungs.

More recently, we've started switching to more local, less processed food, this time because we had the money and liked the taste and the health benefits. My parents (now that I've moved out, but still continue the habits started in their house) grow a couple more low-maintenance herbs that they use regularly, and have cut out processed food brought into their house almost completely, again for the health benefits. We bring reusable bags to the grocery when we go, because of the discounts most stores offer.


And actually articulating all of that gave me a pretty good list as a starting point. -blink- Didn't realize I'd have that many little tips for saving money.


ps: Dale, to quote someone, all you need to do is type quote=Name and /quote, inside the square brackets that are not-shift { }, on either side of the quoted text. ie {quote=me} Boo{/quote} with the proper brackets turns up as
me wrote: Boo
 
Christopher Strayer
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Kim I love the idea and your initial implementation. Unfortunately It seems that the only way to get peoples attention is to financially incentivise, and do it in a way that can become substantially measurable for them. To hit the masses, proof on finances first, proof on comfort second, proof on quality of life 3rd.

I like the 5 minutes a day look at it. To my idea of 3rd proof, its a hard sell and a hard concept to get for most of the masses because that 5 minutes a day adds up to a lot of time. The general whine is "I'm so busy to do all that" Based upon the general US mantra you go to a job, earn a little money, pay a lot of money for goods and services that are at the root of the a fore mentioned 5 minute actions. So while caught in that system it is hard to see a different way. The cool thing about all of the those 5 minute tasks is that you suddenly become your own employer by working on your own sustainable life in a tangible way if not a financial way. You can see your actions when you, recycle, garden, perform maintenance, build community. Over time those actions become notable savings in a comfortable quality life. 5 minutes plus 5 minutes plus 5 . . . everyday is easier than watching the cash always roll out though harder to step into as a life style than the systematic 9 to 5 system built to keep us.

Damn its a slow process when there are only a few people on the lead lines swimming frantically trying to turn the boat while everyone else is arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Here's to the leaders and early adopters, keep up the good fight.

Cheers

Chris

 
Jay Angler
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Hi All,

I'm not into pushing ropes - it doesn't work - but I'll use leverage when it suits. One lever that's worked is to give gifts that most people would find quite bizarre:
1. One friend got a raised bed for her birthday. Her husband had already framed it, and there it sat growing weeds. It was years ago now, but I more or less lasagna filled it after chopping the weeds a bit, covered it with free organic coffee-grounds mulch, and helped plant it. Today I would have put some Hugelkultur wood in the center. My friend now has 4 raised beds, and planted potatoes in a patch on her back lawn. It's not permaculture, but it is bringing fresh food closer.
2. We wear out rubber boots in our wet eco-system. I cut holes in my son's over-sized boot and planted strawberry runners in the holes. I tied a ribbon around it and put some decorative lizards climbing it. The family that received it had just found out their daughter had relapsed. The smiles and laughter they got from my "giving them the boot", was worth the time it took. The message - "growing food can look fun" - will hopefully spread to everyone who sees it by their front door.
3. I end up with more of some herbs than I can use. Sometimes it seems wasteful to "chop and drop", although I'm trying to overcome that attitude! This year my rosemary needed whacking back so I hung bunches in the workshop to dry. Friends got re-used small glass jars of sustainably-raised rosemary.

So I challenge you all - give the gift of permaculture! Divide an herb and give it away. Start 4 extra tomato plants and give those away. Guerilla garden - someone started some mini-tomatoes and added them to the city's planters one spring. If people see it/receive it once, they'll think it's weird, but when they see/receive such things three or four times, the ones that need a little nudge the permaculture direction will climb on board. Just be prepared - for the million questions that will follow their conversion.....
 
John Saltveit
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I think that one of the keys is the financial long run. My friends come over to my house and realize that my wife just made dinner that cost us $2.36 per person, but was tastier, healthier, and more interesting than what you could buy in a restaurant. We did have to learn to cook over time, but it was totally worth it. We probably saved $100 just that day for the meal. I don't mind doing the dishes because I realize what an amazing deal I'm getting. I read that sauerkraut has probiotics in it, which could prevent some of those $135, 723 visits to the hospital. Then I noticed that the corporate sauerkraut I was eating had sodium benzoate in it, which after brief research showed me that it turns to benzene in my body got me to buy Bubbie's, a good and real sauerkraut. Spending $7 on a jar of Bubbie's got me thinking, I could make 5 gallons of this with a much wider variety of species in it for $7. Now I eat it every night on top of my green salad for dinner. And since I've learned to incorporate vegetables like Indian gooseberry, bitter melon, okra, and eggplant, which are equally effective in limiting cholesterol as statins, but much cheaper and with only positive side effects. Pickling them in the lactic acid sauerkraut makes them taste good, so I'll eat more, and they only cost a vegetable price instead of a medicine price.

When someone realizes how much they are paying for corporate medicines and their side effects and I just eat it as food, they've got to realize that I'm getting a better and more delicious deal than they are.
John S
PDX OR
 
Monica Rocha
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Marketing permaculture to the skeptics doesn´t start just with financial sense and cute how-to videos. It starts with the way ideas have been adopted in our day and age.
Permaculture has to be sold to the people who don´t want to buy anything anymore, and it isn´t as difficult as it sounds. There´s a way when a tiny anti-consumerist Canadian magazine called Adbusters
can permeate and become the incentive for one of our youth´s largest political momentums.
As niche as Adbusters may be, it was completely obscure before Occupy. Permaculture doesn´t have to try to be cool, it just has to make sense socially as well as financially.

Ben Stallings a made a very strong point that relates to eco-business: some people don´t want to be self-sufficient, they want to be sold it, depend on it, and consume it.

The public conception of work has to change. Most consider unpaid work, giving unconditionally (great boot idea) a hassle.

i agree with most of what´s being said, but we must not forget that financial incentive plays a dance with cultural ones. If permaculture is going to be "proven" to anyone, it´s going to be through example. It´s going to be through the suburban lawns-turned-gardens in suburbia and in the city neighborhoods where people care
to take care of their neighbors.

I think this will come about not through small ready-to-eat instructions, but by giving the 20-35 year olds a radical option, be it through collective group meetups and Transition Town ideas translated into the city. This is based on a series of assumptions, but I´m curious as to what you guys think
 
Andy Reed
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When you were young
and your heart was an open book
You used to say live and live
But this ever changing world
in which you live in
Makes you give in and cry
Live and let die

Small things are fine as part of a larger strategy, but most people just want more. There is no issue with lack of knowledge of things to do, there is a major lack of will to do them. To really make a serious change (which is what is required) takes big bucks. Don't take my word for it, look at the Great and Glorious Paul Wheaton. A visionary, light years ahead of most of us, knows how to do things cheap. Can't get enough money. Unless your advertising budget is bigger then your competition aka the useless crap people waste money on, then you will not be able to sell them something they don't want.
With that major caveat etched in, here are a few things, cheap and easy.
Compost
Walking
Cycling
Chickens
Turning stuff off
Plant a fruit tree (even plant seeds from fruit you eat)
Turn off the AC
 
Kim Annon.
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Mildly aggravating that I Can't go back and bold up the important line in the first post I made. But I'll light it up over here

We need to show them that starting isn't so hard, that the little things do add up, and that they can make a difference with just a few minutes worth of time.


I started this thread in hopes of gathering ideas that will help push folks who's main claim against our version of smarter living is that it takes too much time and effort to get started. I know that it's an uphill battle with people stuck in the consumerism mindset. Getting them interested in the idea of being less dependent on the system, because it's a way to 'cheat' the system and keep some hard earned money, is just the first step. Once there's an interest, and they see the gains, they are much more likely to ask around for more ways to save, and to turn towards our version of smarter living.

My room mates looked at me like I had two heads when I started in with some of my 'weird hippy habits' but I just showed them how much money it saved at the end of the month, and they picked up a few for themselves. They now vacuum seal a large purchase of meat for the freezer once a month, use my dehydrator pretty regularly to make some of their own snacks, and cook triple-portions for eating later. And it was worth it for them to spend $5 on a natural bug repellent to keep out the ants than it was to deal with the hassle of the rental office and a visit from the exterminator.

 
Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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For many people, seeing is believing. In the coarse of a 19 year run at hand demolition and salvage and preparing about 50 houses to be moved, I have reclaimed about 15,000 tons of resources. Two of my brothers saw a chance to make some money. One has been at it for 16 years and the other dabbles. They were only mildly interested at first. Then they came to a sale where tons of product were being moved. Greed set in and both became converts.

We've had thousands of customers. Most of these people were already "converts" to the idea of using existing resources but we facilitated the process by making the materials available. I think with agricultural enterprises this is also important. There are millions who may not know how to get the space to grow on. Efforts put into getting those people up and running will see quick results since they're already sold on the idea.

My friends from Thailand had the will and the know how, but no Idea how to secure a spot for growing. I took on that job and BAM --- This is the almost instant result --- http://www.permies.com/t/27910/projects/Dale-Day-Garden
 
Matt Smitty
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This fantastic. I'm naturally cheap so proving an ROI is always a seller for me. We have been making our own laundry detergent for several years now. Recipes abound on the net, but a box of borax, arm and hammer washing powder and a bar of zote with 5-10 minutes of work can provide a lot of cheap and relatively green detergent. I recently appraised a 600,000 SF industrial warehouse in the mid-atlantic which stored nothing but laundry detergent. Felt good knowing I don't generate demand for that space, shipping or product.

Our 3rd child had cloth diapers, the new bum genius stuff is a million miles from the old ones and it saved us roughly $130/month compared to the disposables.

Sadly most people are creatures of habit and simply go along with the herd. There are too many reasons for people to be looking into this stuff (composting, hugelkultur, rmh) but the just keep moving through life with blinders on.

Thank you for permies, fantastic stuff.

 
Matt Smitty
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I also meant to add a post regarding health. Check out the book "The One Minute Cure" on Amazon and read the reviews. I was impressed with the outlandish claims so I bought it and tried it. Sent it to my 75 year old folks for xmas as well. I'm in good health to start with but I have to say I feel even better and have been making it through the winter without some of my typical seasonal issues.
 
nancy sutton
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It is a truism of marketing, that changing the 'picture' changes the situation. Today, people do not 'see' any alternative way to live.... remember Margret Thatcher's T.I.N.A. ("There Is No Alternative")... well it was pretty persuasive, so it's understandable that they can't see an other realistic options.

I think the more feasible, cheap, fun, healthy, cool, creative, etc examples of sustainable ways to do everything (that's us) ., the more ready the non-choir will be to 'switch' when the economic pinch becomes more painful, or the SHtF. "A Paradise Built in Hell" by Rebecca Solnit details what ordinary people actually did in historical calamities. Little and big examples of essential alternatives will be very popular, I think, in the not too distance future.
 
I'm not dead! I feel happy! I'd like to go for a walk! I'll even read a tiny ad:
paul's latest kickstarter
https://permies.com/t/65247/permaculture-design/permaculture-design-alternative-technology-live
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