Sunday, April 20, 2008

Reflection 3: My (smaller) ecological footprint

Recently, I talked about the concept of the ecological footprint at a boys' secondary school in Gzira. Now, I'm getting ready to give a two -hour university class on international relations theory and the environment. Both activities have gotten me thinking.

In getting ready for the boys, I went on line (redefining and calculated my US ecological footprint and then my footprint for how I live here in Malta. An ecological footprint tries to estimate how much land surface one's lifestyle is using and then it shows how you compare to your national average and also how many Earths it would take if everyone in the world lived the way you do. I was really struck by the difference. My Malta ecological footprint is about half that of my US footprint. Technical quibblers out there may object that there is no baseline for the Malta footprint--for example I'm sure the energy used to create my tap water is WAY higher than back home, due to desalinization. But I did use the "island" option when I calculated the foot print.

What accounts for the difference? No car, a smaller living space, fewer appliances, and I seem to have slightly different eating patterns (less eating out, less packaged food, less meat). My air travel still gobbles up a lot of the planet. I don't have a dryer; my laundry, like virtually everyone else's, is drying up on the roof. I've already waxed rhapsodic about the pleasures of hanging laundry last fall. I still like it. I probably wouldn't like it if I had a large family. I almost never miss the car, except for evening events and my periodic aggravation with the bus system (see previous post). I know I'll miss all the fruit and veggies, either grown locally or just over in Sicily.

But, here's the thing. I'm actually happier and certainly healthier with this smaller footprint.

So, I'm thinking a lot about what I can adapt or change about the way I live in the US. I'm deep into snow country. It snowed a week ago, for example. I won't be hanging laundry in the winter, even if pioneer women did--aw, who am I kidding? my Mama and my Mom in law both hung clothes out in the cold and brought in pants frozen stiff. My husband has offered to put a line up in the yard, and I might take him up on that for warmer times of the year. As for the car, I can walk more, car pool with my husband, ride my bike. All three of those options would be fun and better for me. My husband isn't big on meat, so keeping that down won't be a problem.

So, Malta is teaching me a thing or two about what matters and what doesn't matter in creating a happy, high quality life.
The flower photo is just so you can have something pretty to look at: nasturtiums on my seafront walk--a benefit of walking is that you can actually look at things.


Stella said...

Hi, i love reading your blog, but just wondering why youre eating less meat cause youre living on this isle?

Mary said...

I'm glad you like my blog!

I'm not sure. Some is choice to eat more veggies. I am eating more local dairy. I tend to eat meat in restaurants, and I eat out rather less here than home. Meat is so messy to clean up, that I avoid it in my own kitchen. And, well, I'm not used to butcher shops like Malta has, nor the cuts of meat here. I can't tell what's fresh or good. So, I think my sense of adventure (and appetite) sort of stops whenever I go in one. Maybe the reality of eating a former living animal is simply more obvious to me in the butcher shops--it's all done mostly behind closed doors in the US.

Odd what culture does to one. Maltese might wonder what they are getting in a US supermarket meats section, given that they can't really see what's going on. Chinese students in the US can't get over eating raw salads and veggies, because their Mamas teach them never, ever to eat raw things (I'm guessing it is based on the observation that one gets sick, due to water quality issues, from eating raw foods).

stella said...

hi, try not to buy meat from the odd butcher shops scattared around the island. I do think that if you visit one of the 'Miracle Foods' outlets, you would get around to start eating meat regularly again:)

one 'Miracle Foods' outlet can be found in Naxxar almost near the local council - you can find all sorts of frozen meat, readily packed over there.