Feeling like Sally Brown
Sitting on your cash is like sleeping on an air mattress with a hole in it. Spend some of it on those things that will make your future better or cheaper.
Exactly, sir, exactly. I've said this before, but for the benefit of the new people on the site, I give you our list of our "non-traditional" investments, now with return-on-investment (ROI) numbers, thus far. We've "invested "in personal Energy, Food, Fresh water rights, and other tangibles.
- Energy: savings. A $200 investment installing Eco-Foil reflective insulation to our roof joists lowered our air conditioning bill by $30 a month. In three years this has returned us $1,080 gross, or $880 net. And it made our attic useable storage space. (Those in cold climates should attach it to the ceiling joists, to keep heat in.) We continue to save $30 a month. Think of it as an annuity paying out.
- Utility and Energy savings: Four years ago we replaced a leaking solar hot water tank, investing $180. It saves us $10 a month on our water bill: Gross ROI $480; net $300. Add the ongoing $10 a month savings to that "annuity."
- Energy: creation. Four years ago we made $5,000 investment in an airtight wood-burning stove: this included the stove and flue, chimney brushes, trailer for hauling (free) wood, and a light and heavy-duty chain saw. We save about $1,000 a year on heating, so we will make our break-even point this winter. After that, we will have an ROI of at least $1,000 a year. Awesome.
- Energy: savings. Three years ago we traded HVAC repair expertise for a newish used refrigerator, one with substantially more insulation. We've saved $30 a month on our electric bill: $1080 so far and that part of the "annuity" keeps on saving us $30/mo.
- Food: kitchen garden and edible landscaping. Where do I start? I think the initial investment in building raised beds, soil additives and compost, trellises, canning supplies and canner, food drying rack, seeds, and perennials was $1,000, five years ago. We grow more and more of our own food, as the price of store-bought food continues to rocket higher. And we can or dehydrate our own fruits and vegetables. This year the asparagus bed matured to where we could harvest it. We've mastered how to grow numerous fruit trees, bushes and vines – plus seed-saving and annual vegetables and herbs. I am especially thrilled that we are getting good at growing legumes and increasing the starches we can provide. Our grocery bill is now, on average $50 less a week despite inflation, and it keeps on shrinking as more of our "investment" flora reach maturity. That's at least $2,600 a year gross in our pockets from here on in, and expansions/maintenance only run us about $100 a year. So we covered our initial costs after four years and now it;'s a rapid "growth" (pun intended) investment. The net ROI numbers look like this: Year one, -$1K; year two -$800; year three -$400, year four +$200; year five projected to be +$2,600.
- Water. For a one-time cost of $3,000 a well was not an inexpensive investment, but we could not grow food in this climate without it. We also plan to invest in hooking up the house to the well, which will save us a net $400 a year.
All of these are low-risk, tax-free investments.
There are many smaller "investments" we have made – things like insulating shades with heat-trapping box valances and side curtains, window screens and screen doors for ventilation, learning new skills (besides gardening and canning, we've learned how to get/cut/store firewood), and investments in getting to know and building relationships with our neighbors.
The biggest dividend is peace of mind.
Ultimately we are after impact. If we spend 99% of our efforts on educating people on the facts of energy depletion, yet nothing happens, perhaps it would be better to spend 50% of our efforts on education but 50% by example. For instance, researchers attempted to persuade young students not to litter either by teaching them about ecology and pollution or by telling them they were neat and tidy compared to other students -only the latter had a positive effect.(4) E.O Wilson suggests "A stiffer dose of biological realism is in order..The only way to make a conservation ethic work is to ground it in ultimately selfish reasoning. An essential component of this formula is the principle that people will conserve land and species fiercely if they forsee a material gain for themselves their kin or their tribe."All of our past environmental successes (DDT, Ozone depletion, unleaded gasoline, etc.) had some sort of smoking gun – an emotional trigger. The problem with climate change/peak oil, is when we do get the emotional trigger, it may be a gatling gun on full bore and all the benign mitigation possibilities will be superceded by immediate needs.
I look at this differently. While the charade continues, we have a little more time to do all the hard work that needs to be done, each day is a gift (although it is a bit of a double edged sword, the longer this goes on the more damaged the planet and our psyches become). Transforming our economy from a destructive and unsustainable one that we all know that it is, to something that is rational and sustainable will take a lot of the kind of "non-traditional" investments that Wendy mentioned.
Lets turn the tables around and make Wendy's non-traditional investments the standard, I think in a deeper sense they are the real traditional investments as she implies. Lets call the "something for nothing" thugs and bandits on wall street the non-traditional investors. I personally have no desire to get in on the "action", let the markets (if you can call them that anymore) do what they will. I would rather be able to sleep at night with no blood on my hands then have a few more coins in the bank.
And if we can't expand our definition of "tribe" from the conclusion of Arthur's link to include all of humanity and this magical planet that ultimately sustains us, then all is for naught. The universe will restart this microscopic part of the experiment in consciousness on planet earth over again without us.