Just to dissolve any illusions of my domestic on-top-of-it-ness (or zeroed carbon footprint, for that matter), I thought I’d share a few barriers to managing mi casa the way I would like were my circumstances “ideal.” (You know, in utopia.)
Like so many of you, I want to live with as little waste, energy consumption, and contribution to unethical business practices as possible (all the while supporting local food movements, starving artists, fair wages and the lives of lesbian lizards, but also like many of you, I’m learning to balance my awareness with my wherewithal, my principles with practicality and my strivings with my sanity in order to function at all, much less to my fullest potential.
Having lived in many different types of homes, in quite a few different locations now and through several different seasons of my life, it is clear to me that there is no standard issue protocol for living well in a place. Homes and the ways we make them are as unique and varied as we are, our decisions reflect not only our values but the values of our culture, and try as we may to do well within our walls, life has a way of creeping in and keeping it real, no matter how high the R-value of our insulation.
That said, occasionally I like to take stock of my household hangups with a straightforward, laundry line list. In doing so — just as when I assess my personal limitations — it’s usually easy to pinpoint gaps in my consciousness, inconsistencies in my actions and subtle steps I can take to better align my habits with my heart.
The following challenges are unique to our home and community in Tulum. I’d love to hear about those you face in your neck of the woods!
8 Domestic Challenges Unique to My Life in Tulum
1. There is no recycling program in this town. I gotta admit, I hesitate to plaster my blog with photos that accentuate the beauty of this place, as the last thing I care to do is attract more tourists. (The growth rate is already unbelievable and we have Cancun to thank for the perfect example of how NOT to grow a beach town in a couple of decades.) BUT if someone had the cash, fortitude, spirit of adventure and hint of insanity it would take to start a real deal recycling program here, I’d gladly make you dinner, kiss your feet and buy your plane ticket. (Well, dinner, for sure.) In the meantime, I will continue to stockpile my would-be recyclables, find uses for them as I’m able and channel my inner earthship every time I’m tempted to clear out the clutter.
One advantage to hoarding trash? It gives a pretty clear picture of what we consume. My main glass-container vices: apple sauce for ease of school lunches, occasional vino and near daily Pellegrino. Hunter’s? Beer.
2. I’ve seen the dump. You want to see the dump? It’s not for the faint of heart.
While landfill is landfill, unregulated, uncontained landfill piled on a swath of old-growth jungle atop of one of the most pristine and expansive underground, freshwater cave systems in the world is a REALLY hard thing to be knowingly contributing to.
3. Without running the a/c, we have mold. I can handle heat. I can sweat my way through a sweltering, tropical midday tough as the locals (just kidding, I have nothing on the locals), but if we never run our a/c here to cut the humidity, everything grows mold, and mold is my archenemy. It makes me beyond sick. It tanks my immune system, disables my olfactories altogether, makes me suddenly allergic to wheat, dairy, sugar and alcohol, (etc…) until I eventually hate the world and everything in it. I can put on a shirt washed a week ago and hung in a humid closet, then sneeze and wheeze for two hours after I take it off even if the mold is not yet visible. So, we use the a/c a little everyday, and boy do we pay for it. The way I understand it, in Mexico, energy is subsidized, but only if you don’t use much. As soon as your kilowatt hours climb above a set number, your rates skyrocket and never go back down. You don’t even want to know what we paid in energy here before we figured all that out.
4. It’s really hard to find natural products. Though we are meeting more and more likeminded people who sell and trade things like soaps and fresh cheese and natural deodorant, access to alternative products we took for granted stateside is still pretty limited. Count your lucky stars and savor some for me next time you enjoy your almond milk, maple syrup, pre-washed spinach, or lavender-mint dish soap. Meanwhile, I’ll be skipping the maple (pronounced mop-lay) flavored corn syrup and washing my dishes with the aromatic equivalent (and biodegradability) of dollar-store perfume.
5. The laundry dries damp. We purposely don’t have a dryer, preferring the power of the sun, but are running into the mold issue as our clothes never really fully get dry in these muggy tropics. Thus, we’re currently pricing dryers.
6. Little access to used products. In the states, I’m a secondhand junkie, preferring a thrift store, garage sale or clothing swap over buying new any day. Here though, there is hardly anything secondhand available as everyone uses their stuff until it’s pretty much unrecognizable and then repurposes it to say, patch a roof.
7. Drinking water options are scary. I really don’t like that we’re drinking water that’s been sitting in the tropical sun in these plastic bottles (wrote a few National Geographic articles along those lines), but it may be some time before we can afford the type of filtration system fuerte enough to purify the water here for drinking, so Bonafont it is (better, I like to think, than Crystal, the competition, which is owned by Coca-Cola).
8. There’s no soil to speak of. It’s almost all limestone bedrock and even in the jungle the soil quality is poor. This means that not only is gardening go to be tough getting started, but that most all produce is imported. Despite Mexico’s reputation as an agricultural country, this particular region has its own thing going on (tourism). Hardly anything is local, with the acception of some tree fruits, so with most every purchase, we are supporting the mass transit of food I resist on so many levels.
So, there you have it…my current domestic dilemmas. I truly don’t sit around and fret about them (been there, done that) and most are still rather first world in nature, but listing them helps give me a clearer picture of things I could easily improve…
- I could give up my mineral water habit. That’s like 300 glass bottles a year. (Sigh…even my water vice? At least I’ll cut back.)
- I could price heavy duty dehumidifiers and compare their energy consumption with that of our a/c unit.
- I could help promote the struggling farmer’s market here and start making/growing things to sell, myself.
- Then there are the simple everyday things like remembering my reusable grocery bags and sticking with vegetables grown in Mexico and being a little less passive in my composting (the toss and hope method is my current default).
Mostly though, I think it’s important that we drop the guise of eco-friendlier than thou and get real with each other about what’s working, what we struggle with and how we’ve managed to make a difference in our unique pockets of the planet. I would love to live off-grid again one day and hope soon to be collecting rainwater. I’ll figure out how to grow food here and meet more and more folks with whom to swap goods. In the meantime, though, I’ll do my best, do my Home Work and keep on keepin’ on.
I once read that there are no small kindnesses. I believe the same to be true of improvements.
You? What holds you up from the harmonious domestic landscape you envision? Are there ways you’ve broken through these limitations?