More About the Author
In October of 2006, I quit the stressful corporate job I had held for a decade, broke up with my boyfriend, sold my conventional house, and moved full-time to a small, solar-powered, strawbale house in the vast sagebrush outside of Taos, New Mexico. I had no central heating, no source of electricity beyond what the sun provided, and no water supply other than what I caught on the roof. Living on savings, disconnected from both mainstream America and the national power grid, I adjusted my life throughout the next four seasons to accommodate the quirks of the house and drastically downshifted the amount of electricity, water, and other resources I consumed. By the end of a year, I discovered that what was good for me was also good for the planet, that consuming less and conserving more helps us all.
Living for a year in this kind of house meant I could see very clearly the effects of my consumption of energy and other resources on my quality of life. As I was also living on savings, I had to make choices that involved spending as little as possible as well. What I realized was that resource conservation and frugality were one and the same. With no TV, internet, computer, washing machine/dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher, trash pickup, or snowplow service, I kept my food out back in a cooler, read by candlelight when the electricity cut out, stayed in when it snowed too much, and checked my email at internet cafes. Yet I didn't feel deprived. I felt exhilarated.
Ultimately, I decided that living simply does not have to mean living out of the mainstream. Besides, by the end of a year, I had drained my savings and had to move and take another corporate job. After returning to a conventional lifestyle, I resolved to continue to practice my minimal carbon footprint way of living for the sake of the planet, my bank account, and my health. But reality caught up with me. Having to go to work each day cut into the time I could spend running my life in an eco-friendly way. The tradeoff between convenience and green living stared me in the face, and I had to make some realistic compromises, as most Americans do. My book, "Thrifty Green," contrasts my spartan year of living environmentally in Taos with my adaptation of lessons learned to my new mainstream life and how they can serve as a blueprint for others.