A diary of the projects, hurdles, rewards and family life at we recorded at Wise Acres, our former homestead in Horsefly, BC. (Careers and teenagers have forced us back into the city, at least for a little while.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Dilemma: Sustainability versus the Snowblower

image courtesy of Andrew Burgess

An advantage of being a purist, I suspect, is that many decisions are made for you. We are far from being purists, but I suspect even they face the same challenges that creep into our everyday lives: organic versus local/grain-fed/free-range; recyclable plastic versus single-use glass; or even polyester versus wool.

We had a huge amount of snow in December. I was ready to shovel it all. Really, I was. We have a local fellow to plow the driveway, but there are several kilometres of paths that need clearing (you doubt? spend a day shoveling them and tell me there were less that a few kilometres!) The work seemed worthwhile when we considered the impact a snowblower had on the environment, and in it's use of non-renewable energy.

Then we lost a whole weekend to shoveling. Suddenly all our projects, and our holiday planning, had to be put on hold for a week. The snowblower was now deemed a necessity (and we got one that week).

So how do we reconcile this? I've been going over this for a few weeks now, and running ideas past other sustainably-goaled folks.

Some decisions are clearer: we got a gas-guzzling truck (a Honda, but a truck still) because our van kept getting stuck, and we plan on doing more towing and hauling. It supports our greater goal, and there's no real alternative.

A snowmobile, on the other hand, which would make some of our winter chores (hauling wood) easier and way more fun, does not justify it's gas-guzzling existence to us. I see other folks whose livelihoods depend on traveling over snow quickly feeling otherwise, justifiably.

But the snowblower comes with a clear alternative - hard work. Getting one feels lazy.

This leads to the question - what is our goal here? If we truly want to lead simpler, Nearing-modeled lives, the projects would wait, and the shovel would work. But what I think we are aiming for is a balanced (albeit Nearing-inspired) lifestyle with certain sacrifices in ideology made in favour of painting the bigger picture. It's to acknowledge that sometimes to get to our destination, we take shortcuts on the journey.

It's not perfect, but it's conclusive enough to let me sleep better at night. Or maybe that's just one of the benefits of a snowblower - no sore back!

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps it's a trade off in some ways. Being sustainable/eco-conscious in most areas and in some things you just have to relent.

    I say this because we never had a snowblower when we lived in town and never considered buying one. It was all shovelled by hand for many years - but the driveway and walkways were not large. Now that we live on the acreage Husband convinced me in the summer that we needed first a small tractor; then a snowblower attachment. I am thankful for these this winter! (I live north of you)

    We try our best to do what we can to be environmentally friendly in other areas of our lifestyle. We never meant to be 'purists' when we moved here, but over the past year have changed many areas of our lives to live more sustainably. I guess we try to justify our decisions by 'the trade off'.

    We don't own snowmobiles either - we have no need for one. When husband does get the coveted look in his eye, I just say "NO!" ;)