Living Modestly Is Not Uncomfortable


I hate that living modestly is starting to be equated with disregarding the comforts that we’ve been given… instead of a noble and earth saving way of life.

I have a group of friends who all live together. In a maximum 6 person house (4 “real” bedrooms) there are 13 people. They have no television, only a couple of them have a computer, when I go over there are rarely lights on and they in no way went out of their way to buy new furniture or anything for the house. On top of these smaller things they also bike around – no one owns a car – cook together with vegan, organic, dumpster dived food and they run the house on grey water.

Just a quick summary for those who don’t know – dumpster diving is when you take food out of a dumpster to eat it. A lot of people get a little grossed out by this thought however having worked in a grocery store I assure you there is more than plenty of completely fresh and fine food being thrown out. Before knowing people who dumpstered I often thought “why would those dumpsters be locked???” but now I know that for whatever reason some grocery stores don’t want people stealing their garbage.

Grey water is essentially just reusing water. Most houses that are being built in Guelph are already implementing grey water systems directly into the house by connecting washing machine water to toilets. Said friends put the plug in during a shower and use shower water to flush toilets. And to be honest – the toilets don’t get flushed that often anyway.

For me, this would be an almost impossible way of living. I hate being cold, they never have the heater one. I live on my computer, they don’t have internet. I drink a liter of milk a day, they never drink milk. I will never will with a roommate ever again in my entire life unless I’m getting married, they live with 12 other people. It takes a lot of dedication and passion for the environmental movement to live this kind of lifestyle.

When I told my brother and a friend of mine about this they had the same reaction “that’s disgusting”. … I said that you would just have to get used it, but then they corrected me. Neither meant that it was physically disgusting, but that it was disgusting to see people choosing to live like “the poor”. They felt as though this was a mockery to people who couldn’t afford food, who couldn’t afford to live with just one family in a house and who couldn’t afford to keep their hydro on. Instead you have a household of by no means rich, but by no mean poor… group of kids who are choosing to not work and live like that. They choose to eat “garbage”, to be cold and to stay in the dark.

I brushed it off at the time, but it is now one thing that has been running through my head day in and day out. The only reason grocery stores throw out “almost” expired food is because if they lower the price people won’t buy the higher priced food – so they just keep it until it doesn’t make sense to sell it at the same price point and then toss out the perfectly good food.

Granted, dumpstering started out as a way to beat economic struggling but soon became a haven for “freeganism” (those who want to escape the consumerist life and culture) so it is backpacking off something poor people WERE doing. But with grey water… 50 – 80% of all residential water waste is from grey water.

Is what they are doing inherently wrong because they’re not taking advantage of all that is available to them? Or is it noble because they are not adhering to an overly comfortable lifestyle knowing what damage it does to the world.

I personally take the latter – I think that if you’re going to live in guilt or if you know that what you’re doing is wrong for the world and wrong socially then you just flat out shouldn’t do it. Sure, my friends aren’t taking advantage of a lot of “comforts” that are available to them, but they can also say that they are contributing less to huge problems. Continuing to simply “enjoy” and frivolously go about life without considering the impact that this “comfortable” life is doing is far more of a disgusting way to live than to try and do something about it.

If everyone here in Canada (or anywhere, really…) lived like that we’d have way less water waste, more food to distribute to the actual poor, we would create less of a carbon footprint in general and we’d be more in touch with the “real world” as opposed to being consumed in television and internet.

I can understand that people who have grown up in Canada or “western” life styles wouldn’t be comfortable living like my friends. However, unless you’re able to say that you are helping or lowering your over all impact on the world as much as they are – you should just shut your mouth. Living like that is a choice, it is not a mockery of people who can’t afford more “comfort” it is a choice to do the right thing for the world.

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About Katie Kish


  1. I don’t really get the ‘mockery’ thing. It seems strange, conceptually.
    I have a few friends who dumpster dive. I also had a couple of very good friends in Vermont who were living as close to ‘off the grid’ as possible, using minimal power (solar only,) heating their home with wood/pellet only, and growing food. We had potluck every Sunday night at one of their homes in Putney. While my friend was stoking the two woodstoves (one in the basement and one in the living room) we would hang out and play music, watch the dogs wrestle, and talk. Anyone was welcome. There was a store in Brattleboro that sold all the grocery store rejects. It was like the ‘dollar food store.’ You could buy cans of food that had no labels. It was like a little adventure, depending on what you’d get. We’d get produce that was a bit banged up and pay pennies.

  2. I def. don’t think it’s a mockery at all. I’ve found that most people who make fun of people or look down on them for living differently are generally guilty or sad about their own lives, so they make themselves feel better by insulting people who are trying out new ways of doing things.

    While I wouldn’t choose to live that way myself, I would NEVER critique someone else for doing it, as they are living in a way that makes the world a better place for all of us. I’m all for grey water and freeganism. I’ve dumpster dived in NYC and once you see all the really good food that’s thrown away it changes your worldview forever. This is NOT food that is half-rotten or really garbage in any way. It’s pre-packaged food that is perfectly good that is tossed by the bagfulls (especially bread products) and in NYC all the dairy went into one bag, all the produce into another, bread into a third, and premade food into another. We made a real feast from it all!

  3. Pingback: Quick Green Reads For The Weekend Volume Fifty One. | The Good Human

  4. I just finished reading the “Earth Children” series. If you’re not familiar with it, it is set in prehistoric times where we were hunters and gatherers and the The Mother provided us with every essential that we needed. I don’t want to say that I am against comfort, but I think we have come to a place where we need to learn to balance the both. Our simple needs are food, shelter, and water. What I see that is happening today in the world is that some of us are working to find some sense in what we have done to The Mother and try to reverse some of the damage. Each of us must find a way in our own environments to make necessary changes. For me I am working towards a sustainable environment where I grow my own food and learn the ancient ways of preserving food for long winters and having eco friendly ways to consume energy which will not harm THE MOther!!! So being judgemental is not going to help anyone….but Kudos to the young people who are trying to figure out how to live without wasting.

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