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.