My Only Regret

I met my future wife in the early 90s. She did not eat beef, nor any other meat besides chicken, turkey, and fish. She focused on eating healthy foods. So, when we started dating, I gave up beef. This was not a chore, since I mostly ate chicken and turkey, along with the five staples: peanut butter, bread, pasta, yogurt, and rice. The main difference the lack of beef caused in my eating habits was giving up fast food.

Years later, I renewed my interest in Buddhism, which holds that all life is sacred. A Buddhist tries to avoid increasing the amount of suffering in the world, so the Buddhist does not kill anything, not even the smallest insect. Around this time, a colleague of mine also interested in Buddhism, became a vegetarian. He made me think. In addition, I happened to watch Koyaanisqatsi, a movie I first saw as a high school sophomore. The movie is about the ever-increasing pace and frenzy of modern life. It had a scene, I recall, of chicken farming and conveyer-belt chicken processing. That segment is painful to watch. I realized that I myself would never personally confine chickens or force them to suffer solely for my chicken tenders. Existing meat production practices are not efficient, they result in deforestation, generate air pollution, and contribute to illnesses, including increased resistance to bacteria because of the antibiotics used to raise chickens with large breasts in confined spaces. I decided to give up all meat. It was actually not difficult to do. I’ve been a vegetarian for about ten years, although I confess to making exceptions on some holidays.

My wife was also big on recycling. When we first met, we had to go to some lengths to recycle. That was a chore, but it became a habit. We had to sort our recyclable materials and transport them for processing. I knew that the amount of recycling varied depending on the international markets. A dirty secret is that lots of paper saved for recycling over the years has ended up in landfills when the demand for used paper was low. However, easily reusable products like aluminum are always in demand. Today, our neighborhood, like many others, has curbside pickup, so recycling is easy. I hate to waste things.

I have aways been big on saving money by repairing my own appliances. I don’t like throwing things out when they can be repaired, but the cost of repair nowadays is often higher than the cost of buying something new. However, when you buy the parts yourself and do your own work, the repairs can be cheap. I was once quoted a price for fixing my freezer of $400, which made me think about buying a new one. I figured I’d give it a go myself before making the purchase. I did some research and decided to try replacing a bulb used for heating that cost a few dollars. After defrosting, I turned two screws, took out a panel, and replaced the bulb. The freezer worked perfectly. I’ve also managed to repair my stove and furnace by changing out parts. The Internet provides information and parts and YouTube shows me how.

Last year I devoted quite a bit of time to studying electric cars. Clark Howard wrote a column on how one could essentially get the use of an electric car for free. I did not believe him, so I started looking into it. I found that with the tax incentives that existed at the time and the savings on gas, that a Nissan Leaf could be operated quite a bit cheaper than my old car. In June of 2015, I bought one before the state tax incentive expired. It has been cost-effective. My research indicated that since Georgia did not use coal to generate the electricity my car needed, that the air would be cleaner with me driving an electric car compared to a gas-powered vehicle. This calculation took into account the pollution resulting from creating the battery my car uses. I plan to continue to use my old car, however, for years to come, since driving it into the ground is a good strategy for reducing pollution because making the steel the car is made from generated pollution as well.

Years ago, I bought most of my work clothes from Goodwill. When I started earning more money, I visited Goodwill less often. Last week, I visited a nearby store called, The Clothes Less Traveled. This is a retail store like a Goodwill Store, but this store employs a large number of volunteers and gives a large part of its profits back to volunteer organizations in the community. One group I volunteer for, Rescue Cats, has benefited from this organization’s donations. At the store, I found a few shirts and shorts that I liked. The price was cheap. I wondered why I needed to buy any new clothing except for shoes and underwear. My former practice had been to go online and place an order with Amazon, which would deliver the merchandise I bought within two days. For free. Nice, but as I was looking through all the used clothing, I thought about how wasteful it was to buy a shirt made in China that was shipped to America, and then delivered to my door. This may suprise you, but I am no longer the fashion icon I once was, so I can live without the latest styles or any style really.

I also went to the Farmers Market a few times last month. You can find just about any kind of fruit and vegetable there for ridiculously low prices. At the Farmer’s Market, you buy fruits and vegetables direct from the farmers, paying them more than per item than they would earn by selling to large grocery chains.

I took my longest ride on Marta a couple of weeks ago. I had a one day convention at a hotel near the Perimeter Mall. I had used Marta a time or two a year, but I now realized that I needed to use Marta whenever I could. Driving downtown is dangerous. I am doing some volunteer work in a couple of weeks, training downtown Atlanta high school students on workplace skills. I plan to drive to College Park Station, get on Marta and get off on North Avenue. Less traffic headaches and less pollution than taking my car, since Marta will run whether I use it or not. I’ll also use Marta to go to the Decatur Book Festival on Labor Day weekend. The money it costs to ride will be offset by the free parking at College Park Station.

So now, as I near the age of sixty, I am a recycling, cat supporting, Buddhist-leaning, book-loving, vegetarian, who buys local, volunteers, drives an electric car, likes unusual films, and rides public transport. What’s wrong with that? I don’t think that fits well with mainstream American values, especially in Georgia. While I am confessing, I guess I should admit to being a Bernie Sanders supporter who owns no guns. Shocking! My only regret is not getting started developing these views and practices earlier in my life.

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