In the middle of this dire economic crash, with peak-oil and climate change suggesting that the “best” is now behind us and that a long, slow (or short, quick) decline is what we face, a wonderful movement is being reborn. It shoots can be seen everywhere – in the flowering of Transition Towns across Britain, in the ever-growing waiting lists for allotments that were unwanted just a few years ago, local farmer’s markets sprouting in every town centre, and proposals for 2,012 gardens clinging to London’s rooves. It’s even discussed in the Guardian’s forecasts for 2009. Whatever your particular name for it, it seems that we are being shocked out of our ongoing “Greed is Good” mentality to ” The Good Life is Better”.

But what is this Good Life? I suspect everybody has their own. It depends on what has brought you to this point: increasing prices for petrol, gas, electricity and food? unemployment or financial uncertainty? unease at the origin and safety of your family’s food? concern over your environmental footprint? or a belief in the impending energy shortages that peak oil will bring? Whatever your overall direction or philosophy, frugality, self-sufficiency, and the rediscovery of community seem to be some common themes.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of this, but when it all gets a little too interesting I like to take a step back and think “Isn’t this one of the most exciting times to be alive – to have a chance to shape a future for our children at this pivotal period in our history.”

Bring on an interesting year decade …

I’d been planning to put together a list of aims and achievements since I talked about it back in August. In the great pause between Christmas and New Year it seems appropriate to finally get around to it! So here is my quick brain dump. I’ll expand on this as I achieve some of them:


  • Build up a store of 1 year’s supply of food that we eat. Try to ensure that we are storing the ingredients for food that won’t keep – e.g. store UHT milk to make short-shelf-life dairy products as required, ingredients for bread etc.
    • Work out what we eat in a year
    • DONE! learn to bake bread from base ingredients
    • learn to bake good, light, everyday bread!
    • learn to make basic pastas
    • learn to make and wax hard cheese – cheddar, parmesan and more
    • learn to make soft cheeses that we use – feta (soft and hard), mozzarella,
    • learn to make other dairy products that we use – sour cream, yoghurt
    • learn to preserve and store fresh food that we grow, or that is only seasonally available locally.
    • learn to make jam
  • Find a network of  local producers and suppliers, and use them as much as possible.
    • reduce our dependance on supermarkets to less than 50% of essential food
      • reduce our dependance on supermarkets to less than 10% of essential food
    • reduce our dependance on non-local food – less than 50% of essential food
      • reduce our dependance on non-local food – less than 10% of essential food
        • remove our dependance on non-local food – no essential food from further away than 100 miles, 90% within 50 miles


  • get milk (and juice if possible) delivered in reusable bottles
  • shop for a month with no plastic bags
  • compost all kitchen scraps, so that all waste from the house is “dry” and doesn’t need plastic bags
  • halve the packaging we use in year 1
    • reduce it by 10% every year
  • Halve our general refuse in year 1
    • reduce it by 10% every year thereafter
  • put in a compost toilet
  • put in a greywater recycling sytem for all water from bath, shower, washbasin, washing machine

Growing our own food

  • setup our aquaponics system
    • harvest fish from our aquaponics system
      • breed our own fish, thereby closing the cycle
  • harvest winter vegetables from our own plot
  • get an allotment
  • grow 50% of our own fruit and vegetable requirements
    • grow 80% of our own essential fruit and vegetables
  • keep chickens for eggs


  • work out how much electricity we use, and try to devise a plan to provide that by renewable means
  • reduce our fossil fuel use by 10% a year
  • store at least a year’s supply of firewood
  • have a heating/hot water system that will work with at least two different fuel sources
  • have a cooking system that will work with at least two different fuel sources
  • don’t buy or use a tumble dryer
  • retire our powered mower
  • provide all our essential power needs on-site, for at least a month
  • provide 50% of non-essential power needs on site

General Resilience

  • provide 100% of essential water requirements on-site for 3 months
  • provide 50% of all water requirements for 3 months.
  • “live” within a bikeable radius (public transport if necessary)
  • learn to sharpen tools


  • Join local allotment / gardening groups
  • Get involved in Manchester FOE
  • Go to Green Drinks
  • Team up with other local growers to ensure that we can have some “cover” if we ever go on holiday.

I’ve just seen a great idea over at Eco ‘Burban: List of changes they’ve already made, and things that they’re aiming to do – nice, simple, and right in front of you! 

It’s an interesting blog too – looking at how to live an affluent, green, family life. Her other blog – Affluent People Living Sustainably – is also interesting, and a little more confronting. It raises the interesting point that with affluence comes responsibility – a responsibility that will become only more important over the coming years as those of us that can afford it will still be warm, well-fed and driving, while those that can’t will get colder, hungrier and sick of public transport. Maybe I’d better ensure that strong community involvement is high up on my new list of aims.