It’s been one hell of a spring in Interior Alaska. COVID-19 aside, we had the most intense snowfall EVER for April. We got 20 inches of fresh snow by the first weekend! That is way more than we get for the ENTIRE month normally. And though I grumbled about sketchy rides in fresh snow, I was just grateful that I live in a state where there is plenty of open space to get out during quarantine.
How Quickly Things Change
When I lived Fairbanks, I knew I should be doing more curb waste, educate myself on the climate crisis, and make better environmentally friendly choices. I would commute some since I lived within a 2 mile radius of work, the market, the dog groomers, the dentist, and most essentials services. However, my move to Ester has created a heightened awareness of these issues since it is no longer easy to commute. I now have to drive 40 minutes or more per day, which really increased the guilt factor. Gas is expensive, not just financially, but in what it costs the earth. And though my friend who lives a mile up the road, commutes daily in summer and frequently in the winter, he does not have to transport children and pets. I no longer have children in the house either, but I regularly take Java to work with me. This year I will test out leaving her in the large dog pen and commuting a few times a week.
New Shopping Habits
That said, I changed a number of other behaviors since moving to Ester. I increased the use of sustainable shopping bags. Of course, during the outbreak they are discouraging the use of reusable shopping bags. I do reuse plastic bags as vapor barriers in my winter riding boots and to pick up Java’s poop during our outings in parks, but there was a time when the plastic bag collection was getting out of control. With the outbreak, I have taken advantage of store pickup at our favorite store, and will most likely continue once the pandemic is under control. The downside is that I can’t use sustainable bags, so it will definitely be a limited use.
New Dining Habits
The other change is a reduction in eating out. This mostly changed because I got a larger kitchen that is triangulated properly making it a joy to cook in. However, I did still eat out once a week before the outbreak, but one day I realized just how much waste I collected just trying to get a salad, sandwich, and soup from 2 miles down the street back to my office. Even if I opted for fast food, there were bags, paper wraps, or Styrofoam containers. I don’t drink a lot of soda or cold coffee drinks, so the number of straws per month is limited, but then added on are the cups and lids. Since moving out here, we have limited our coffee stand purchases to twice a week per family member now that our favorite coffee shop is a 10 mile round trip drive. So in that way, living far from town has led to change, but after cooking all the meals for quarantine, I am even more aware of the waste in my normal workday.
No Fast Fashion
I first heard the term “Fast Fashion” a few years after inventing my own term “disposable fashion” that referred to clothes that lasted only one season before blowing out because the fabric was so cheap– basically the Old Navy/ Target type clothing. Believe me my husband cringes when I talk about purchasing $100 jeans that last 5+ years, but quality is not just about appearance. Textile waste is a big drain on the environment. According to a February 2020 article by CNBC on sustainable fashion the $2.5 trillion fashion industry comprises roughly 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions the second-biggest consumer of water globally, enough to meet the needs of 5 million people every year.
Moving to Ester has allowed me to reestablish a sewing room that just didn’t fit in our Fairbanks residence. Though I had quit buying fast fashion items a long time ago, opting instead for second hand stores and vintage shops. Now I can make my own, which means selectively adding to my wardrobe. Of course, I have to be careful to select quality fabrics that will make long-lasting garments. Unfortunately, Interior Alaska has limited options for this, so I often have to have them shipped up here. Likewise, I have to be care to cut my patterns efficiently or else I am just wasting fabrics. I’m grateful that I’m not big into prints because matching designs is a huge waste of fabric, but not matching them results in odd looking outfits.
There are many changes in Alaska that are way out of my control. Ester is a mining community. They are building new roads in other parts of Alaska to additional mining sites. Oil has always run this state. And even though the pandemic has caused oil companies to reduce production, things will eventually resume. And then there is always a focus on forestry. The best I can do is stay aware of the issues, write my representatives, and vote in elections. Because I can’t imagine any other state I would want to hunker down during a pandemic, or live in on a regular day.