Unplugged, Part III: Our Green-ish Family Vacation in Maine

August 29, 2011 at 2:27 am Leave a comment

Contributed by Dr. Sarah Warren

I tend to be a woman of words, which is reflected in my (slightly!) wordy blog posts. This time, thanks to the fabulous camera on my new I-phone, and the photogenic scenery of the little island in Maine where I go with the 8 year-old HamSter and the 6 year-old DudeSter and extended family for our annual vacation without electricity or Internet, I will let pictures tell the story– mostly!

Can you tell I love my I-phone?

For context, here’s the house:

You may recall that in Parts I and II of this blog thread I talked about how our family benefits on our annual vacation from connecting with each other by unplugging, and the eco impact of our travel to and from this pristine spot.

In this post, I’ll share what makes it a green-ish vacation– what it is about the place we stay that makes it pretty eco friendly. I say “green-ish” because there is an eco impact, especially in getting from Chicago to Maine (via Redbones Restaurant in Somerville, MA!) and back.

So let’s start with the biggest and most obvious thing: There is no electricity. So, we’re not running air conditioners, not even fans. No electric lights. I can tell you that in the summer of 2002 I would have been really happy to have a way to stay cooler during a massive heat wave when I was pregnant with the now 8 year-old HamSter. But I kept my feet in the water most of the time, and I did survive.

And because there is also no electricity AND no Internet– No computers. So we’re not powering computers themselves, or accessing remote energy-hogging servers.

Here’s a pretty good shot of the living room that includes the original gas lamps (fueled by a propane tank) that we use for lighting in the evening. Because the lights are dim, it helps us to go bed early which makes the vacation restorative and restful!

And here’s our laundry hanging out to dry: 

Since most of the electricity in the US comes from very polluting coal power plants that kick out nasty things like mercury and emissions that contribute to our warming atmosphere and the “pickling” of our gorgeous oceans, not using electricity definitely contributes to the green-ishness of our vacation. Not that we can give up electricity in our day-to-day lives…

No microwave! We eat very well, thank you, with fabulous meals cooked on this gas stove:

We enjoy a daily does of homemade “Mama’s bread,” baked fresh daily in this oven! Thank you Grandma Lee! Not just for the bread, for making the island trip possible!

Composting!

Why does composting matter?  The methane gas that comes from our landfills (you know those little blue jets?) is way, way worse in its warming effects than the stuff that comes out of our tailpipes. It may seem kinda gross, but  composting is a good thing for the planet, for our kids’ future– and plants LOVE to be fed with compost!

We also use biodegradable soaps and shampoos because everything drains straight into the lake. I don’t have a photo of our shampoo!- but no matter where you live, it’s a good idea to use soaps, detergents and shampoos that are biodegradable. Why? When we don’t, we contribute to problems like the vast Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico ( one of a growing number of dead zones) where the ocean cannot support life because our sewage ends up dumping into the ocean, often via rivers such as the Missisippi. And, most non-biodegradable products are made from petroleum– toxic stuff, and part of our hidden addiction to oil!

And last but not least, the solar powered composting outhouse. Yup.


The solar panel on this outhouse helps run the composter for the waste. On some outhouses solar panels even run fans and lights! You might have seen them in National Parks.

For the record, I do not personally use the outhouse, but the DudeSter does –quite happily.  For myself, I was very happy when shortly after we started going to the island, a flush toilet using lake water was installed.

So this is my final post for the year on our annual unplugged vacation. Stay tuned for next year!

Let me know what you think of this series. And share your story of your low impact vacation!

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Unplugged, Part II: The Planes, Cars & Boats of our Green-ish Vacation A Drive Through the Heartland, the Nexus of Energy in the US

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