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O P I N I O N
It's Not Easy Being Green
The Commie A letter from the commune 
October 2000

After we built a solar food dehydrator out of salvaged glass and plywood, our Appropriate Technology teacher dreamt he was a piece of fruit drying in the wrong position. Needless to say, he tossed and turned all night, trying to achieve the position of maximum moisture removal. 

Do you worry about solar food dehydration? Do you long to make organic soy milk? Do you wonder how to make the most efficient stove out of two tin cans? We here at Aprovecho do. Aprovecho, a Spanish verb to make the best use of, is a center devoted to both environmental and social sustainability. Its not the average research experience. 

I come to you now from my room in the strawbale dorm. Strawbale is an alternative form of insulation that uses straw essentially a waste product produced in abundance by fallow fields and often left to rot instead of energy and chemical intensive fiberglass insulation. Strawbale is one example of sustainability that we inspect the energy, chemicals, and other materials that we use under the lens of what is necessary, what is natural, and how our consumption will affect ourselves and the future viability of the land. It should also come as no surprise that the current American lifestyle is not sustainable, that our throw-away culture is depleting resources that cant be replenished and decimating those that could be, if used more wisely. A couple of examples include our construction zest that has made concrete second only to water in per capitia consumption yet we rip these buildings down only a decade later to replace K-Mart with Super-K. Concrete, like many other manufactured products, fails to decompose on natural time scales like wood, so it both fills up our dumps and locks up resources of our natural cycles. Along the same lines, a full 30% of household waste is compostable, yet we fill up our landfills with it and then clear-cut forests and exploit animals to provide fertilizer and organic material for agriculture. In fact, in our society, we feel most in touch with the outdoors when driving our gas-guzzling SUVs and recycling a small fraction of the useless packaging and unnecessary junk that we buy. 

We are conditioned to believe that we need and are entitled to more things than we actually require. We make the accumulation of stuff to provide for every contingency our lifetime ambition, storing up ten times more than we ever use instead of sharing lesser-used items or risking not having absolutely perfect things in every situation. Soda, coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, and impulse buying are regarded as essentials, not luxuries, and leave us evermore reliant on them. By the time we reach college, we are locked into certain ways of doing things that we forget  under what assumptions were operating. 

Living at Aprovecho without a refrigerator, washing machine, dishwasher, TV, computer, personal closets, processed food, or even enough beds for everyone (one fourth of the interns are camping for the semester!) is refreshing. It is opening my eyes to the fact that we are capable of doing much more for ourselves than I previously thought possible; it is also showing me real choices I have about how I use resources, and the beauty and joy of simplicity. With creativity, commitment, a willingness to live outside the box and, yes, (gasp) human labor, we can begin to construct more environmentally sustainable lives and communities. 

The Communist is the YFPs correspondent to the Aprovecho Commune.
 

   
The Yale Free Press is published by students ofYale University. 
Yale University is not responsible for its 
contents. By the same
token, The Yale Free Press is not responsible for the contents of Yale
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