• How Does Spending a Year Without Money Help the Environment?

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How Does Spending a Year Without Money Help the Environment?

Apr 22 2016

Many of us are concerned about the declining state of the environment and worry about how our own actions affect the planet. Some of us try to do our best by taking public transport, recycling everything we can and buying locally-grown produce, among other methods. However, one woman from Australia has taken it upon herself to spend a year without money in a bid to help the environment.

Jo Nemeth gave up her job as the community development officer for Casino Community Neighbourhood in northern New South Wales almost exactly one year ago. Moving into a solar-powered shack on borrowed land, she contrived to pass the next 12 months without spending a single penny.

A Simple, Sustainable Way of Life

The idea of sustainable living has been around for centuries, but Ms Nemeth has taken it to a whole new plane by extricating herself from the world economy for a whole year. In exchange for working on fruit orchard of a friend in Koonorigan near Nimbin, Ms Nemeth was able to rent a piece of land upon which she has built a small, solar-powered shack made entirely from recyclable materials.

She collects rainwater to use for cooking and cleaning purposes and uses the power of the sun’s rays to heat her own makeshift solar shower – nothing fancier than a black plastic bin bag. She scavenges pieces of soap to stay hygienic and grows all of her own food, which she cooks upon a stove fuelled by twigs and sticks.

“I was nervous about how much food I would need to grow, but to feed one person takes very little,” she told ABC News Australia. She also recycles paper napkins from nearby diners as her toilet paper. “You know how when you go to a cafe, you might have a napkin underneath your coffee cup? You might spill a bit of coffee on it and then it gets thrown in the bin — but it's still OK, so I collect those and recycle them.”

Medical care has represented the biggest challenge to Ms Nemeth’s way of life. Though she was able to hitch-hike to a free GP to get a check-up, dentistry has proved to be more of a conundrum. As yet, she hasn’t worked out how to get the work on her teeth done without currency.

Benefits to the Environment

Since all of Ms Nemeth’s electricity comes from solar power, she has zero emissions (other than those emitted by her crude wood-burning stove). She also does not encourage emissions indirectly by growing all of her own food and refraining from using transport. Finally, her willingness to scavenge and reuse all manner of materials means that she is reducing world waste and maximising the earth’s resources.

Of course, Ms Nemeth’s is an extreme case, but if other people attempted to adapt their own lives even just a little bit, the cumulative effect on the environment could be substantial.

“I've reduced my footprint by 80% or 90%, but if other people could reduce theirs by 40% or 50% that would make the difference we need to make to keep global warming below two degrees,” she said. “The average person could reduce their footprint by buying stuff that's produced as close as possible to their home, reduce the amount of driving they do and their fossil fuel use, and reduce our use of plastics.”

Similarly, big businesses would do well to follow Ms Nemeth’s example when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint. Furthermore, reducing waste could have significant economic benefits as well as environmental ones, making it a logical decision for individuals, enterprises and governments.


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