In March 2015, a group of people who had done the Footpaths course decided to write a series of 5 letters to each other about our thoughts and feelings on reducing our personal carbon Footprints and how we were doing.
We all struggled to find time to write the letters, but loved recieving the ones from everyone else. Here are a couple of examples but they were all very different to each other.
Last week I got a letter from my green energy supplier that my bills are going up – by over 20% - as a result of changes which will take the majority of their customers bills down. My immediate response was to be upset that as is so often the case, it is a disadvantage to have unusually low energy use, and to be angry that an energy company who I feel are the most ethical around, were still making changes which make people less likely to want to use less energy.
But then, as I thought about writing to them to complain, I started to think about what I wanted to say to them. What they are doing is substantially raising the cost of their standing charge due to a rise in the cost of delivering energy to their customers, but also substantially reducing the cost per unit of energy provided because the cost of generating that (renewable) energy has gone down – and as I use very little energy, the standing charge was already the majority of by bill even before these changes.
Did I want them to charge people more if they bought more energy? But that would mean low income people living in crowded, poorly insulated homes having to pay more, so that I living on my own in my well insulated home could pay less. Definitely not something I’d want them to do. Did I want them to combine the cost of delivering energy with the cost of generating it, and just come up with an average unit cost including both? But that would also penalise people with fewer choices than me about how they live. Also I realised that I value how transparent they are as a company – they regularly and openly adjust their prices based on the costs they have to cover, and I appreciate how clear and straightforward their letter to me was about the impact their changes would have on me.
In the end I realised that the reason I was so upset about their changes pushing my bill up was not that I thought it would encourage some of their customers to stop trying and use more energy (although sadly I think it will have that effect on some people), but that I feel living on my own in this house is not an ethical choice, and this underlined that feeling.
Living alone means there is a bathroom, kitchen and house being used just by me. That only I will benefit from any room I heat (to however low a temperature) and only I will eat the food I cook, use the router and computer etc. And now I was being reminded that infrastructure delivering my energy and requiring energy to build and run, was also only being used by me, instead of more efficiently (and with a lower carbon footprint) being shared. In a way, it feel right that their costs should reflect this. What I feel I should do is either share this house with at least 2 other people, or move to a bedsit – if I
really want to live alone – or ideally to a well populated housing coop. Emotionally however, I currently don’t feel robust enough to live with other people unless they are either close friends or very deep green people who are
interested in communicating and compromising.
To live with people I’d have to be willing to have a fridge (I hate the noise they make as well as the energy they use), to heat more of the house and to higher temperatures, and only my room would be private. All of which are entirely reasonable things, but I spent the last year sharing under those conditions with someone who wasn’t a friend, and it damaged both of us. Saying it’s not reasonable to want the things I want (low energy use, privacy etc) don’t stop me wanting them. And trying to suppress those wants has left me feeling damaged, and wasn’t good for the housemate either. I could love living with the right people, especially as something else I crave is people to talk politics/economics/international /domestic news with everyday, and I’ve lived in shared housing most of my life, but finding those people seems impossible at the moment.
And so here I am, angry with myself for not managing to find a solution which works for me morally and on a day to day level, and trying not to think about it because it hurts, but then getting annoyed with my – really quite ethical – energy company when they remind me of it.
What I need to do is make a plan. Something like this...
1. Allow myself time to recover emotionally from last year, even if it take until next year (which I have a nasty feeling it will).
2. As part of that recovery time I need to work on 2 things: somehow being able to accept housemates needs to have heating, fridges and to be untidy, and also being able to allow myself to feel and communicate to them the impacts this has on me. Probably this would involve not thinking of it as my house.
3. Find at least 5 ways to advertise for politically minded green housemates – perhaps through housing coop communities, transition networks, in the hope of finding housemates who are green and good at group living.
4. Set a limit on how long I continue living here if I can’t find long term (or a steady supply of short term) housemates who can become friends. Maybe 5 years from when I’m recovered.
5. Decide what I’ll do if I reach that limit...probably I don’t have to do that now though.
I’ll think about this some more and see where I get, clearly hiding my head in the sand doesn’t work.
Sorry this letter is so late – I suspect the next one will be too, But thank you for yours. Z.