What I Learned in McCarthy, Alaska

After spending a summer living on the edge of the Wrangell St. Elias National Park, I’ve learned a couple things about a simpler, less wasteful, more self-sufficient (and therefore more sustainable) way of life.

First of all, have a garden.  It gives you bragging rights as well as food.  Good food that’s not wrapped in multiple layers of plastic, that hasn’t been shipped across the Atlantic ocean in a gas guzzling ship, and that devoid of chemicals/fertilizers/pesticides (unless you chose to use that nasty stuff).

Second, park your car for several months and see what happens.  Pretend there is a river with no bridge across it between you and your car (it was actually for the most part like that in McCarthy).  A little biking, a little walking (sometimes running if you’re late) and “VIOLA”:  you won’t need to pay hundreds of dollars for those aerobics classes.  You may also get to see the way moonlight illuminates the surface of a swift-moving river, or smell the roses in your neighbor’s garden three doors down…if you would only get out of your damn car.

Third, pretend there isn’t a recycling or trash service FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. Imagine that. Can you?  What if that service existed only hours away (like in McCarthy) and so you had to be a little more careful about your consumption and your waste or else you’d be driving 6 hours in one day to drop off your egg shells and old newspapers.  If the options were either burn it or bury it in your own backyard, I’m pretty sure most people would try to burn it.  Would you buy less plastic wrapped products if you had to stand over a smoking burn barrel once a week? …I bet you would.

Fourth and finally, see the people that are within a 5 mile radius as part of your life…after all what they do probably impacts you.  You are breathing the same air, drinking the same water, using the same roads, etc.

Written By: Andrea Sokolowski

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