I finished reading the book. It was okay - some good stuff and some stuff that wasn't interesting for me. The book is divided in chapters, one for each month. The first three months didn't give me much useful/interesting information. After that it got better, as the author got involved with groups and visited people who follow an alternative lifestyle.
Overall, though, the book didn't fullfill the hopes I had in it. Mostly it showed me that compared to some of the Americans described in the book, my own way of living is alright. I raised my eyebrows a few times as I read about kitchens containing at least four types of rice and about people who are proud to have eaten out only under ten times in the last six months.
The insights at the end were interesting, and mostly comply with my own point of view. I was surprised by the impact that year had on the author's relationship with her partner (they did the year without shopping together). For some reason I have the opinion that most guys wouldn't want to break free from the comfort culture (because they see no use in it?). If I did something like that, I wouldn't even consider asking my partner to join me - probably because most people in my surroundings get annoyed whenever I raise the topic ethic living.
I figured there are three behaviour types that are considered to be ethical in respect to consuming:
a. Buying organic goods
b. Buying Fairtrade goods
c. Cosuming less
While you can always do c, you get some problems when you try to combine it with both a and b. Firstly it's hard to find stuff that's both Fairtrade and organic - shops specialise either in organic goods or Fairtrade. Secondly, Fairtrade goods come from very, very far away, which increases the good's environmental footprint. Combine that with the try to buy groceries from local farmers and avoid fruits, vegetables, etc. from far away countries, and you're facing tough decisions.
If you want to buy apples, and have the choice between common apples from Austria/your country and organic apples from Spain or Italy, which is the better choice?
Thing is, every one of the categories I stated above stands for something else. Organic goods are produced with regards to the environment (their impact on your pocket will probably be bigger than their impact on your health, and they probably taste the same). Fairtrade goods center on human rights. Consuming less is a statement against pop culture and consumer culture. I guess you have no other choice than to set priorities (apart from c, which you can do regardless). Which is more important, human rights or protecting the environment? Does the organic-ness of the apples from Spain even out the transport effects on the environment? I have no idea.
(In the end I went for Austrian apples, though.)
Kendo training was outside today. What an amazing experience. We're lucky that our dojo is part of a leisure activity centre for children and youths, so there is a big greenspace attached. Not to mention how handsome the guys in the hakama look when they're standing on the grass and the wind moves the garment slightly (ever since I started Kendo and saw the sensai in his hakama for the first time I wanted to make a painting depicting it). Today's training was less exhausting, because we just worked on the zen mindset and practiced cutting techniques involving three enemies. Most of all, I like the constant support of the sensai - improving our techniques without saying what we're doing is wrong, adapting individually to our various needs. Shame I didn't start with it earlier.
Rough painting I did for one of the contests over at the ImagineFX website. The face is heavily referenced, obviously, to get the likeness. I still need to go over it again to polish it a bit - which I had intended to do before submitting it, but since I somehow messed up the deadline and had a day less than expected, this is how far it got. Those are the problems you're confronted with when you don't just paint for yourself :)