by Eve M.
On Earth Day this year, my family bought our first home in Media, Pennsylvania, an eclectic suburb outside of Philly locally known as “Everybody’s Hometown”. We chose Media, because it is a Transition Town, meaning some of its residents are part of an international network of communities committed to building local resilience in face of a changing global climate. Transition Towns focus on initiatives such as local sustainable food, renewable energy, reducing fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, sharing resources, and re-skilling. It was important to me to find and settle down in a community with like-minded people, who recognize the current energy and climate crises, and take meaningful action to build local ecological resilience. Part of my vision for joining this community was to take a leadership role in community initiatives, but also to begin a process of shifting my own life to more align with my values.
I spent the better part of my late teens and early 20s traveling to and living on eco-villages, from Tich Nhat’s Hahn’s Plum Village in France, to Auroville, a sustainable eco-city in Southern India, to Pinon Eco-Village in New Mexico. I always envisioned that I would eventually live in an eco-village, perhaps even one that I, with a group of friends and family, would start. But life in my late 20s and early 30s took a different direction: graduate degrees, marriage, family. At some point I found myself throwing out hundreds if not thousands of disposable diapers and buying questionably raised packaged chicken in the shape of dinosaurs. And the backyard garden I spent each winter dreaming about never seemed to materialize each spring amidst the demands of work and parenting. Although I recycled and frequented the farmers market, living a general lifestyle so contrary to my values and vision was depressing, and change was needed. And as long as work demands necessitated close proximity to a city, it didn’t seem living on an eco-village nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians was going to be practical. Becoming an active member of a Transition Town seemed the best most logical place to start my own Transition towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
The journey began 6 months before we actually moved to Media, when I began making connections with members of the Transition community over email, in person during our many house-hunting visits, and more deeply at a 3 day Timebanking and Transition conference 3.5 months before we actually moved to town. One thing that continually struck me about the people I met was the level of intelligence, thoughtfulness, and depth to which each individual contributed to the collective. Having spent over a decade in the non-profit world, I know how very challenging community ventures can be, particularly those that rely heavily on volunteers and function with very little capital. A key ingredient to the success of any community initiative is commitment, which the members of Transition Town seemed to have in spades, along with a healthy dose of organizational talent. Needless to say, I was excited to join this group. Yet vision and intention is often difficult to actualize in the face of well, life. And throughout our first year in Media, I often found myself struggling once again to align my life with my values.
The reality is that shifting our lives from one of shopper, consumer, fossil fuel burner to one that lives more in balance with the earth and her limited resources is really.damn.hard. One of the first things we needed to do when we moved to our rental house in the Borough was get things. Stuff. Kitchen stuff and bedroom stuff and front patio stuff. I had this vision of getting everything second hand off craigslist, freecycle, and our community swap page. Down with Walmart, down with Target. And in truth, we did find some great things on the swap page. But we needed more things, and so began the back and forth trips (by car) to Bed Bath and Beyond and the set of avocado green made in China towels that I honestly could not make myself not buy at Home Goods. They just matched the bathroom paint so well- simultaneously cursing myself a hypocrite while basking in the earthy crunchy greenness of my perfectly matched bathroom towel and shower curtain set.
And so this is the reality of what it means for me to be In Transition. There is a constant pull and tug between this life that we envision– this life of organic backyard gardens and bicycles and stuff-swapping, and the life in which we are inculcated and attached– the lifestyle that would better sustain our bodies and spirits, and the lifestyle that is slowly killing our planet (but feels so good in the short term). This is my journey and the journey of other Transitioners as we attempt to shift our own lives and our communities towards something better, something more sustainable, something more beautiful. I will admit, I am petrified of this change. As much as I know I would be happiest ankle deep in farm soil, I am really attached to our weekly trips to Trader Joe’s and all that little pre-packaged goodness. As much as I know I would be healthier and happier riding a bike everywhere, I love my car. And I am also petrified of sharing this journey publicly, equal parts idealism and pragmatism, failure and success. But here goes nothing. This is officially post move entry #1.