When I first moved into my home, there was no garage, only a small shed for storing tools and my one-human-power reel lawnmower, which gave me plenty of exercise. The previous owners of the property made do for nearly thirty years parking on the street or the gravel driveway that ended in front of a small fence.
My shed sufficed for several years and perhaps would have served me longer, but a particularly heavy snowfall one winter caused the roof to collapse, so I built a garage. I kept the gravel driveway, however, thinking it looked more rural, more unspoiled than the asphalt and concrete intrusions of my neighbors.
Over the years the gravel settled into the ground, leaving a topcoat of grass and dandelions and creeping Charlie. Soon I found that I had to mow my driveway in the summer and clear snow with a plastic shovel in the winter so as not to gouge out the greenery with the harshness of a metal blade.
During that time I accumulated more stuff, more things that I placed in my garage: a snowblower that I rarely used and eventually was unable to use because my disuse of it caused it not to start anymore; a spare lawnmower; my bicycle and tire pump; some fencing, a hose or two, a wheelbarrow and other gardening tools; and a couple packages of shingles from my re-roofed house; not to mention my car (in the winter).
In short, my garage eventually became somewhat cluttered. Not packed like my neighbors’ garages, where they seemingly have to scuttle in sideways to reach the doors and contort their bodies to gain access to their vehicles, but more crowded than I like.
So I began removing items. I gave away my wheelbarrow and the old shingles. I offered a drip hose to my neighbor for his garden. I brought some wood over to my brother’s house for a bonfire and used a few bricks as a border for a planting.
More recently I installed an asphalt driveway because as I’ve aged, the winters have become more difficult. Snow removal no longer comes easy. I realized I either needed to somehow make shoveling less difficult or hire someone to help. So the first step was a driveway I could clear on my own.
I recall the early days when I first purchased the house and thought I would leave it as is – a simple rambler on a little lake that’s really more of a swamp. But the fallen shed required me to either replace it or add a garage. Then, at some point, I added a porch so I could look out at the lake without getting eaten by mosquitoes, so I could sit out there in the late fall and early spring without wearing a winter jacket.
I minimized the eco-footprint as much as I could. But I worry about how even I – an aspiring environmentalist – have contributed to the problem of climate change by my actions.
We all add stuff to our lives. We build and improve, making small alterations to our habitat, only intending to make our small patch more livable, more comfortable, rarely considering the global effect of our actions. After all, what’s one garage or one porch or one driveway in the grand scheme of things?
And yet when you multiply that by 7 billion souls, you find that the cascading effect is much larger than you imagined.