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Sustainable living on a budget: Am I inspired yet?

Yogurt_in_crock Monique Dupre was, as everyone seems to agree, not what we expected. She's too lovely, too pulled-together, too funny, too American. (For the record, she is married to a Frenchman, grew up near Astoria, and now lives in Vancouver, Wash.) I half-expect her to start her insanely popular 'Sustainable Living on a Budget' workshop with a little ledger for us to add up our errant spending and lots of judgment, but that's entirely not what she does.

She starts by saying that she just wants to inspire us, reminds us that inspire means "in the spirit," and that we don't have to do everything, just start where we are. And begins to talk about where she is.

It's at once devilishly inspiring (I will admit to having called Comcast to cut off my cable the next day, and removed the TV from the living room, although it was only minorly influenced by Monique) and crushingly overwhelming. Monique, through lots of hard work, much ability to be present and inquisitive, and the oh-so-useful French husband questioning all that is America, has created a life that is truly my dream. She gets all her food locally and organically, creating healthy and whole-foods-y meals for each and every bite her family eats. She leaves her home each morning with a clean kitchen and a small pile of laundry. Her children want nothing for Christmas because they have everything they need. Her eldest daughter can recognize fennel plants when they're an inch tall. She loves fennel!

Monique grinds her own whole grains. She need not go anywhere on the weekends, because her house is her bed & breakfast. And she's available for consulting, just $50 an hour.

I'll admit to hating her at moments. ("Cloth diapers are great!" she says. "If you're just the tiniest bit crafty, you can make them for pennies, and you can knit those covers in a long car ride!" Larissa and I looked at each other in sorrow, mourning the fact that there's no support group for disposable diaper users.) But I was definitely inspired. And I love one of her undercurrents, one that I've been trying to do as much as possible (though of course here I'm sitting, writing calls-to-action one after another), which is something about being silent and just doing the change you want to see in the world. (She said it better.) Don't go out and insist that everyone on your block rip out their lawn and plant a garden; don't start a campaign to ban disposable diapers. Just start with a little box, dig it up, plant some artichokes and spinach and sunflowers; take honey-sweetened cookies to your child's next t-ball game; calmly pass up on garbage day because you've learned to reduce your trash to one small can a month. These things are my lofty goals right now.

Do I recommend the workshop? If you want to learn how to do everything right now, no. You'll leave after two hours feeling empty, wondering what exactly to do with the 25-pound-bags of organic quinoa and kamut you're sure you want to buy, wondering how to knit your diaper covers, wondering what, exactly, you should be fermenting for tomorrow's dinner. Wondering how you'll ever know if your flour is rancid. If you need a starting place, a spark of inspiration, a push to set you off toward living better, consuming less, sustaining more: it's a great use of two hours.

You'll need to book now, of course, because Monique was in the Oregonian, and she's now a sustainable mama rock star. Workshops for dairy, fermenting, and cooking with whole grains will be opening up come August, and if you've gone already, let me know what you thought. And where you started your quest to make your home like a bed & breakfast.


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Wow - inspiring and overwhelming. All I can say is I just have to repeat my mantra. I'm making my change incrementally... Otherwise my being overwhelmed will make me put off any changes at all! Thanks for the update though, I was wondering how things went. We're canceling cable after Lost and Battlestar Galactica are done (OMG we're such geeks)

YAY! I am glad Monique is getting some mention on here. She is such a lovely lady! and I hope everyone can learn a lil 'sumtin 'sumtin from her! :)

I was at the same workshop, and have to tell you that I could not fall asleep until about 2:30am that night..all those sustainable things I heard at the workship were swirling around in my head, making me toss and turn. Where do I start making these changes, how do I find the time when most days I have trouble getting the "basics" done. *sigh* On a good note, I did put into recycling all my Stoneyfield Farm Vanilla Whole Milk Yogurt Containers. I will miss those.

I'm signed up for an upcoming session with Monique, and can't wait. Thanks for the tip about not getting overwhelmed, because I do that very easily. I agree that the best first step is to just start somewhere and make changes, but I still welcome info on how/where/what changes others have made as it makes navigating these unfamiliar waters much easier. Your 'calls to action' are very informative and inspiring, so thanks :)

Hi all. I am hosting a workshop with Monique at my house on Monday eve, July 28 in NE Portland. There's still space and you can register by going to her web site (I'm listed as "Erin's House - NE Portland).

Her 2 hour workshops just went from $25 up to $35...

Her 2 hour workshops just increased in price from $25 up to $35 now...

I was told that if you sign up before June 1 you can still get the $25 rate.

Knitting your own diaper covers... that's hardcore! But it doesn't seem all that more economical or green than buying second-hand ones, which are widely available at Piccolina and elsewhere. Or just using prefolds with a Snappy and forgoing the covers altogether.

Here's a way to approach cloth diapering without feeling intimidated or overwhelmed--try just using one a day. Even if you just do that, you'll save hundreds of diapers (and big $$$$) by the time your kid is potty trained. If you can handle it, do two or three a day! Especially if you know that your baby only poops in the morning, for example. Use a disposable overnight and let him poop in it. Then use cloth. That way, you only have to wash wet diapers, which is SO not a big deal!

I am hosting Monique's intro workshop at my home in NE Portland on July 21st at 7pm. The price for workshops goes up to $25 on June 1st, so register soon!

One of my mantras these days is Progress Not Perfection. I've been making a lot of the incremental changes for a while...years in fact. I'm just now working on my first Azure Standard order and last week ordered a whole Oregon grassfed steer to share with a group of friends. Haven't started fermenting food, but have been baking our own bread. Success with these changes, I have found, is finding a system that works, ways to incorporate new habits, assess what's working/what isn't, tweak the system, try again. It took me six months of baking bread and making bagels separately every week to figure out that I could bake bread and make bagel dough on the same day (the bagel dough ferments overnight in the fridge). Now, I only have to pull out all my flours and grains and wash my bread mixer once a week. Duh! I can't believe it took me so long to figure that out!

While I do admire the mamas here who make time for advocacy, I like Monique's emphasis on being the change. For me, the political is personal--there's no better place to create change than in my own family...the next generation is watching, very intently! I spent my 20s and my 30s advocating. Now I don't have energy for that--I just do my thing and try to help my friends who want to make the same changes.

I really do believe that living intentionally, making/growing your own food, reducing your footprint, living cooperatively, etc. can be a radical political statement - in the US anyway!

It says "$35" on the website.

Has anyone been to any of her other workshops beyond the Intro one? "Whole Grains and Meal Planning" and also "Homemade Dairy Products" both look good, but am wondering if I could likely find the info in some good books/websites rather than spending $70.

no, tk, but I feel your pain re: $70. I'm planning to start collecting some ideas, good books and links to go there.

I was thinking it would be fun to do this cooperatively -- Shetha and I are always plotting our dairy adventures. anyone in southeast who wants to come over and do some hands-on experimentation some weekend soon, let me know! I'll post something here shortly.

You could be canning by next summer!! I am hosting the Introductory workshop by Monique Dupre at my place in NE this coming Tuesday, 9th of December at 7 pm. There are 5 spots left if anyone is interested to register. The cost is $35 and according to Monique's website, this is what will be discussed:

You will leave with a wealth of practical information, a notebook full of resources and the knowledge to implement it in your life, and– you will see a difference in your grocery bill right away!

Other topics discussed in the Intro. workshop include:

Save money on groceries and all household items, big and small
Eliminate trips to the grocery store
Shop and cook in season using local, organic ingredients (yes, this IS possible to do on a budget)
What you can make from scratch that will save you $$
Eliminate processed foods
Stocking up the pantry with bulk, whole foods
Eliminating plastics (how to replace them with other materials) and purifying your home
Shop with alternatives in mind
The importance of daily and weekly rhythms
Conscious consuming
Small changes that have a big impact on the earth
The value of supporting our local economy
Involve your children of any age in these daily tasks and much more

You need a paypal account to register. If you haven't got one and still wish to attend, you could contact Monique, I'm sure another form of payment can be arranged. Thanks!

I just got home from attending this class and can not recommend it more. I have a short list of where to start and am just going to start. I loved that the tone of her presentation reiterates not judging others, not judging yourself. A very kind and nurturing place to begin.

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