Cost-Benefit Analysis of a Better Cheaper Slower life
Walk to work, or somewhere.
For about 30 years, I walked to and from work, three miles a day. For my 15 miles a week, I burned about 2500 calories, the equivalent of about 3/4 of a pound. And I burned through zero dollars in commuting money, so I've saved a total of $25,000 in subway fares or $80,000 in cab fares. Didn’t put a gram of carbon in the atmosphere. But I didn’t do this just because it was it was Better and Cheaper. I did it because it was Slower, and quieter. Thirty minutes at the beginning of the day to look around and think – no phones, faxes, e-mails, meetings. Another half hour of this at the end of the day. Save your money, save your planet and be your own health care provider: walk, or bike, anywhere you can.
Don’t buy bottled water.
Fifteen years ago, we installed a filtration system under the kitchen sink. It cost $300; the annual cost of replacement filters is about $150. Our water tastes pristinely great. Drinking eight glasses of tap water each day, the annual cost per person for New York City water is about fifty cents. 50 cents a year! So two of us drink safe, clean, fresh-tasting filtered water for $151 a year. If we bought bottled water, our annual cost would be somewhere between $2,000 and $4,000 depending on the size of the bottles and the brand. So we’ve saved at least $30,000 since we bought those filters 15 years ago. Not to mention what would’ve been our part of the two million barrels of oil used every year to make the plastic bottles. And a lot more to ship and truck the stuff around the world and across the country. Drink tap water from a tap, not a bottle (tap's what's in many big brand bottled waters anyway); filter it yourself and put it in your own safe and reusable containers.
Eat lots of vegetables and fruit; buy them from a farmer. Three years ago, we joined a neighborhood CSA (Community supported Agriculture) group. Six months of just-picked, organically grown produce for $720. Less than $30 a week for more fruit and vegetables than two of us can eat – and we eat a lot. That’s about half of what we’d spend to buy lower quality, not-so-fresh produce at a local supermarket. During the first month I lost four pounds – without trying. We were eating so many vegetables there wasn’t a lot of room for too much else in our diet. Much better, way cheaper eats. Plus an extra mile of walking once a week to pick up my farm share. And the social bonus of meeting like-minded neighbors.
Plant something you can eat.
Three years ago, I planted strawberry seeds in a small pot outside the kitchen window. Seed cost: $4. Harvest: Three months worth of perfectly ripe strawberries. They're still growing strong. Couldn’t be better. Couldn't possibly be cheaper.
My name is Dick Sandhaus. I’m a 64-year-old guy with a serious, longtime interest in eating and exercising well. I’m a former anthropologist, rock concert producer and light show creator.
Like you, I’m not getting any younger. And health care and insurance costs aren’t getting lower. So I’ve been finding ways to live better and cheaper. And to take time to enjoy them. I’d like to help you do the same.
Every day I translate the latest medical research into one easy-to-make recipe or easy-to-do exercise. I’m not a doctor, registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, chef, farmer or economist. But my health care costs are near zero – because I keep myself healthy. I have a well-balanced diet – because I eat well and balance it with regular exercise. Things that seem to be more and more important for our health and happiness.
So now I make pizza and bread from scratch every week, even though I never bought a bag of flour before my 60th birthday. I grow tomatoes and corn on a rooftop in the middle of New York City. Three or four days a week, I run three or four miles. Every day, I do balance exercises. Which I never thought about until I lost my balance and ended up with a wicked ankle sprain a few years ago. Vacations are mostly long day hikes. In wildly beautiful and relaxing places that are free for the walking.
How I got here
Born in New York (1949), grew up in Connecticut. Began producing rock concerts to raise money for my high school, then turned it into a business I ran until I graduated from Amherst College (1971). I don’t produce music any more, but I still dance to it. Dance fast, have a great time, burn 225 calories in a half hour.
When I was studying, the subject was anthropology. I got to do field research on the very small island of Karavar -- way, way off New Guinea. This is the most exciting experience imaginable, like going to another (inhabited) planet. I lived in a traditional, non-Western society of 200 people. And I ate the freshest fish, fruits and vegetables I’ve ever seen. I was pretty impressed by the simple act of eating this way.
Back in the States a few months later, I returned to music producing. In San Francisco, a friend told me about an amazing new restaurant over in Berkeley: Chez Panisse. OK, not quite as exciting as going to Karavar -- but amazingly fresh, delicious food. No sludgy brown rice. I thought, yes, this is the way to eat. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to cook.
Around this same time, I started to make laser shows. Honest. The first-ever large-scale outdoor laser shows. I continued to do this for decades: public art installations, nightly spectacles for Olympics - that sort of thing. It went well, and I traveled and worked all over the world. And ate all over the world. This all began in the 70s, just before McDonald’s globalized fast food and fast eating.
In the mid 70s, I was in my mid-20s and I realized I wasn’t getting much exercise. I started running a few miles a day in Central Park. No marathons, just a nice half-hour run in a beautiful place. I did this for twenty years - until I developed wicked back pain. I saw a gifted physical therapist for a few weeks and completely cured my problem with an extensive regimen of stretching. Really. Just stretching. Which I should have been doing all along. I’m still running. No pain. Lots of gain.
In the 80s I married Kathy. We developed a vacation habit: hiking and eating. Pretty serious 10-mile+ day hikes at high altitudes, alternating with pretty serious local eating and wine tasting. If you burn enough calories, you really can eat whatever you want without gaining weight.
In the late 90s, I got interested in the emerging internet. I created an interactive fitness web site for the world’s biggest manufacturer of exercise equipment.
All the while, I’ve been tending my garden up on the roof. Not enough produce to feed us, but enough to give me a huge appreciation for what small farmers do. We belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group. Six months a year, its farm gives us huge quantities of the best, cheapest vegetables and fruits you can imagine. I never know what’ll be in my basket each week, but it’s a steady supply of healthy stuff that I figure out how to prepare every day. A new way every day to eat really well.
So there you have it. I’m an ex-hippie Baby Boomer who's had a healthy and happy life. For ten bucks a year, I’ll be delighted to share its best and most useful ideas with you, one a day. May not be perfect, but it is Better Cheaper and Slower. Subscribe now.
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