Island Girls Waste Less

I have some severe issues with anything being wasted. I get anxiety when someone tosses half their lunch away, or is speaking to me while a faucet is running or taking things in and out of a freezer. It takes all of my willpower to not scream at them mid-sentence, My god, please, oh please, just turn the water OFF! An island girl since birth, I’m not sure if this is a quality I’ve inherited or learned. Either way, since moving back to my wee rock several years back, my “waste less” philosophy has only been strengthened.

Island life and its limitations make you all the more aware of how wasteful we humans can be. When basic life essentials like water and electricity come and go without warning, you learn that it pays to be conscientious. When there is a blizzard or other inclement weather up north (or the odd strike going on), and you’re out of stock of all the imported food your rock relies on until God knows when, you learn to be patient and do with whatever you can get. When the island’s law dictates only one car per household, you learn to embrace the inconvenience, reassuring yourself with how much money you’re saving and stress you’re not dealing with parking on the rock. When a hurricane strikes, you gain an entirely new level of gratitude for the bare necessities of life.

*click for image credit

In the autumn of 2014, we were hit by two hurricanes back to back in the course of a week. The first one, Fay, swept in like a woman of fury, with little warning of the wrath she would bring forth. Apparently, I had too much sand and swizzle fogging my brain and didn’t prepare adequately. I was a bit too complacent, as we had had many false alarms for a few years running. We islanders are nothing if not laid back – sometimes to our own detriment! Hence, I had no extra batteries on hand, no buckets of water, and my coolers could only hold so much. It was a couple of days before I got my electricity and water back – and boy did I appreciate it when it returned.

The next rager, Gonzalo (who comes up with these names?!), was a different story. We had plenty of warning, so we knew to prepare and we did it well. A tub and buckets full of water, torchlights and plenty of candles on-hand, batteries, extra borrowed coolers, snacks, non-perishable food, and plenty of alcohol stocked – I learned my lesson, clearly. Gonzalo wreaked havoc; it was a Category 4 and no joke!

Of course, many were left with no electricity and water for days on end, some of whom hadn’t even gotten these basics back since Fay. Ice bucket showers, bucket flushes, washing dishes and lingerie in a bucket – this was the reality. Days went by and little by little the supply diminished, ice melted, and I was eating my cheese so rapidly I felt like the girl from Willa Wonka that blows up into a blueberry. I had to go for several early morning runs to avoid the thought of how it was clinging to my arteries. (Cheese is my vice and it is indeed pricey – I couldn’t allow myself to let it go to waste, obviously!) I had to toss any remaining food items from my fridge and freezer, and oy, was that nail-biting.

*click for image credit

Thankfully I was able to use showers and power outlets at my job, gym, and friends’ places when they had sustainable power for more than an hour, and virtually every night for several days I was patronizing a different restaurant simply to charge my basics in exchange for a proper hot meal. You would think we could be okay without our gadgets, but many of us had to update our social media and email our loved ones worldwide on our status: “Don’t worry, we’re fine; another day another bucket shower and deciding between the last can of beans and warm beer or proper food and good antics and jokes with the locals at every place in town again.” A storm does bring us together, doesn’t it! And we have a good laugh about it in the end.

So now, when I see a bucket, cooler, bottles of water, non-perishables, and alcohol for sale, I grab them up and hoard them to be extra prepared for our next storm or whatever else may strike.

My worldwide friends occasionally ask me things like, “How do you live without a car?!” or “How on Earth do you manage to be so controlled with your water usage? It sounds so inconvenient!” And while I certainly understand where they’re coming from – when water flows without fail every time you turn the pipe and the cost of it is practically inconsequential, it naturally holds less value – it only makes me smile. Sometimes, yes, living with less is a nuisance, and sometimes I do miss the abundant convenience of city life. But it means more to me to live more responsibly and to feel more connected with where our basic life essentials actually come from. Besides, in the city, you also miss out on a lot of the fun that comes with improvising. Who’d want to miss out on the occasional bucket shower anyway?

Print Friendly
This entry was posted in General, Lifestyle, Megan Rumbelow's posts, Reflections by Megan Rumbelow. Bookmark the permalink.
Megan Rumbelow

About Megan Rumbelow

Megan originally hails from tiny Bermuda in the middle of the Atlantic. She spent her first 10 years there enjoying an idyllic childhood, then the next 15+ years shuffling between the US (NYC and NJ), Bermuda for long summers, and Christmas seasons in her late father's native England before finally settling back in Bermuda in 2009. She is a Bermudian by birth, but because she was born to two expat parents (more on that later) and lived a good portion of her teen/adult years living abroad, she jokingly calls herself The Bermudian Expat.

In 2008, nursing a 5-year break-up, she was facing a "mid-life crisis" of sorts as she was nearing her 30th and feeling an uncontrollable itch to start over, even though she loved her career and the hustle and bustle of NYC. Alas, a year later she packed her bags and moved back to her island home with a job contract and a few hundred dollars, not certain how long she would stay. Living back in beautiful Bermuda has been a challenging adjustment with many ups and downs, but with double the amount of triumphs and opportunities she likely never would have had in many other areas such as becoming a rugby player, being part of a wine circle club, and SCUBA diving - to name a few.

While she is a beauty and massage therapist, part-time writer, and bartender - among other talents - she doesn't ever define anyone by their titles, but rather by their character, how they treat others, and what they contribute to the world. An animal enthusiast/activist, lover of nature, the water, and water sports, photography, traveling, and more - she considers herself driven, ambitious, kind, passionate, slightly introverted, and a big dreamer/thinker. Megan prefers deep philosophical conversations over draining small talk and believes that a sense of humor vital to getting through life. She is thrilled to be a part of this fantastic group, to take up her love of writing, and is very enthusiastic to share so many stories about the idiosyncrasies of island life!

Subscribe Here

10 thoughts on “Island Girls Waste Less

  1. Love this and can so relate to the “How can you let the water run” or, “Close the fridge door!”

    This time of year there is a challenge to use up all the leftovers that come from departing winter residents……another sour cream, another yellow mustard, another open bag of spinach. Heavens forbid we should waste one precious leaf.

    Well done!

    • Thanks Susan!!
      Yes, now is time of year that is getting warmer (where I live) and the humidity/mold factor will be rising, & spring cleaning of everything will be somewhat fun! Will certainly be using and eating anything that is still good; obviously everything that is open, & I especially keep an eye on my $2.69 avocados & $12 pound of grapes, I could weep at throwing such precious commodities away! If anything I’ll scatter to the birds:)

  2. Great post and I can totally relate! I moved to St. Thomas in 2013 to live on a boat and I have no choice but to be conscientious. We live on a mooring so water conservation is high priority, although all we have to do is go to the fuel dock to get the tanks filled. We pride ourselves on how much less waste we contribute and how much less resources we use. I just wish everyone could see what we island girls see and stop being so wasteful!

    • Happy you enjoyed Dawn!! Wow-you live on a boat, check you that’s amazing!:) But there’s a price for it I’m sure, as you describe! I think we islanders not only realise how resourceful and less wasteful we are but how we’re simplying so content with less and try to live simply. We make use of what we have! Enjoy- I do plan to visit St. Thomas sometime soon!

  3. Amen! I never realized I was OCD, but a few hurricanes, a 2 week island wide power outage, a massive fire and 3 port closures will bring out the OCD preparedness in anyone! Candles are a way of life. My water tank is kept topped off and has a bucket with rope attached for ‘dipping’ emergencies, I can everything in season (thank you to my island landlord for teaching me this skill), my med kit is kept stocked with duplicates of everything, our old camp stove is kept primed, and our ‘go’ back is kept updated – when you have less than 4 minutes to get out of a fire at 1:30am, it’s all you can do to find shoes!
    For newcomers to island life
    Have a call/email list kept with a friend back ‘home’ or somewhere other than where you live. It makes it so much easier and less time on your device charge to send one email to one person, have one point of contact etc. What a blessing that was during Mitch.
    Safe house documents. Take a photo of all legal documents and send them to a friend or family member who lives elsewhere. They may not be ‘legally ‘ binding, but having the documents numbers and a picture make getting new ones MUCH easier once the chaos settles.
    Thanks for the great article!

    • Thanks for your feedback, Erin!
      All of these types experienceso can teach us a little some thing or at the very least bring out qualities within we didn’t know we had!!
      Yes, I have a lot of ocd like tendencies with quite a lot myself- extra batteries, candles, everything must be in a certain order & in a certain place; including all imperative documents! I like your tidbit about the bucket-very useful when we rely on our rainwater (in Bermuda we do); every little drop is counted for:) Buckets are always filled to the max in prep of any hurricane among other things!
      Very good point of having one or more people in the loop for all of your news should an emergency come to ease worried minds! I try to reassure ahead of time as well the reality of what will happen:)
      Glad you enjoyed!

  4. Everyone should have the chance to live, even for a short while, on an island to learn about conservation. Teaching in school just doesn’t cut it. However, even on an island, I have found that the “natives” are very, very wasteful. They pay a minimal amount of money for water and have unlimited access to it. So much so that they leave water spigots running and flush toilets every time instead of when “necessary”. If you live on an island you know what that last one means.
    Here on the island we have a fantastic underground source of water BUT it is not unlimited and when we go through a dry season each year water runs short. One would think that everyone would have a cistern to collect the abundance of rainwater. But, no, the majority of the islanders depend upon a series of dams to supply them and continue to waste until, yes, during the dry season they have no water.
    We have a 6,900 gallon cistern which has served us well but we are still aware of the need to not waste this precious source.
    I have lived on Guanaja for 19 years and believe me one becomes very aware of one’s surroundings. We have no roads and travel is strictly by boat which means a lot of people throw their trash in the sea because, well, because it is there! A concerted effort was made to indoctrinate the people about disposing of trash in a more responsible way and it has cleaned up the island. Let’s face it, trash is one of the scourges that humans have ignore and we have yet to dispose of in an environmentally safe way.
    I return to the States once a year and am simply amazed by the waste of water, gasoline, food and the overuse of plastic bags. I cringe when I see all these plastic bags leaving the supermarket and no one seems to think of reusing them. We try to discourage the use of plastic by bringing our own cloth/canvas bags to town when we shop.
    I can say things have improved on our island with regard to trash but water is still a big problem and further steps must be taken to educate people into not being so wasteful.

      • Amen to that, Sharon, so very true.
        While living on an island isn’t for everyone, if majority of people could experience it for even just a few months they’d be more appreciative and understanding of how others live and why we should never take anything-most esp our most precious & valuable resources-for granted!
        Here in Bermuda we do in fact rely on the rain for much of our water supply and the roofs of the houses are built a certain way to catch and store in our tanks. Here, too, we have too many ‘natives’ as much as fresh off the boat expats that can be very wasteful from time to time and sometimes it unfortunately takes a massive storm or drought as a gentle reminder to conserve & remember our environmental impact! Laughing at your comment about flushing-I totally understood what you meant!!
        The usage of plastic bags gets under my skin as well; our island is getting better at this however I bring my own cloth bags to grocery store (they fill quite a lot & save room on my scooter, which helps me be more frugal on the pocketbook as well! :), we have yet to recycle & the use of plastic in general seriously needs to be stopped or controlled. You do a great job it looks as leading by example, which is my mission as well!! Keep up the great work and thanks for reading 🙂

  5. When you started talking about water I thought this sounds like me. . When you said two hurricanes I knew you meant us! I live on a boat and my son and I evacuated at230am the night of Fay and spent the next 3 weeks living in my studio. Sink baths and the simple life. We are so used to it from boat living but days after Gonzalo to hear a store clerk complain that she didnt have cable tv back yet I was appalled. Others were without power or running water or even like us and many other liveaboards . . We were without our homes. . . It is all relative but as you know Bermudians ,at least when I was growing up, most were raised to be conservative, resourceful and self sufficient. We have become too dependent on imports and a consumer lifestyle due to the island’s affluence. However as you said there is nothing like a hurricane to bring us together as a community and to find our inner camper again 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *