Google “living simply” and you’ll get millions of results – essays, blogs, books, websites, conferences. Clearly, living with a smaller environmental footprint – more intention, less stuff – is an appealing idea that’s gaining popularity. Now more than ever, it’s critical for those of us with a choice to simplify our lives reduce our impact on our planet and its climate. This month, we will be publishing three profiles of people in our community who have chosen to simplify their lifestyles and enrich the quality of their lives. Shirley Perez West wrote these stories for the winter 2014 edition of the UsedNews, our free print and online quarterly newsletter.
Putting a Good Life Together
By Shirley Perez West
Whitey Lueck stands in his thriving garden and looks quizzically at his visitor, as he if doesn’t quite “get” the question she’s just asked—How much work does it take to maintain such a beautiful, productive garden?
“First off,” says Whitey, “it’s not work.” Fair enough. If you spend time talking to him or reading his website, it becomes clear why his way of life is, essentially, a joy. “I realized somewhere along the way that there’s something to be said for treading lightly,” he says.
Treading lightly in Whitey’s case means growing all the fruits and vegetables he eats, keeping chickens and bees, living without a car or electronic devices (he uses publicly available computers), and living on less than $10,000 a year. His income is derived from teaching at the UO Department of Landscape Architecture and from his scaled-down landscape design and horticulture business (he keeps only a handful of clients these days). He has developed his Potter Street home, purchased in 1998, into a kind of demonstration garden, showcasing how to landscape with native plants and grow your own food.
It may be the teacher in him, or the horticulturist, but one of the unique things about Whitey Lueck is that his garden is open to the public and posted with informational signs. He says the site is regularly visited by neighbors, passersby, and students from the nearby elementary school as well as the university.
Everything about the house and garden is intentional. In an essay he posted on his website, Whitey explains why he lives the way he does:
“Over the course of my life, I’ve observed closely how other people live—from the thriving Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where I grew up, to so-called peasant cultures in Latin America—and decided what I liked and didn’t like. Then I went about creating a life that would provide me with a high level of both satisfaction and contentment. A typical day needed to include a blend of work-for-pay and work-for-free; mental work and physical work; and time divided about equally between being indoors and being outdoors.”
Whitey’s small house (580 square feet) was designed and built to be energy efficient and to take advantage of good solar access. A few years back, Whitey installed a small photovoltaic array to generate some of his electricity. The landscape is designed to use minimal water and produce a bounty of food. It all adds up to very intentional living on a scale that leaves time for a full life.
“It just makes sense to want to care for this little piece of the planet in the most thoughtful way I know,” says Whitey in an essay posted on his web site. “I also feel that, with more than seven billion of us now in the world, it’s my personal responsibility to live with as small a ‘footprint’ as possible—without feeling, of course, like I’m depriving myself of a decent life.”
Whitey’s World—Whitey Lueck’s website, including essays and photos about his house and garden and his chosen way of life: https://sites.google.com/site/whiteylueck/