GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Sustainability.
When it comes to the environment, sustainability means preserving an ecological balance by not using up the planet's natural resources.
Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Few, though, can match — or even want to try to match — the sustainable lifestyle practiced by Katarina Kobor and Jay Poloney.
The young couple live in a converted school bus on a friend's property in rural Josephine County. They tap into their friend's electricity and get their water from a well on the property, all for a nominal fee.
They use a dry composting toilet. Things most of us consider trash — a short strip of copper wire, wood scraps, bits of fabric — they view as an opportunity to enhance their everyday lives.
The reasons they chose this lifestyle are simple: They want to have as little impact on the environment as possible and they want to live as cheaply as possible so they can save their money.
It starts with their home, a 36-foot, 66-person former school bus that now has a lofted roof, a bed, a table, a kitchen and a 6-foot porch welded onto the back.
Poloney, a 24-year-old student at Rogue Community College, is the handyman of the duo and, while some of his projects are new to him, he has a knack for do-it-yourself projects. "I'm learning as I go," he said.
He's learned to salvage and use almost everything around him. Copper wire becomes hooks for coffee mugs and chunks of scrap metal become tools.
"All of this stuff had a former life," Poloney said while scanning the inside of the bus.
Kobor, 25, the master recycling coordinator at RCC, isn't quite as proficient with tools.
"I don't do much building," she said. "I'm more the designer."
She's also creative and has a knack for putting her imagination to good use.
"We're both wary of the chemicals that are used in body products, and I really love crafting, so we make our own soap, both body and shampoo, deodorant, laundry detergent and lotion," Kobor said.
She found the recipes on the Internet. She also found a recipe for making yogurt. "It's super easy and delicious," she said.
The most visible product of her imagination is the couple's bathroom, which they painted red using paint that Kobor made.
"It's milk, sour cream and mineral products," she said, adding that it's a way to "avoid icky chemicals on the interior of the bus. I figure the bus itself is already an 'unnatural' house, so I might as well use as many natural and eco-friendly things as possible on the inside. I'm hoping to paint the floor and walls of the bus with natural paints as well."
Neither of them anticipates other people completely ditching their lifestyles to mimic theirs. "Clearly, we're an extreme example," Kobor said.
But they do believe there are many uncomplicated ways for people to become more environmentally friendly, just by becoming aware of their surroundings. People can adopt a mindset of finding alternative uses for things and to reuse them.
Kobor said she didn't get into sustainability until recently, but "it's pretty natural at this point."
As friendly as their lifestyle is for the environment, they admit their reasons aren't completely altruistic. The money they save will allow them to travel.
Poloney wants to hit the high seas. "I'm obsessed with boats and sailing," he said. And Kobor, who has already been to many states as well Australia, Germany and Vietnam, fancies visiting Mongolia, India or Guatemala.
Their lifestyle "allows us to save up for the travel bug," she said. But even without an ulterior motive they are committed to maintaining a lifestyle that reins in consumption and has as little an impact on the planet as possible.
"Bottom line, I don't think we can wait for politics to change the course we're on. People need to take the steps they can, big or small, toward sustainability now," Kobor said. "It's not always, or even mostly, easy, but it is fun and I've learned a lot about myself, my goals, priorities, and belief system, and I have much more of a sense of my impact on the planet as one person."
Information from: Daily Courier, http://www.thedailycourier.com
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.