Welcome to the August 2013 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Living Sustainably.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month, our members are talking about steps their families have taken, or hope to take, to live more sustainably. We hope you’ll find inspiration for your family’s journey towards sustainable living, and share your tips with us as well!
–> Sure, living sustainably is a goal of mine. I know a smaller carbon footprint is better for the planet. But is it easy? Not always. Sometimes our family’s wants and dreams get in the way of being sustainable (like moving from an apartment to a single-family home or owning two cars).
For us, the key has been to strike a balance between living abundantly and living with a lighter footprint. The ways that we are sustainable feel good to us. We like doing those things, which means we’re even more likely to maintain those practices.
Here’s four easy ways our family (and yours) can add sustainability to your life.
Buy Clothes Secondhand
About 85% of our clothing is recycled—acquired through hand-me-downs, secondhand stores or community clothing swaps. And (unless they’re completely ruined) we donate the clothes after we’re done with them, so the life cycle continues. This is good for the planet and for our pocketbook.
I started shopping this way due to budget constraints, but, years later, I continue to do it because I enjoy it. I find that it makes for a more interesting wardrobe. I’ll see the same seasonal designs over and over again in retail stores, yet wander the aisles of Savers and discover a vast array of styles to choose from. I love stumbling across the perfect pair of comfy jeans or Earth sandals in exactly my size!
Eco Note: It takes more than 2,600 gallons of water to manufacture one pair of blue jeans. One pair! That’s like running your hose for nine hours straight.
We do receive new clothes from others—mostly Sofie receiving gifts from the grandmothers. And I’ll buy new underwear, socks or pajamas to fill in where needed. Otherwise, we’re pretty happy with our sustainable wardrobe.
Give Your Wheels a Rest
Except for occasional bad weather days, my husband has commuted to work on his bike for 20 years—in all four states that we’ve lived in! I’m impressed with his commitment. I never even owned a car until I was 28. Before then, we walked, biked or rode public transportation to just about everywhere.
Admittedly, I haven’t seen the inside of a bus since my daughter was born. (I hear many of them are now using biofuel, though!) With Sofie, the car is just more convenient. But now that she’s learning to ride a two-wheeler, I hope the three of us can hit the streets as a biking family sometime soon.
Eco Note: According to the EPA, the U.S. owns 30% of the world’s automobiles yet contributes 50% of our global emissions from its cars. That’s a lot of driving. If only we could learn to love walking and trains like those clever Europeans.
We American homeowners tend to think we need one of everything in our house… and then we seek out bigger homes or rent storage space to keep all the stuff we accumulate. What if we just shared some of the larger resources? It’s a concept that lends itself to a closer community as well.
I’m not talking about the thing you use every day. Yes, purchase your own kitchen table and computer. But what about workshop equipment, yard tools or even a vacuum cleaner?
Eco Note: According to the Self-Storage Association, the U.S. has 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space, which is more than 7 square feet for every U.S. resident! That’s a lot of land that could have been greenspace for recreation or food production.
My husband and I borrow our neighbor’s lawn mower every summer, in exchange for gasoline costs and a six-pack of beer. Over the years we’ve also borrowed a wheelbarrow, a chainsaw, a large coffeemaker for parties – those items we don’t use frequently enough to rationalize purchasing and storing our own. The neighbor’s kids use our swing set; Sofie will play in their sandbox. Sharing strengthens our personal connections.
Be Creative with Your Lawn
And be okay with an imperfect one. Ours has more crabgrass than Kentucky blue, but typical grasses require lots of maintenance and chemicals to keep them looking green. Neither my husband nor I want to invest all our free weekend hours catering to a lawn. So we’re trying to get rid of it, bit by bit.
One section has been replaced with gardens: raised beds for vegetables, a flower garden for Sofie, one (unproductive) blueberry bush and a row of hard-to-kill hostas. More and more people are converting their lawns to food production, which is super sustainable. Here are some tips on how to convert your lawn into a garden.
Our front yard, which never supported grass anyway due to poor soil and excessive tree roots, is now a Zen rock garden that we absolutely love! It’s low maintenance and will come in useful for our Solstice fires.
Our plan is to continue replacing our lawn with more plantings and gardens. In the end, it saves us time and money and it looks pretty darn good.
Eco Note: According to Sierra Club, 100 million pounds of pesticides are sprinkled annually on our lawns. Which might be fine if they stayed there, but the chemicals leach into our groundwater and local lakes and rivers.
Visit Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival!
Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed:
PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.