There's been a lot of hoopla about living sustainably, but do most of us even know what that means?
One definition asserts that the term sustainable "has come to mean the ability to meet present needs without damaging or depleting the environmental, economic or social resources that future generations will need."
That kind of sounds like the rule my mom enforced whenever we went camping: "Leave it better than you found it."
Or, sustainable living means doing what you can, when you can, to live within the Earth's naturally occurring resources and limits, while reducing our impact on those resources.
There you go again. That sounds a lot like the manners and common sense my mom did her best to instill in us kids: "Don't use it all up. There are other people who will want some, too."
So, for the rest of us, what does it mean to live sustainably?
It often means choosing to live more simply, with less stuff, and more experiences.
It means nurturing nature, growing food in ways that improve soil, water, and air, while preserving as much diversity in plant life as possible to encourage a healthy ecosystem.
Sustainable living naturally leads you to buy locally-grown, organic food. It's fresher, contains more vitamins and nutrients, and didn't require tons of fuel to transport it from another continent. Shop farmers' markets, farm-stands, food co-ops, independent grocery stores, and for other products, shop stores listed on madeinusa.com.
It means eating real food, not processed, chemically preserved and dyed, genetically modified (GMO,) nutritionally void but calorie-dense non-foods. You know the saying, "if your grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, don't eat it."
Sustainable living fits perfectly with re-using, re-purposing, re-newing, and recycling. Landfills are rapidly filling and many are closed, leaching waste that poisons the soil, water, air, and inevitably, our food system.
It good for you and me right now, and for our children's future to make whatever changes we can to live more sustainably. To get started, try some of these interesting and fun ideas:
- Grow a straw-bale garden in small yards. No more weeding!
- Capture and store rainwater for use in gardens, kiddie-pools, dog-baths, or fountains. One inch of rainwater on a 2000 sq. ft. roof equals 1250 gallons of water.
- Make your own organic, nutrient rich compost for healthy home-grown veggies.Why? With compost, you are creating rich humus for lawn and garden. This adds nutrients to your plants and helps retain moisture in the soil. Composting can divert as much as 30% of household waste away from the garbage can. It introduces beneficial organisms to the soil to help aerate the soil, break down organic material for plant use and ward off plant disease. Composting offers a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers and it reduces landfill waste. One-third of landfill waste is made up of compostable materials.
- Join a Time Bank - share your skills, talents, and expertise in exchange for units of "time" that you can spend on the services of others. Things like music lessons, hair-cuts, art lessons, and even therapy sessions are available.
- Dump the disposables. Try and find a reusable substitute for something you normally use once and toss, like plastic produce bags (save yours and take them back to the store to reuse,) bottled water (buy a good bpa-free one made in the USA and refill it,) or switch paper coffee filters for an inexpensive, universal permanent one. Here are more ideas.
- Eat more raw food. Did you just say, "Eww?" Raw food isn't just salads. It's food that has not been heated above 118 degrees (f) in order to preserve that amazing variety of enzymes and nutrients fresh food contains. These nutrients are necessary for proper digestion and absorption of food, but are virtually destroyed by cooking. Raw chefs create foods that are delightful to the eye, nose, and taste buds. With techniques like dehydrating, pureeing, and utilizing nuts and dried tomatoes or dates, sauces and "casseroles" actually taste very much like their cooked counterparts. For a humorous look at our family's attempt at eating raw, plus the best raw recipes, read our Going Raw blog.