practicing everyday sustainability

we garden to live more sustainably
i have "liked" several facebook groups which concern themselves with sustainable living - homesteading/survivalism, frugally sustainable and several that focus on foraging (which i also see as an aspect of sustainable living): wild food girl, edible wild plants and first ways. it was through one or the other of these groups that i found myself reading lists of ten things not to spend money on. i totally agree that less consumption is a big part of sustainable living, but some of the items on these lists were real doozies:

~ newspaper subscriptions. and the reason provided wasn't because "i get my news online" or from t.v. or the radio. no, it was because the blogger didn't have to time to go through them for the coupons anyway.

~ obstetrics - home birth all the way.

~ birth control (ostensibly by the homebirthing, homeschooling blogger who had four children and was expecting number 5).

~ then there was the helpful suggestion that it's more economical to buy blocks of cheese and grate them yourself, rather than buying pre-grated cheese.

~ i'm a little shocked at how often some aspect of making your own food appears on the lists i read: bread, tortillas, yogurt. making these things yourself just seems like ordinary common sense.

~ don't buy sodas, alcohol or coffee. sodas, i can appreciate, we buy very little soda, but alcohol and coffee? that's just crazy talk.

~ don't buy extended warranties on computer equipment. (really? wtf? as one who spilled a small glass of water into her macbook pro, i can highly recommend buying the extended warranty when you make the investment in such a computer. if you don't and something happens, you will lose that computer. i make the mistakes so you don't have to.)

but probably the most disturbing item i read:

~ "Toilet paper. I keep some on hand for guests, but our family generally uses the family cloth." (emphasis mine. note the use of THE SINGULAR.) [we'll just pause here for a moment while you visualize this.]

many of the lists i read (there were links, so one just kept leading to another) seemed to be aimed at cheapness frugality rather than sustainable living, as there were few mentions of fresh produce, gardening and forget about any mentions of organic. many of them were just about saving money. which i can also appreciate, but i don't think that focusing only on that aspect necessarily makes one particularly sustainable. especially not when a number of the sites advocated stocking up in bulk at sales in the big box stores and filling up your freezer - that's definitely not how i want to live and feed my family. (and don't even get me started on the evils of wal-mart.)

i find it especially worrying that this narrow view as to what sustainability is will be passed on to the next generation by these people, as most of them are also homeschooling their children. what kind of a world will we live in?

to top it all off, i just heard on the radio a story about some movement in the US (one million mothers) where a bunch of christian mothers are banding together to try to keep marvel comics from having one of their superheroes (batman, methinks) come out of the closet. i could imagine many of the bloggers whose lists i read this morning are part of that movement.

but, as always, there was a silver lining - the whole thing did make me think about what my list of things not to spend money on would be:

  1. grocery store sushi - it disappoints every time (and has nothing to do with sustainability, i realize, i just think it's good advice.)
  2. those herb-pots they have the grocery store - the ones still "growing" in a little pot of dirt, that last about 5 minutes because they were forced to grow too fast in a greenhouse and can't survive outside of that controlled environment. plant your own in a pot on your kitchen windowsill - while you can't use it for making your dinner immediately this evening, you'll be surprised how soon you will be able to use it. and you'll have the additional satisfaction of having grown it yourself. (the exception to this is a nice rosemary plant - i think they do better because they are more tree-like.)
  3. cheap shoes/boots - buy good quality, they'll last you much longer and while they may cost more initially, they'll save you money in the long run. and buying one pair of shoes instead of eight is much more sustainable.
  4. commercial chicken feed - buy oats, wheat, barley, perhaps some corn (i like to get the kind that's been crushed into flakes, to make it easier for the chickens) and rye, mix it yourself in equal portions of each, then add a handful of shells as scratch. this mix, plus free ranging all the bugs and greenery they can eat, has given us healthy, happy chickens who lay plenty of eggs.
  5. perfume-filled cleaning products, soaps, shampoos, lotions - studies show that there is a big increase in allergies due to all kinds of additives and perfumes in our products. buy perfume-free cleaning products. or better yet, make your own and scent them with essential oils. (i've only just begun doing this, so i've not got expert advice to share on it yet, but some of the good stuff i've found in the facebook groups has been about making your own cleaning products.)
  6. margarine - if it's worth you baking from scratch, it's worth using real butter.
  7. specials which force you to buy more than you need - if i'm having guests and need three packages of meat, then i go for the special, but if it's just a normal night, i don't let the grocery store decide for me that i should have way more meat than i actually need.  

what about you guys? how do you practice everyday sustainability?


stephanie said...

That's a great list of things that you're going to not spend money on. I've been trying to not buy stock/broth from the store. And with the growing season upon us my goal is to not buy any jam/jelly in the coming years. We're going to buy a pressure canner soon so that I can make and can soup, beans and the like. I'm excited about that. There are so many little things to adjust and change that can make such a big difference, but I find that I have to do a little at a time or I freak myself out. :) Thanks for the nice reminders.

Lisa at lil fish studios said...

We buy all of our clothing, save my husband's work clothes, second-hand. For my youngest girl I'll often re-fashion something for her out of my old clothes. We raise, or purchase from a local small farmer, all of our meat. It's been months since we've had chicken and I'm looking forward to these young birds growing a bit more... I'm able to gather enough leaves and roots from plants around here that I don't have to buy any herbal teas. (an occasional Luzianne is used for iced tea though) We use cloth napkins and rags instead of paper napkins and towels. This probably sounds rather "hillwilliam-ish" but we use food jars as drinking glasses. At the rate my children break glasses it no longer made sense to buy them. Maybe when they move out of the house I'll have a matching set of glasses, but for now...

I like your idea about making your own scratch for the chickens. Our feed store is hit and miss on individual grains, but I think I'm going to try to get that all together. I wonder if they'd like a little molasses in there as a treat too?

And family cloth is not happening anytime soon. Though on that note, I do think we need to put more pressure on our toilet paper companies to use more recycled goods in the production of their rolls. It's out there, but in smaller quantities and at higher prices.

We've just ordered our first solar panels and we keep looking for ways to become more sustainable. We do a lot, but we still have a long ways to go.