It can be overwhelming for folks living your average Western lifestyle to consider making the switch to more sustainable living. Suggestions for how you can accomplish this are everywhere – advertising, educational institutions, non-profits, and articles in the media. They generally give a big laundry list of Green things you can do, and the sheer number of changes can make people feel like withdrawing into their shells and staying within their comfort zones.
The absolute best piece of advice I can give, and one that is repeated in many blogs on the subject, is to take it one step at a time. Pick one thing, perhaps a small thing, that you think you can change and then do that until it feels normal, until you can’t really imagine doing it the old way anymore. Then you are ready for the next thing. You may even find that you begin to whet your appetite for more challenging changes, like ditching disposable menstrual products or perhaps deciding to use family cloth instead of toilet paper. I myself have found it to be quite fun as I continually challenge myself to take even bigger steps away from the norm of our society’s consumption and waste lifestyle. It’s even more fun when you join in with others.
As I welcome in the New Year, I have been reflecting on the changes made in 2008. What strikes me most is how comfortable I am living this way. It hasn’t seemed difficult at all. I firmly believe this is because we made changes slowly, one or two at a time…
On the outside, we’re just another house in the suburbs, but in the yard there is a compost bin and two vegetable garden plots. The laundry line gets used heavily in the summer. On garbage day, instead of the allowable two bins, we put out only one half-bin of garbage. Inside the house, it’s what you don’t find that counts. There are no commercial cleaning products, no bottled shampoos or commercial bath soaps. There are no paper towels or napkins, no tampons or disposable pads. The kitchen and bathroom waste bins are not lined with plastic bags. The Ikea plastic bag holder under the sink is practically empty (Hubby often forgets to bring the cloth bags into the store; thankfully I do almost all the shopping!).
But there is still more I want to do. Here is a list of a few changes I would like to implement this year. I will note, however, that we are hopefully (fingers crossed) buying a home this year and some of these changes won’t make sense to implement in a rental house that we will likely be leaving soon.
1) family cloth (for #1 at least) – I’m almost there, stay tuned for a post on this subject
2) find an alternative to our water delivery (which comes in plastic, reused bottles) – I’m not afraid of our tap water, I simply don’t like the taste. I think the ideal situation is a built-in filtration system with recyclable filter cartridges, if such a thing exists. This will have to wait until our new home.
3) challenging myself to cut down as much as possible on electricity consumption: right now our utilities are billed to us via the landlord, who divides the total amount between our suite and the tenant downstairs. when we have our own place I will start with a baseline measurement and then slowly implement changes, like turning off the Wii and computers at night for example, and see just how Low I can Go!
4) cut down on water consumption: i’m already beginning this with such acts as not flushing the toilet when it’s “yellow” and not irrigating the lawn (thankfully it’s mostly moss anyways), but I have no way of monitoring our water consumption here. in our new home we will harvest rainwater and attempt to recycle greywater, too. if we are on a well system, which is likely, this will be a good skill to learn.
5) increase our food production: I’d like to try and make it so that we are producing a much higher percentage of our veggie intake in our own back yard. that means increasing the number of plants and the variety. I’m not going to change the size of my garden for this coming season since it’s likely we’ll be moving before the growing period is over, but I will experiment with some new crops and sequential plantings, etc. I’m already reading and planning a garden for when we get our acreage
6) canning and preserving the harvest: this goes hand in hand with the above. I’d like to set up a root cellar on our new property and use it for storing our own onions, squash, and garlic for the winter months. I’d also like to expand my canning experience – so far I’ve just made jam.
Hopefully, 2009 will be an exciting year for our family as we hope to attain our goal and buy that dream acreage. In the meantime, I’ll keep challenging myself to take ever-increasing steps towards a truly sustainable lifestyle.