Although I will focus on the homestead life, sustainability is a way of life that applies to everyone. It does not matter where or how you live. In this post, I will bring down to Earth some basic principles of sustainability. Then I will show you that it is possible to incorporate these practices into your life even if you live in the city.
What Is Sustainability
You may initially be curious as to what sustainability is all about. You may also be wondering how this applies to you. If you really get down to the art and science of sustainability, you will often hear people discuss certain principles or pillars. If you really want to know, the four pillars of sustainability are Social, Human, Economic, and Environmental. But, to discuss these pillars would take us on a global journey. However, to bring this back home, we have to discuss the particulars of sustainability on the homestead or for the individual.
Very simply put, sustainable living, or sustainability on the homestead, means reducing your demand for natural resources and replacing what you use to the best of your ability. Ultimate sustainability can be thought of in terms of “net zero.” This means you put in as much as you take out. Consequently, you have a net zero balance. If this does not exactly make sense, a good example would be a “net zero house”. This is a house that produces as much energy as it consumes. Consequently there is a net zero energy balance.
If you live off the grid and manage most if not all of your own resources, then you already have an appreciation for this discussion. Managing your own resources makes you acutely aware of exactly what you consume and where it comes from. For example, my homestead is run completely off of solar energy. Consequently, I am acutely aware of exactly how much electricity I consume. I monitor this closely because I am the one that produces it.
To put things in a broader perspective, whether you live on a homestead or not, it is very easy to incorporate sustainable practices in your everyday life. When you think of sustainability, think of the following concepts:
-Achieving some level of self sufficiency that works in harmony with your land or the environment
-Producing part or all of your daily needs
-Living a lifestyle with minimal input from the outside
-Living a life where you do not consume more than you produce
-Producing self sustaining cycles in order to create safety and abundance
All that being said, let’s look at a few examples of how sustainability on the homestead, or even in an urban area, can become common practice.
Sustainability in the Home Kitchen
Home food production and preservation is a big part of homesteading. The modern homesteader always works toward some level of self sufficiency. Examples of sustainable practices in the kitchen:
Sustainability in the Garden
A perfect example of this would be permaculture. This is the concept of designing a garden, or landscape, that integrates land, resources, people, and the environment in a mutually beneficial system. Think of it in terms of a closed loop, no waste system that is commonly observed in natural systems.
Something that is commonly done in vegetable gardens is placing plants next to one another that are mutually beneficial. For example, tomatoes use nitrogen from the soil and peas fix nitrogen. Consequently this is a mutually beneficial relationship. It is also a fantastic way to avoid the use of fertilizer.
Another good example is incorporating landscaping plants that use little water, provide good ground cover, and are edible. This a perfect way to prevent erosion and supply yourself with extra food.
Zero Waste Lifestyle
Having a lifestyle where you produce no waste is a perfect example of sustainability. This is exactly how the natural world has functioned for eons. For example, look at how a forest functions. Trees and plants grow, utilizing carbon dioxide, producing oxygen, shed their leaves in a cyclic manner and thus provide compost. Additionally they provide ground cover, nesting areas, shelter and food for wildlife. When the trees and plants die, they return nutrients to the ground and the cycle starts all over. There is zero waste.
Ways in which each one of us could accomplish the same thing is by only purchasing and using products that can be used over and over again. Purchasing durable and reusable sandwich bags, instead of disposable plastic, is a good example. Avoid any one-time-use products such as disposable plastic razors. Use cloth napkins instead of paper towels. Buy food in bulk instead of individually packaged portions.
A zero waste lifestyle is to some degree centered around being a minimalist. In other words, never purchase or use any more than you actually need. If you live off the grid and manage a great deal of your resources like I do, I can tell you first hand that you quickly become acutely aware of exactly what you need and how much.
10 Examples of Sustainable Practices
1) Change the light bulbs in your house to increase efficiency
Changing to the use of LED bulbs will dramatically reduce your energy consumption. When I installed solar, I changed out all of the light bulbs in both cabins and did a comparison of the total wattage use of standard versus LED bulbs. I reduced my energy consumption by 70%
2) Use natural cleaners
Take some time to do some research on home made natural cleaning products. By switching to this, you are reducing the amount of plastic packaging that you are using. You are also putting fewer chemicals into the ground water.
3) Unplug your devices when not in use.
Most appliances and electronics still consume electricity even when not in use if they are still plugged in.
4) Use natural light as much as possible.
Open the blinds and shades and take advantage of natural light as much as possible. This is another way to reduce your use of electricity.
5) Use renewable energy
Use solar powered lights for exterior lighting. Use rechargeable batteries. Set up a small solar array to power a portion of your home or at least to recharge your devices.
6) Stop unwanted mail
Get online and research how you can stop receiving so much junk mail. It will take about 15 minutes to accomplish this.
7) Ditch the plastic
Purchase products with less plastic packaging. Avoid all plastic disposable products.
8) Purchase reusable produce and groceries bags.
Almost every supermarket has reusable grocery and produce bags. It is a one time investment and they will last you forever.
9) Avoid all single use products.
Only purchase items that can be used over and over again. Plastic cutlery is a perfect example.
10) Buy local
Support your local farmer or CSA and buy local produce. By doing so, you support the local economy and avoid purchasing products that have to be loaded on a truck and shipped long distances.
Six Changes That I Recently Made
Since I live off the grid and manage many of my own resources, I am always looking for ways to improve my lifestyle and reduce my demand for purchasing any sort of new product. While researching information for this post, I realized there were numerous ways I could practice more of a sustainable lifestyle. Consequently, I made the following changes to how I was living:
1. Reusable grocery bags and mesh reusable produce bags: I purchase several of these and now make it a point to walk out of the super market without using a single plastic product.
2. Reusable travel dishes: Instead of using disposable dishes at work, I purchased heavy duty camping dishes and cutlery. I no longer have a need to use paper plates or plastic cutlery.
3. Homemade deodorant: Instead of using commercial products in plastic packaging, I now make deodorant at home. It is not only less expensive but I also reduce my use of plastic
4. Cloth towels: I purchased 40 twelve inch square cloth cleaning towels for $10. Instead of constantly using paper towels at home, I now use cloth. Since I work in medical facilities, I am constantly washing my hands. Instead of using 30 paper towels a day, I now carry my own personal cloth towel and use that to dry my hands.
5. Safety razor: For years I have only used the inexpensive plastic disposable razors. I now use a safety razor. This is the type of razor that is reusable and you only have to replace the metal blade.
6. Homemade laundry detergent: I searched the internet for about 20 minutes to find a simple recipe with only a few ingredients.
As you can now begin to appreciate, homesteading, off grid living, and sustainability all go hand in hand. I hope you have found this article informative and encouraging. I challenge you to takes steps to incorporate sustainability on the homestead, in your workplace, at meal time, and in every other corner of your life.
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