Friday, July 13, 2012

Sustainability: Live Simply, Live Responsibly

Sustainability is important.  Until a few years ago, I really had never even considered it.  And then something changed.  I started paying attention.  Now, it drives everything we do.

There is a quote I like that says “We cannot simply think of our survival; each new generation is responsible to ensure the survival of the seventh generation. The prophecy given to us, tells us that what we do today will affect the seventh generation and because of this we must bear in mind our responsibility to them today and always."

It is irresponsible to consume, consume, consume.  Don’t be wasteful.  What we do today WILL affect future generations.  So, think ahead.  What are the long term effects of today?  Scrutinize the products you use.  What you buy has a huge effect on the nature of the market.  If you have never asked yourself these questions, then now is a good time to start.  Practice discipline.  Use less, use less more often, reuse what you have already used less of in the first place.

My family is a little on the biggish side.  Let’s be honest.  We are about to have our sixth baby in a few months.  And we are open to adopting more babies after this should that avenue work out for us.  We have tried in the past.  So…  I am looking at sustaining a large family on the little that we have.  We aren’t wasteful, but the pocket book doesn't exactly expand with each baby.  One of the reasons we started really looking at all of this is because I early on became aware that we were just going to have to do things a little different if we were going to have a large family and still be okay and not left wanting.  It is VERY easy to get caught up in the “want and now and buy and more” mindset and forget about the very important “wait and save and less” mentality that our grandparents experienced through tough times like the Great Depression. 

We all know reuse, reduce, recycle.  Do you practice that?  It is easy to remember to not throw things away and instead reuse them later for something else…  It is really easy to remember to throw the packaging into a recycling bin, or the cans from a Coke into a recycling bin knowing that they will be turned into something different. 

But there are THREE parts to this.  Reuse, REDUCE, and recycle.  We reuse and recycle…  but how much do we honestly reduce?  Have you learned how to use less?  We are a consumer culture.  Everything we could possibly need and WANT is at our fingertips.  Want something?  Just hop in the car and go get it…  But can you get by without it? 

Part of being sustainably successful is to learn how to use less and use it more wisely.  You have to think outside the box.  Sustainability is outside the box.  It is not inside of it.  Besides, there is a lot more space to move around outside the box.

What would happen to you and your family if everything you need to just survive was no longer available?  What would you do?  Simple things would become challenging.  Others would become impossible without the proper preparations and time to plan ahead.  Modern comforts?  You can forget about those…  unless you have planned for it.

So this is my advice…  plan ahead.  Make your plan B.  Learn to feed yourself without needing a constant supply of bread from the grocery store.  Get a book and learn to make your own…  What happens if a natural disaster hits and fresh water is no longer available?  Google it and learn how to make clean water by yourself. 

Sustainability is not only good for our current generations, but also future generations, and preparedness.  It is just wise to be responsible with the sources you have at hand and learn to use them yourself instead of relying on someone to do it for you.  We all have the capability of learning how, but it can be intimidating especially when all you see is the bigger picture.  So, start a little at a time.  No one is born running. 

Here are some baby steps you can take-

  • Read, read, read.  And then read some more.  The first thing I did was pick up an issue of Grit Magazine.  I was hooked after that!  I have our current list of what homesteading books our family has on our Facebook page under “notes.” 
  • Ditch the paper products.  That goes for paper towels, toilet paper, some hygiene stuff, etc…  Ever wondered how people did the same things we do now but without disposable?  Totally possible.
  • Learn to do the same tasks, but without electricity.  Wash the dishes by hand instead of using the machine.  It’s better for your dishes anyways.
  • Learn to wash your clothes by hand. actually SELLS washboards, and Lowe’s has big wash buckets.  You can do it!  (Personally, I think it is kind of fun.)
  • Grow a garden!  Start small.  Figure out what you want, and learn about it.  This is something where you have to plan ahead.  Impulse gardens rarely work out.  It is not as simple as just sticking something in the ground, but once you get the hang of it, it is the greatest sense of fulfillment knowing that you are feeding yourself from things you grew.
  • Cook from scratch.  Lose the boxed meals.  Buy more dried beans, flour, and fresh veggies.  Less snacks, already put together meals, and soda.  Your body will thank you.  Also, don’t let price intimidate you.  Try to also eliminate high fructose corn syrups, hormones, and antibiotics in your diet.  This is found in all commercial meats and most pre-prepared foods.  Antibiotic and hormone free meat is more expensive, but it is okay to eat less.  Plus, this will benefit your health in the long run.
  • Get a tool kit and learn to use it.  Start making smaller things and over time move up to bigger things.  A good saw, a measuring tape, a few nails, and a hammer is all you really need for a lot of projects. Building it yourself allows you a lot of freedom.
  • Learn to sew.  You don’t even HAVE to have a machine.  Hand stitching is good, too!  This goes for men and women.  Unfortunately, it is a dying art.  I wish it weren’t so, however, you will never regret knowing how to make a few things yourself or fixing something properly yourself the first time.  Which means you are more likely to be able to reuse something that was damaged.
  • Make your own stuff.  Everything you buy from the store…  you can also make yourself.  Grab a book and sit down to educate yourself.  Or google it.  That works, too.  Most of that fancy stuff off the shelves at the store is just that…  fancy.  Go simple, it is just as effective.
  • Eliminate the oddities.  Ever wondered what all those crazy long words are in the ingredients portion of…  everything?  Personally, I have found that if someone doesn’t want me to recognize something for what it is, then that could be because there is something to hide.   
  • Eliminate the fake stuff.  Use real butter, drink the whole milk, and don’t buy ANYTHING that says low fat.  Just eat less.  Forget the Diet Coke and just drink water.  It’s so much better for you!  Man can’t make anything better than has already been perfected in nature.
  • Buy used when you can.  Need I say more?
  • Don’t forget the 1980’s when people were just as “modern” but without all the modern conveniences like cell phones and computers in every bedroom, purse, and back pocket.  What did we do back then???  Oh yeah, we wrote letters. 

There are lots more things and even we are still learning.  It’s baby steps.  We started doing this and living a little different several years ago, and now this is where we are at.  It was not overnight.  And it was just one step at time.  But I cannot stress enough to plan ahead, think long term, and use responsibly.  When times get tough, it will be these practices that will be the difference between success and failure.  You can live or you can live well…  Everybody has a sustainable bone in their body.  But most Americans have never had to use it.  Exercise it, make it strong, you won’t regret it.

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