We’ve all heard the mantra: change yourself, change the world.
The only disease they will cure is what’s ailing the planet, one person, one habit at a time.
Profound change happens at a grassroots level.
These suggestions are simple steps—some of which are ones we’ve most likely already taken.
Sometimes, we need to go back to basics to make the most difference, to re-visit the call to action that once inspired us.
Over the years, I have added thirteen habits into my lifestyle that challenge me towards a smaller footprint, which I’ve shared below. I’d love to hear what others are doing, and the challenges faced within each community.
The words ‘green’, ‘natural’ and ‘sustainable’ are often misused by companies that would like to sway us towards their perspective, their view of what modern life should be. My view of green and sustainable is based partially on the sentiments of the quote below.
“When we see the land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” ~ Aldo Leopold
1. Love the homegrown.
Thirteen years ago I started growing food on a smallholding. One acre of fruit trees and shrubs, a large raised bed garden, some chickens and goats. We used a solar dryer for herbs and tomatoes; organic and bio-dynamic principles to grow our food. I even enlisted the aid of the devic beings that lived in the garden, ala Findhorn style. That food was alive!
We have since moved. Now I garden on a smaller scale, and have converted lawns to a permaculture design, taking the wildlife we share the land with into consideration. One tomato plant, three herbs, a tub of lettuce, or a half acre potager. It does not matter how small we start, or if all one gets is a handful of berries, together, we’ll have taken a measure of responsibility for our own survival. And this is something we have given over to too corporations lacking soul.
2. Localize, localize, localize.
Since I can’t grow it all, we’ve incorporated as much locally grown produce into our diet as possible: in support of near-by food growers, the local economy, and to build community. Strong connections are made when we source food from within our area. We foster friendships with those who care enough to feed us, keeping farmers on the land; developers off. Shipping food from far away is an unsustainable practice that costs far more than just the fuel used for trucking. There wasn’t a local market in my area when I moved there, but with the help of others, we started a movement that now sees several markets in the surrounding towns. Sometimes it’s just about putting it out there, and change happens.
3. Get better recycling.
I’ve noticed that on my street, there is very little true garbage being put out. Having said this, buying in bulk, remembering our own shopping bags, and using less, are other good practices that we’ve picked up. Recycling, good as it is, still requires the use of fossil fuels. We’re very lucky to have had strong government in Ontario that initiated recycling schemes years ago, and continues to improve on them. The people demanded it, and though it’s not perfect, and not everyone participates in the program, it’s a step in the right direction.
Some communities require citizens to purchase ‘tags’ for extra bags of garbage left out for collection. In this way, we are encouraged to use our recycling program and think about purchases with excessive packaging.
4. Reuse and re-purpose.
So much stuff! There is a strong resurgence in upcycling and finding new uses for objects that no longer serve their original purpose. This is very encouraging, because there are only so many places to dump our old belongings. Nobody wants the refuse dump in their neighbourhood, as I experienced when a site was proposed near our homestead. The proposed area would have affected a massive underground artery of fresh water and use of that land for the dump would have meant trucking millions of gallons of water away to keep the dump site viable. It was a huge undertaking to stand up to the powers that be to reverse the plans for that dump.
On the bright side, it brought all of us in the community face to face with the amount of garbage we produce. It was sobering. Buy less, use less, throw less away, became our motto.
5. Keep seeking compost options.
I am lucky to have a curbside-composting program in my area. I also am pleased to say that I purchase ‘natural gas’ from a composting facility in Quebec, (using all that collected green kitchen waste), which displaces what I would normally use of mined natural gas from the pipeline. That’s composting on a big scale.
Other options are composting at home if at all possible or delivering your green waste to a neighbor down the street who has room for garden compost bins. Our local dump also collects leaves and makes leaf mold that gardeners can pick up in the warmer months for their gardens. Overall, I see more co-operative effort when it comes to keeping kitchen waste out of the dump. Currently, I put a green bin out with compost, a box for glass, plastics and tetra packs, and finally, another box for paper and cardboard. The actual garbage bin is nearly empty each week.
6. Walk or bike.
This is something I miss about town life. I use my car far too often, because town is a thirty minute drive from home. When I was a city girl, my arms and legs were my way of fetching groceries, taking children to school, etc. My best effort now is to car-pool with friends, walk to each store from a central parked location in town, and I think twice before running out for one or two things. Most car trips have to involve several errands and destinations. I’ve also created more time for the things I want to do, because I’m not running out in the car for every whim and folly.
7. Hang the laundry.
It’s not only good for energy conservation but it’s a form of relaxation, a kind of meditation: I take my time, enjoy the sun and the wind, the outdoors. While I’m out there, I feed the birds, stand barefoot in the grass. The very first day that there is no chance of freezing my fingers off in the spring, I run out with my laundry basket. I think it’s kinda cool to hang one’s laundry out…in that hippie-sexy- mama-see-my-knickers-blow-in-the-wind kind of way.
8. Learn an old skill.
Knitting, sewing, food preservation, building, fixing bicycles. Anything that will make us less reliant on society and more reliant upon ourselves. I taught myself food preservation. Then I taught someone else. A friend taught me to knit. Another is teaching me simple house repairs. Sometimes, all I have to give in return is a good cup of coffee and some preserves or a dinner invitation. The community we’ve built based on helping each other out is worth much. I’ve also been able to honor the elders in my circle by involving them in my quest to learn survival skills. It’s a good thing.
9. Share and trade.
There is great value in sharing resources and objects. It saves more than money; it also saves the raw materials from which things are created. It makes for good neighbors. Don’t have a lawnmower to lend to the neighbour who just shared their chainsaw? Bake them a pie. Be creative. Have fun.
All good things come from within. Meditation is food for the body and soul. We’re more peaceful and creative when we meditate. We’re connected to Source. Working on oneself is sustainable living at its best!
11. Practice kindness.
No explanation needed. And it’s contagious.
We’re starving for touch! Not enough hugging, kissing, holding, caressing, or making love for that matter.
Lack of touch leads to depression, anger, withdrawal from relationships. It makes us less inclined towards leading productive, inspired lives because we are devoid of a basic human need. No less important than water or food, touch makes for better people, and that makes for a better planet. I’ve noticed this especially with the elderly. I’ve become more conscious of giving heartfelt, lengthy hugs.
13. Support alternative power facilities.
Ontario has a green supplier of electricity, Bullfrog Power, which sources from several wind farms. The money I pay to purchase through them (gas and electric) helps to fund future sustainable power projects. It costs me, on average, an extra $2 per day above my regular power costs. Our household uses 56 percent less electricity than our neighbors. So, with some wise power conservation, it does not break the bank to be green.
I’ve come to realize that when I take care of myself, I care for the planet.
We are far too hard on ourselves. One cannot build something amazing ‘out there’ when ‘in here’ is crying. So I’m practicing being gentle, in my thoughts and my actions.
I going to nature for renewal, and I’m being fed.
Slowly, and with determination, my habits are becoming my love song to the world.
“Whenever the light of civilization falls upon you with blighting power…go to the wilderness. Dull business routine, the fierce passions of the marketplace, the perils of envious cities become but a memory…The wilderness will take hold of you. It will give you good red blood…You will soon behold all with a peaceful soul.” ~ George S. Evans
Author: Monika Carless
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo Credit: Photo: Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr