Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The New Sustainable Lifestyle

I've been pondering this urban homesteading lifestyle lately and have come to the conclusion that once you plant veggies in your yard you begin re-thinking different aspects of your life.  Well, that's been my experience anyway!  I think I came to some sort of a cathartic moment the other day when I was doing planning for the fall when the kids go back to school.  I had been working out at a gym in the spring before the kids got out of school and during the three hours or so while my little guy was in pre-school I would dash off to my gym, get my work out in, eat lunch and pick him up.  So I was pondering which gym I should join this fall, since I wasn't super happy with the last one I had a membership with honestly.  Then it hit me - why should I be paying a company for my work out?  I mean seriously, how ridiculous is it that I should have to pay someone for exercise?  Yeah, I know it's convenient and makes the work out fun, but why spend fifty bucks per month, (at least), to work out?  I mean there are plenty of other ways I can exercise this body than working out at a gym.  I have a Wii fit, I can walk, I can get some weights and use them at home, I can get a work out video, and the list goes on.

Then that train of thought led me to thinking further about this consumerism society and all of the "must haves" we have been brainwashed into.  Society tells us what to eat:  processed foods, junk food, and sugar.  Society tells us what we should buy:  that new car, the dream home, the gym membership, designer clothing and the list goes on.  I'm not saying that all of these things are bad; I'm simply making the point that this lifestyle we're being sold, this "American Dream" is making us sick, burning us out, and making us broke in the process.  Drying clothes on the line until recently would have been considered "back woods", at least in California anyway.  But now, there is a huge growing movement that is working hard to lower energy and live a sustainable lifestyle.

I've been scrutinizing my own lifestyle and have come up with some big changes recently.  I have a long ways to go to reach what I feel is a fully sustainable green lifestyle, but each small change will get me closer to my goal.  I'm not going to become a hippy living up in the hills off the grid, but I am going to do my best to live a sustainable lifestyle and respect the planet and my body.  I'm amazed how many activities in my life cost, and how I can save money by doing them myself, or coming up with creative solutions.  Here are some of the changes I'm making in my life and the reasons I've made these decisions:

Growing a garden:  Sustainable living, cheap pesticide free veggies, health reasons

Cutting out sugars and processed foods:  They make me sick, they will shorten my life span, they will ultimately kill me.

Cooking from scratch:  I can control the ingredients that go into my food, it's easier on the budget, it's healthier.

Working out on my own:  It saves money, it saves gas because I'll be working out at home.

Buying clothing and goods second hand:  It's cheaper, I don't want to put my money toward companies that aren't fair trade, it's recycling at its best.  This can be challenging with kids, since they always want the new name brand clothes.  I'm still trying to figure out the balance on this one.

Buying Fair Trade:  Chocolate companies are mostly non fair trade and many of the cocoa plantations use children as slaves.  This is a fact, and the only way you can be sure your chocolate is fair trade is to buy chocolate with the fair trade label.  There are many other goods such as clothing that aren't fair trade.  I plan to do a post on this issue, so be keeping an eye out for it.

Recycling:  We recycle all plastics, glass, and paper products.  I'm trying to reduce the amount of plastics we use, since they are full of toxins that cause diseases.

Car Pooling & Taking Public Transit:  We're reducing the amount of gas we use by taking the bus and car pooling.  Our gas bill a few months back was $500 per month, now it's down to about $200.

Trading services or getting recycled items free:  You would be amazed how many people are willing to trade services.  We've gotten our cars fixed in trade for garden advise and work, I've traded my art for art or other services, and most of the structures on our homestead, (i.e. greenhouse, chicken coop, etc.) were re-purposed from friends.

Limiting TV and computer time:  This is by far our biggest challenge.  I have the good excuse of researching how to live a sustainable life via the computer, but eventually I hope to limit my time once I have this whole thing a bit more figured out!  I'm working on keeping the kids active outside and in the garden instead of watching TV and playing computer games.  I have them involved in sports which helps a lot, but I've had to set limits for screen time.  The American Society of Pediatrics says no more than 2 hours per day, which I feel is still too much!  (Again, I'm questioning everything the medical system tells me.)

Natural Cleaners and Make-Up Products:  I just recently realized that we aren't as green in this department as we should be.  I switched over to natural cleaning products and detergents a while back which surprisingly aren't more expensive than the conventional kind.

Cloth napkins and towels:  We used to use a boat load of paper towels and napkins.  I did some second hand shopping and found some cute vintage napkins, and we requested kitchen towels for Christmas one year so we've got a great supply.

Energy conservation:  We had the PG&E folks come out for an energy audit of our home and we scored high, so there's not much more we can do to cut back on our energy bill.  We use the compact fluorescent bulbs and restrict our furnace use in the winter.  We'd love to get a wood burning stove eventually.  This summer one of our projects is to put in a clothes line.

So what are you doing to live a more sustainable affordable eco friendly lifestyle?  If you have more to add to my list I'd appreciate the tips!


  1. Two hours a day seems excessive for TV viewing, but it depends on how you look at it. I used to have my kids watch Sesame Street in the morning and Mr. Roger's neighborhood in the afternoon after naptime. That's not a lot of TV, but it's an hour and a half total. I used to have friends say I was being cruel by not letting my kids watch things like Spongebob Squarepants. "Not all TV has to be educational!" Yeah, well, in my book, if you can't learn something from it, it's not worth watching.

    Once a week, I have no issue letting the kids watch a movie (which is usually about two hours). My religious father yelled at me for letting my kids watch the Harry Potter movie - it has magic, so it must be evil, right? I just pointed out that a two hour movie with magic couldn't be nearly as evil as the World of Warcraft game he was trying to interest my oldest in. He dropped the subject.

    I'm going to watch for that fair trade post. I love my chocolate and can't imagine living without it, but don't want to enjoy it at the expense of child slavery.

  2. We're trying to do all these things too! It makes me so happy to know there is an entire group of us out there. Our generation can make a change!! :)
    I'm over at wordpress. http://militaryzerowaste.wordpress.com.
    We both grew up doing this stuff a little but when we got married two years ago and came together, ideas starting blowing up! (In a good way!) Go Urban homesteaders! :)
    Love your blog!!

  3. Thanks militaryzerowaste! There is power in numbers, right?!

  4. A clothesline has always been a must for me. I have even rigged one up using a ladder, rope, and tires as a weight. It was the most ridiculous setup ya ever saw! My "ex" was so embarassed he put up the clothesline I had been begging him for the next day! I got rid of cable TV over 4 years ago and don't really miss it. What little I watch I can see online. I also don't use A/C, I just plan my day around the heat and get everything done outside while it is still cool. Now if I could just get a wood-burning stove, that would be great; but I can't do without heat because I don't really want my water lines to freeze during the winter. I don't use a dishwasher. It's just me and the fur-kids, and they are a huge waste of water and electricity. I make my own laundry soap and use vinegar for rinse. I also am using vinegar and baking soda more for cleaning. I am in the process of also eliminating the carpets and going to hard wood to eliminate the use of the vacuum. Then I won't have to use electricity to clean the floors. It's a small house (under 900 sq.ft.) so it will be very doable. I can sew but also love shopping at thrift stores and yard sales. Some future projects include making my own dog and cat food, expanding my food variety in the garden, and getting a bicycle to ride to the grocery store and my parents. Unfortunately public transportation leaves a lot to be desired in my area.

  5. That's right!! :)

  6. We live in an urban area we have planted the whole front yard into garden. We have planted the majority in sweet potatoes since they are very easy and we can pick them all at once and they store all winter then we just plant the left overs again in the spring. The best purchase I have made recently is a new outdoor umbrella clothesline. Since our back yard is so small I did not want something that the kids would have to duck while playing. This one is very solid and holds 4 big loads of laundry. Yet it folds down to make it small and if we really want it out of the way if we are having a bbq and volleyball we can simply pick it out of it's ground socket put a cap on it to keep the dirt out of it then put it back in later. Best investment I've made.