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Sustainable Living

The other day, I was sitting with the ladies when the topic of emergency preparedness came up.  One woman cheerfully suggested that you can buy a kit – end of project.  There was a time when that would have greatly appealed to me – the kit.  I’ve since realized that sometimes buying the kit is not only more expensive but more  frustrating.

Now, as far as I know, there is no real kit for Sustainable Living but there is still this idea that it has a specific look or that it’s not real until you …. .

The reality is every life is different so shouldn’t each sustainable life be different.  It should fit your needs and desires.  That makes planning a little tough so I’m going to give you some basics and hope that it helps you start to design your version of a sustainable life.

There is an environmental campaign in my area (may be in other areas as well but I don’t know).  It’s called something like “One Little Thing” – the idea is that if enough people made one environmentally friendly change, the impact would be huge.  Kind of like Stone Soup – everyone contributed one thing and it fed the village.  A sustainable life can be made, easily, one little thing at a time.  That one thing could be an action, educational or, even, spiritual.

Start with asking yourself “why” – Why do you want a sustainable life?  Why does this appeal to you?  Do you want to save money?  the world?  Do you want better health or be more in tune with nature?

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I am all about self discovery and changing your mind.  Even at my current age, I have revelation.  I realize that something I am doing is “wrong” for me.  An easy example – I used to eat spinach.  Spinach is healthy, full of nutrients so there was no reason for me not to eat it.  It wasn’t until I married a man who loves spinach that I came to a conclusion – I hate spinach.  I can’t stand it – not fresh or cooked.  I try to like it because I knew I should.  I ate it for fifteen years before I allowed my real feelings about spinach to come to light.  I still serve it now and again.  I make it the way that makes my husband happy and I eat my obligatory spoonful before leaving the rest for my man to enjoy.  I don’t feel guilty about not loving it because it’s just one vegetable in a sea of wonderful veggies.

My point is – if you have an idea that sounds good to you, you are allowed to realize it doesn’t work for you.  With that in mind, I want to caution you – start small.  Find something that works for you and build on it.

There are two areas I see as the “big” topics – food and waste.  They have the greatest impact and they have the most options.  There are other areas such as making your own clothing (or buying organic clothing) which doesn’t feel as “good” as the other two, however feel free to make your plan suit you.

As I am typing (and deleting huge paragraphs), I’ve realized that teaching how to plan is harder than I thought.  I can tell you what has worked for me but I can’t tell you how to make it work for you.  So I’m going to approach this a little differently than I started.

You need to define what a sustainable life means to you.  Take time to educate yourself.  I found that once I started learning, it was easier to make changes.  I think not knowing is where things become complicated.

Here are some things that should be accessible regardless of where you live or your income:


Buy with less packaging

Bring your own grocery bags

Learn about your food

Learn to cook from scratch

Learn to make your own food

Learn to forage

Learn to can

Learn to repurpose items

Grow your own food – one plant is still growing your food (no one says you have to grow all your own food)

Learn to shop in season

Keep a food journal with seasons, prices, skills you learn, etc

Notice that the word learn comes up a lot.  Learning is the best plan.  You can dream of a pantry filled with homemade foods but if you don’t learn how to make them, then you’ll never get past learning.

I learned to can by trial and error.  I started with a tree full of fruit and a need.  That became my first experience with canning.  It inspired me to learn more.  It was slow learning but now I confidently can many foods.  I don’t even know everything about canning – my next step, pressure canning.  Anyone who has does anything will tell you they had to learn.  Don’t let that intimidate you.  Don’t let the need to own “tools” when you start keep you from trying either.  When I started canning, I bought a dozen jars.  I used a stock pot to boil my jars – I didn’t own a funnel or a jar lifter or an official canning pot.  I canned for years before I got any official tools.  That included a canning cookbook.  While I own a canning pot, I still use my stock pot for boiling jars on occasion.

Take notes.  That’s the one thing I regret from my earlier years.  I didn’t take enough notes.  There are things I am working on figuring out because I’ve forgotten them.  A notebook will go a long way in helping you.  It will not only preserve your works but be a place for ideas, tidbits, mistakes.

I had originally thought to start this post off with the quote – fail to plan and you plan to fail.  The reality is that when it comes to life, you can’t always plan it.  You have to be open to it.  One thing leads to another completely unexpected thing.  I’ve had moments when I learn something that changes everything.  To me, that’s just part of the way it is.  The goal is to create a life that eases the struggle – on us, on society, on the earth.  The only way to do that is one step at a time.  You can plan where you want to step but remember the view will be different from there.