Friday, January 4, 2013

75 Ways to Live More Sustainably in 2013

I recently shared on article on the Facebook page from Sustainable Kentucky entitled 75 Ways to Live More Sustainably in 2013. After posting the question of, 'how many of these do you already do, or plan to start doing?', I decided I should answer the question myself. It didn't occur to me when I started this post how long it would be. I apologize for the length, and applaud anyone with the patience to actually read the entire thing. I'd love to hear feedback on which of these items you currently do, or plan to do in the future. Comments can be posted here, or over on the Facebook page.

1. Start reading the labels on your food - I don't do this with any regularity, primarily because Andrea does the vast majority of our grocery shopping. We do attempt to buy more natural and healthy foods, but label reading in certainly one area in which we could be more attentive.

2. Start reading books - This is something that I already do, but can certainly do more. I believe that obtaining knowledge is very important step to implementing a sustainable living plan, and reading books is a great way to obtain such knowledge.

3. Log your chemicals - The suggestion is to make a list of all chemicals consumed in a day, and then put together a plan to eliminate some of those. This would include chemicals found in toothpaste, soap, shampoo, cleaners, etc. This is something I have never done, but seems like it could be worth trying.

4. Get to know your neighbors - This is an area that I really need to work on. I barely know any of the neighbors, and have certainly not developed the sense of community that I know is very important. We tend to keep to ourselves, and be private people, which makes connecting with neighbors difficult. I certainly need to work on changing this, however.

5. Adjust your thermostat - We do a pretty good job of this already. We keep the thermostat set at around 63 degrees during the winter, and 78-80 during the summer. Of course this can't compare to the settings of 55 and 85 that the author of the article uses.

6. Salvage for your next building project - We like to reuse materials whenever we can. In fact, the PVC Pepper Cages that we are planning to build will use only salvaged materials, most of which we are purchasing from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

7. Switch to reusable grocery bags when you shop - Andrea does a good job of this. She has several reusable bags, some of which were purchased or received as promo items, but most of which she made herself. She has also tried to promote the use of reusable bags by making them to give as gifts at bridal showers.

8. Buy second hand... everything - We do not do a good job of this, even though we are very supportive of the idea. One of the big problems I have with buying items is having to call the owners, set up a time to see the items, etc. If I could do all of the communication via email I'd be much more likely to buy things secondhand, especially tools, and equipment.

9. Try substituting healthy, local sweeteners - like sorghum or honey - for sugar when you bake - We do not do this, although recognize that we should. I do not like the flavor of honey, so never eat it. Andrea does like honey, but doesn't eat it very often. Yes, I know its strange that we are planning to attempt beekeeping in the future since we do not eat much honey, but we have other uses in mind, and maybe having fresh honey will motivate us to use more of it.

10. Quit using paper towels - We haven't completely stopped using paper towels, but have greatly reduced our use of them. We use cloth napkins, which I very much prefer to paper towels, at meals. Andrea uses flour sack towels in the kitchen for many tasks that paper towels would normally be used for. We still have some room for improvement though.

11. Get some backyard chickens - As I recently mentioned in 2013 To-Do List acquiring chickens is our top goal for 2013. This should give us a source of more eggs that we can use.

12. Start composting - We have been regularly composting for several years. In fact, two of my goals for 2013 include composting: building the pallet compost bin and constructing and using a worm bin for kitchen scraps.

13. Downsize - I can't see us downsizing anytime soon. Our home is only 924 sq ft, which is already well below the national average. Both the car and truck are relatively small, and neither will need to be replaced anytime soon. This doesn't mean that we can't still get rid of stuff, because we are currently working on that, it just isn't likely to result in being able to actually downsize.

14. Line dry your clothes - We haven't had a working clothes dryer since moving into the trailer. For a couple of years Andrea dried all of our clothes by hanging them inside. We now have a Hills Rotary Clothesline, which I previously wrote about, that she uses when the weather is nice. During the winter, though, we still dry clothes by hanging them inside.

15. Skip a traditional Christmas - This is something that I'd love to try, but isn't likely to ever happen, as I mentioned in the recent Longing for a Simple Christmas post. Perhaps, however, we can still find ways of continuing to reduce the environmental impact of Christmas by using recycled or reusing cards and paper, giving homemade gifts, etc.

16. Join Community Farm Alliance - I had never heard of Community Farm Alliance prior to reading this post, so obviously its not something we are currently doing. At first glance, however, it seems like something that we would be interested in learning more about.

17. Eat less meat - We have made some effort to eat less meat, but it isn't something we put a lot of effort into. I would guess that on average Andrea and I each eat maybe one and a half servings of meat per day. That is probably less than many Americans, but still probably higher than it should be.

18. Buy meat produced from animals that have been treated humanely - This is an issue that is important to us, and we go out of our way to buy our meat from trusted sources. In the past this has meant that much of our meat is purchased from the Good Foods Market. Recently, however, we discovered Pike Valley Farm, and will most likely buy our ground beef and chicken from them whenever we can. Their products are available at Good Foods, but we prefer buying direct from the farmer whenever possible.

19. Share the good news - This is one of the purposes of this blog, and the Facebook page. Around family we tend to be more subtle with our comments, since most of our family do not share our interest in sustainable living.

20. Visit a farm - We love touring local farms. In the past year we've toured Wonder of Life Farm, and visited Pike Valley Farm, although did not take a tour. We also considered touring the JD Country Milk farm recently, but didn't make that one.

21. Quit buying bottled water - I do not do a good job of this. I do make sure that any bottles get recycled, but not buying them in the first place would be much better. We have made some effort to take our own water in reusable bottles, but still haven't made it a habit.

22. Switch to CFL bulbs if you still haven't made the leap - or even better, invest in LED! - This is something we did a long time ago. I think there is still one lamp that has an incandescent bulb, because it almost never gets used, but aside from that we've been using CFLs for several years. We haven't experimented with LEDs yet, but I would really like to try them out.

23. Start a sustainable group - This is a fantastic idea, but I'm not quite sure how to go about getting started. It would probably more easier if I were more of a social creature. Earthineer is a great online community, but it would be nice to be part of a local community that could meet in person.

24. Join a CSA - This is something we have never considered, and likely never will. I think that CSAs are great for some people, but just not for us. Since we are both picky eaters, a CSA would likely provide us with a lot of vegetables that would simply go to waste. We prefer to continue to focus on expanding our garden, so that we can grow what we want ourselves.

25. Ride a bike - I haven't even owned a bike since 2005. When we had bikes we never rode them, and I can't see that changing now. If we still lived in town, the idea would be more attractive. I just can't see either of us riding 6 miles on a narrow, curvy, rural road to grocery shop, though.

26. Find a better source for your imported goods - I have to admit that I can't even list all of the imported goods that we currently use. That is not to say that we haven't made attempts at finding better sources for some items, because we have. We just haven't gotten very far into the process. This is an area where we have a lot of room for improvement, and is probably an area that should start receiving some attention.

27. Plant a garden - As mentioned before, we are focusing on expanding our garden. I recently posted about our gardening experiences in the 2012 Gardening Recap.

28. Try homeopathic remedies first before heading to the doctor - We do some use homeopathic remedies, but need to do more. I actually took a homeopathic treatment this morning, Arnica Montana, for muscle soreness after slipping on the ramp to the metal building and falling.  It is a topic that Andrea is very interested in, and she has taken several workshops to learn about herbal remedies, making tinctures, etc. The planned herb garden expansion will provide her with many of the ingredients needed to increase our use of homeopathic remedies.

29. Share a meal with someone in need - We very rarely do this. In fact, unless we are having overnight visitors, we really never have guests for dinner.

30. Read Wendell Berry's "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" - Surprisingly I have never read any of Wendell Berry's works, but have been wanting to do so for some time. I recently added The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture to my wish list. It sounds like maybe I need to also add Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front as well.

31. Take a walk - I do not do this nearly often enough, which is really a shame. This is something that I want to remedy in 2013. Now that I'm surrounded with nature, I don't spend much time just enjoying it.

32. Hunt and eat wild game - I am not a hunter, and doubt that I ever will be. We aren't even sure that we can stomach the thought of killing our own chickens, which is why we are focusing on egg production with our first flock. I respect those who choose to hunt for their own food, but just can't visualize myself ever following suit.

33. Take a farm-cation - I like this idea, on the surface, but I can't imagine ever being able to take the time away from our chores at our own place to do so. We have entertained the idea, though, of eventually maybe offering WWOOF opportunities here.

34. Take a staycation - I don't technically take staycations, since I tend to use the time away from work to do projects around the house. I do, however, try to take at least one week off from work each year to focus on a big project. If things go well I'd like to take two this year, one in the spring, then another in the fall.

35. Take shorter showers and less of them - I already do this, or at least the latter half. I haven't taken daily showers in several years, unless I've been working and gotten sweaty or exceptionally dirty. I've experimented with shorter showers, but it has never stuck.

36. Carpool - Carpooling isn't as practical when you live out in the middle of nowhere, like we do, as it is for those who live in a city. Its not really a big issue for us anyway, since we don't go places all that often. If I had to drive to the office every day I would be more interested in finding carpooling opportunities.

37. Visit a national park - National parks are actually one of our favorite vacation destinations. We've slowly been working our way through the National parks in Kentucky and the surrounding states. Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina is probably our favorite. Our next National Park visit is likely to be Gettysburg National Park in Pennsylvania, at which time we'll likely also visit some of the other parks in the area, such as the Eisenhower National Historic Site and Catoctin Mountain Park.

38. Volunteer to help your church, school, or civic organization go green - This is a fantastic idea, but one that we've never tried. This is primarily because we really aren't a member of any civic organization. We've discussed the need to get more involved in the community, so maybe this will change at some point.

39. Switch your printer to double-sided printing - I'm not sure if our printer supports double-sided printing or not. Its not that big of a deal for us, though, since Andrea reuses printer paper anyway. A lot of stuff she prints for our own use is on the backs of other paper, sometimes even things we've received in the mail.

40. Glean - The article is specifically talking about organizations such as Faith Feeds for this item. I think this are very worthwhile projects, and is the type of thing I might be interested in getting involved in at some point.

41. Start a community garden - This is one of those suggestions that is likely much more applicable for folks living in a city. In rural areas, those who want to grow a garden have sufficient land to do so, which makes a community garden less important.

42. Come to I Love Mountains Days in Frankfort on February 14th - Andrea mentioned this to me recently and asked if its something I would want to attend. It is the type of thing I support in theory, but probably not in practice. I probably should be more involved in such events, but, being an introvert, I'd rather find other ways of supporting the cause.

43. Learn to can, freeze, and dry food - Andrea already does all of these things. However, we still have a lot to learn. I suspect that as we produce more of our own food we will be looking for new ways of storing the excess. Building a root cellar is one project on our wish list, although it did not make it into my 2013 To-Do List.

44. Join a co-op - Co-ops may very well be my favorite form of business. We are actually a member of three co-ops, Good Foods Market, as well as the local electric company, and the company that the loan for or property is through.

45. Get a rain barrel or two - This is yet another item that is already on my 2013 To-Do List. I have one rain barrel, which I constructed at the 2012 Field to Fork Festival, but have never used. My goal is to start using that one to catch rainwater from the roof of the shed, and make four more, one for each corner of the trailer.

46. Buy Kentucky Proud - We like to buy local, whenever we can, although do not always look specifically for the Kentucky Proud label. I think it is a good program, but I'd prefer buying a product produced in the next county over without a Kentucky Proud label than one produced on the other side of the state that does have one.

47. Plan a green burial - If I planned for my body to be buried when I die, I would certainly want to receive a green burial. Since I plan to be cremated, however, it isn't really an issue. Still, I plan to do more research on the topic, in case there is information that may cause me to change my mind.

48. Share your knowledge with someone else - Much like #19, that is one of the purposes of this blog. At this point I'm still trying to gain knowledge, but figure that I may have picked up something along the way that could be helpful for someone else. If I were more outgoing I might consider leading a workshop at a local festival sometime, but the thought of doing so stresses me out.

49. Quit getting catalogs - We've tried, oh how we've tried to do this. I cant' imagine how much junk mail we'd get if Andrea hadn't put so much effort into getting us removed from mailing lists. Some of them we don't mind so much, like seed catalogs, but most of the catalogs we get are from companies that we've ordered from online. I don't understand what makes a company think that us ordering online means we need a physical catalog. Seems pretty obvious that we'll just order online next time too.

50. Visit your local farmers market in the rain - We've not big fans of being caught out in the rain, so I'm not sure how likely we are to follow this suggestion. Going when the weather is gloomy, however, is a different story. We love farmers markets, and certainly won't let a few clouds keep us away.

51. Save heirloom seeds - Andrea has started experimenting with seed saving, but we have a lot to learn. Eventually we would like to use only heirloom seeds, and keep our own collection to plant.

52. Learn to sew - Andrea has this one covered, so I'm not going to bother to learn. She makes all of our quilts, window coverings, etc. She's talked about making some of our clothes, but so far has just made some lounge pants and a few skirts for her. She has the ability, though, to make whatever we need I'm sure.

53. Convert your lawn to food production - I love this idea for people who do not have room for a garden elsewhere. Even for people, like us, who have plenty of room for a separate garden, I'm a big proponent of alternative lawns instead of a traditional manicured lawn of non-native grass. I like to refer to our lawn as a Natural Lawn, since it consists primarily of vegetation that grows naturally, without us having seeded or planted anything.

54. Become a minimalist - I am fascinated by the concept of minimalism. Living in a, relatively, small home forces us to be somewhat minimalist. However, I think that we have a long way to go, and will likely never achieve any sort of extreme minimalism. We're likely to continue in that direction, however, as time progresses.

55. Become a nudist - When I first saw this on the list, I thought maybe they were just checking to see if anyone actually read the entire list. The logic seems to be that being a nudist means less clothes to purchase and launder. I suppose if one practiced nudism at home, especially during the warmer months, it might make sense. I can even see how it might allow for a warmer temperature to be maintained inside the house. In the colder months, however, it seems that nudism would result in using much more energy to keep the house warm. I normally wear two layers of clothes during the winter, which allows us to keep the thermostat turned down.

56. Buy sustainable seafood - Andrea tries to be sustainable seafood, and buys most of it from Good Foods Market. I don't eat seafood myself, though, so I really don't pay a lot of attention to where the seafood we buy comes from.

57. Make and eat more fermented foods - I have never tried any fermented food, and, for some reason, the idea isn't appealing to me. I know that it is suppose to be healthy, so I suppose I should look into it sometime.

58. Quit taking the elevators - I do not use elevators with any sort of regularity. We did have elevators at my old office, so if I were still there this suggestion would be a good one. Now, though, I really only use an elevator when visiting somewhere like a hospital, which is rare.

59. Ask for local food - This suggestion is focusing on the use of a caterer, which is something we have never done, and I don't expect that to change anytime soon. However, if one were having an event catered, I think that requesting local foods is a very good idea.

60. Get really dirty - I get plenty dirty working around the house, especially during gardening season. I can remember spending hours as a kid digging in the dirt, and feel bad for kids today who do not have that opportunity.

61. Learn to forage wild edibles - This is something I've never done, but am interested in learning about. In reality, though, I suspect that little, if any, of the food we could forage for would be something either Andrea or myself would eat, since we are so picky about food.

62. Install a composting toilet - When we build a house we definitely want to install a composting toilet. Since we have fairly new bathroom fixtures now, and since we already have a septic tank, it seems a bit of a waste to switch. The next time we need to replace a toilet, however, I think we'll at least consider replacing it with a composting version. I wouldn't be opposed to building an outside composting toilet, for summer use.

63. Wash your clothes less... and always in cold water - We already do this one. We try to wear our clothes multiple times between washes, as long as we don't get them dirty. Andrea almost always uses cold water to wash them, unless there is some special circumstance that requires warm water instead, which is rare.

64. Bring your own reusable takeout containers when you eat out - This isn't something that I've thought about before, but seems like a good suggestion. I can especially see the benefits of doing this when frequenting a restaurant that uses styrofoam containers for takeout. We don't take food home from restaurant a lot, though, but if we did I'd have to strongly consider doing this.

65. Quit eating out - This suggestion is more attractive to me than the previous one. Compared to a lot of people we probably don't eat out a lot, but we do it more often than we should. There are so many problems with eating out, including the cost and inability to know exactly what is going into the food or where it came from.

66. Have a green wedding - If Andrea and I were getting married today, the ceremony would certainly be green, if we had one at all. I suspect that we wouldn't actually have a ceremony, though.

67. Avoid buying things packaged in styrofoam or plastic - This is an area where we really need to put in a lot more effort. There are a few small things that we do, like buying milk in reusable glass containers when we can. We do like to minimize packaging, but usually there are other factors that take priority in our decision making. I will say that I've been impressed with the minimal packaging of the AmazonBasics products that I have ordered.

68. Vote for candidates who have a good record with environmental concerns - I agree that showing support and voting for candidates with a good environmental record of pro-environmental platform is one of the simplest, yet potentially most impactful, actions we can take. In some political races, this can get tricky, especially in the case of third party candidates.In other situations, though, such as the presidential race in Kentucky, there is no doubt who will receive the most votes, which makes it a little easier to vote third party without inadvertently impacting the election in a way you would not want.

69. Watch a green documentary for inspiration This is a good suggestion, especially during the winter when we're often stuck inside for hours in the evening. The article suggests the film Y.E.R.T, which I haven't seen, but will add to my watch list.

70. Eat organic foods - Eating organic is a priority for us. There are still a few conventional items that we buy, especially because our options are so limited in London (there are no organic options in the town in which we live), but we try to stock up whenever we go to Lexington. Of course the best way to eat organic is to grow your own food, which we're working on.

71. Turn off the TV indefinitely - We have taken one step down this path, although I don't see us ever going the whole way. We haven't had cable for several years, and have found that we do not miss it at all. Instead we spend less than half of what cable use to cost us on buying DVDs and subscribing to Netflix and HuluPlus. For watching streaming video I can't recommend a Roku player enough. We love our Roku LT, enough, in fact, that we now have two of them.

72. Eat seasonally - We do not do a good job of this. Thus far we've really put only minimal effort into seasonal eating. Aside from eating organic, our biggest goal is simply eating healthy. We do need to start trying to eat more seasonally, however.

73. Reduce, reuse, recycle - I've discussed in depth our recycling efforts in the posts on recycling paper & cardboard, plastics, and glass & metal. While there is still room for improvement, I feel that we do a fairly good job of recycling. We like to reuse materials whenever possible, which is helped by Andrea's love of using salvaged materials for projects.

74. Shop local - Shopping local is something that I support 100% in principle. Unfortunately, though, in practice my support falls far short of 100%.

75. Know your farmer - The final item on the list, unfortunately, is yet another one that we have not done. I could try to make excuses, but instead I'll just admit that we don't do it, but know that we should.

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