In the media recently the word "sustainable" has been used extensively. It is heard in phrases like "sustainable economy", "sustainable agriculture", "sustainable farming", sustainable forestry/logging", "sustainable energy", "sustainable environment" just list a few current phrases. But, what does this word actually mean?
According to Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary
sustain: 1: to give support or relief 2: to supply with sustenance: NOURISH 3: Keep up, Prolong 4: to support the weight of: PROP; by hope 5: to support as true, legal or just 8: to support by adequate proof: confirm (like in a testimony) ~ sustainable (adj).
I went to one of my favorite sources Mother Earth News to find a clearer definition and how it relates to our current society in the 21st Century. Sustainability is viewed as a long term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic and social dimensions.
Now, that makes more sense...
When my Viking Husband and I decided to head down the path of "going off the grid" we made our decision based on several criteria. 1. Food and Utility costs! We are a gluten free family and the cost of food is high! After looking at our power bill one summer we were aghast at the bill. Even with energy conservation items in the house the bill was out of the Universe.(Economics) 2. We wanted to provide organic and positive ethically raised foods for our children. We have all heard of the horrors of the factory farms (Environmental). 3. As we journeyed down our path towards organic foods and going off the grid we discovered a community of people that had similar goals and like minds as to us. We found that living a similar and simpilar lifestyle, communing with nature, and sharing it with others of like minds we created an inner peace within our family. We also found that sometimes to change a global outlook one must also start at home. (Social Dimensions) Are we totally 110% sustainable. Of course not! Are we becoming more self reliant and creating a more sustainable lifestyle. You bet!
So, where do I start you wonder? I know that question! I asked it myself. My very patient Viking husband and I have discussed the same question as I held a plastic bowl. I was trying to decide to toss it or reuse it. The cost can be very prohibitive if not budgeted.
Here's my advice where to start.
1. Start a garden. Choose food that you and your family like and will eat. As you become comfortable gardening start exploring how to build and maintain Victory Gardens. Then start freezing your foods. When you become brave enough... try canning. It is easy!It is really easy to convert to organic gardening as well. I have listed books on the Sustainable Subsistence page.
2. Recycle. I will admit! We are soda junkies in our family. But, every can we use is recycled. Find a local recycle center and find out what they will take in recycle materials. You will be surprised what is recyclable and you may make some money. Goodwell Industries will also take computers, T.Vs et al. Believe it or not with a bit of time management and organization we have reduced our waste to one can. I think Waste Management is confused with our home.
3. By your food locally. Check out Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in your local areas. Now, with CSA the produce you receive are seasonally grown. You may need to re-learn to cook, can, freeze or like produce you have never tried before. But, with CSA produce they are all organically, and locally grown by farms in your community. Many of the produce grown on these farms are also heirloom varieties with no weird genetic alterations. This aspect really appealed to me since I also do Historical Cooking Demos. Regarding meats, dairy and eggs. This can be a challenge and depending on your area may not be available. Some states it is illegal to purchase whole unpasteurized cow and/or goal milk. Except for the eggs my rule of thumb is to keep dairy and meats local. In my case in the state of California.
Of course all meats I purchase are locally, grass fed and organically raised.
4. Check out your local Farmer's Market. These are fun places to explore. It also satisfies the locally grown or provided produce/items. I once had home made gluten free pasta from a Farmer's Market that made a jar of Classico spaghetti sauce taste out of this world! Depending where the Farmer's Market are located they can provide just about everything one may need. In January, I read an article about a Woman who got so fed up with the grocery chains that she went on a boycott. She used her local Farmer's Market circuit and CSA for all her needs. She said that the first couple of months was rough, but after a year she said she would never go back to a grocery chain.
Try these steps first and see where your path leads.