So, have you heard it yet? Living sustainably is the new fad. But in all seriousness, it’s not a fad, or a trend, or a temporary craze, it’s a very real, lifechanging course of action which will not only make your life more fulfilling but also help save the planet in the long run. I’m so happy that the subject of sustainability is much more present these past few years, and saving water, recycling, DIY-ing, reducing plastic waste, green energy, and other related topics are reaching a wider audience and people are hopping on board.

We have formed many communities, here in Indiana, focused on helping you make your baby steps towards sustainability, and I’m writing this post based on what we counsel people when they first come to us. If this has been on your mind, but you weren’t sure how to start, you’ve come to the right place!

 

First, let’s back up a little – what is sustainable living? It is having a lifestyle where you’re practicing reduction on your demand on Earth’s natural resources, and instead, attempt to either use less of these resources or replace what you use, to the best of your abilities and circumstances. There are no strict guidelines, so don’t believe it when some people try to convince you that you’re not doing it right or not doing enough.

 

Ok, so, for starters, you have to remember the three Rs – reduce, reuse, and recycle. These are the three pillars of a sustainable lifestyle.

 

  1. Reduce – this means you’ll need to reduce everything that’s excess or that can be reused or recycled instead. For example, to save water, don’t leave the tap open while you’re washing your hair int he shower, or, to save electricity, don’t leave your small kitchen appliances plugged into the socket when you’re not actively using them. Or use manual appliances like mandoline slicers instead of electric alternatives.
  2. Reuse – this one’s pretty straightforward. Reuse anything that can be reused, like water bottles (buying a glass water bottle is a great option), canvas bags for shopping, a durable lunch box, or reusing old T-shirts as cleaning rags. You can get creative with this one!
  3. Recycle – materials that can be recycled include glass, cardboard, aluminum, lead batteries. Always make sure you dispose of the objects for recycling at the right places, not in the dumpster.

 

This is a good way to start your journey and be on the lookout for many more posts like this. Good luck!

We’ve had some of the craziest weather on record around the country this year. We’re still recovering from devastating hurricanes and floods on top of bad weather from years before. How can people say this isn’t happening? How can people not even want to try and do something about this before it is too late? For the love of everything, why do we have to keep explaining to people that a) there is a difference between climate and weather, and b) the increase in greenhouse gas causes extreme fluctuations in temperature and more severe weather events? Are they dumb, confused, or just stubborn?

I’m in my early twenties. I’d like to be able to live on this planet my whole life and I’d like for that to be a long time. I might want kids someday, and I want them to grow up making snowmen and sledding down hills and being able to go outside in the summer without either bursting into flames or getting skin cancer. I want them to climb trees, drink water out of the tap, and help me plant a vegetable garden. I want their kids to experience that too. Is that too much to ask for?  Our wars have been about access to oil, and they’re going to be about farmland and resources if we don’t start getting our act together!

I don’t understand how anybody was happy about leaving the Paris Accord. We’re one of the world’s leading producers of carbon dioxide but we’re telling the rest of the world – the people who aren’t as lucky as we are to have water coming out of the faucets, without farmland, who are too poor to change their infrastructure easily, that we don’t care about any of it. We have lovely, clean water that we have no interest in keeping pollution free. We have trees and grass and wildlife that we are willing to kill all because of what? We don’t want to upset our Middle Eastern overlords and their pocketbooks? What about the people here – the fishermen, the farmers, the engineers trying to find a solution to the rolling blackouts and storms knocking down power lines in the dead of winter?

Instead of moving forward and possibly leading the world charge on improving the environment for the future, we have crazy old congressmen bringing in snowballs to throw at the Senate President and complaining that global warming can’t possibly exist because winter was cold. Was that guy also on the floor of the senate in the summer complaining that it was hot outside? I know he did this a couple years ago, but he is still in the Senate and he was the CHAIR of the Environmental and Public Works committee in the Senate in 2017. How does somebody get put in charge of something who doesn’t even care about it?

Climate change is a real thing. There is hard data that has been recorded by scientists around the world using all kinds of different equipment. Yearly temperatures have increased in places all over the world. The oceans are warmer. The ice caps are getting smaller. Water levels are rising. Acid levels in water are killing sea creatures and crops are being killed by pH levels in the soil and in rain. Droughts last longer. Extreme weather events are happening more often and are more severe than ever before. Food supplies are getting smaller as the available land to grow them on gets smaller as people require more housing and viable land decreases.

Keep reading this blog to give you ideas to head things in the right direction, with or without our own government’s help.

Being obsessed with ecology and environmental conservation is nothing to apologize for. In fact, if you are on the green bandwagon, you should be proud of yourself. And if you are of the younger generation, you can gloat about your world-consciousness and lack of self-centeredness, typical of your group. I hope I am a role model and mentor for others my age who are too much into social media and pop culture. The best I can say about social platforms is to use them to further the cause.

One of the biggest problems these days is water: it is non-potable or non-drinkable in many places in the world. It is a crime in this modern day and age. Water is life and we are depriving the third world from clean resources by not helping them overcome government neglect and abuse. Of course, we can make our voices heard and contribute to organizations addressing the water issue across the globe. We can also conserve water at home as evidence of our awareness and a symbol of human consciousness. If we continue to waste, we can hardly blame others for doing the same.

Why not start changing the world one person at a time, beginning at home. It is easy to use less water for cooking and in the bathroom, with guides like this: https://tanklesscenter.net/lower-electricity-bill/. You don’t need to run small loads of laundry, wash the car every three days, or water your plants after a rainstorm. If you flush the toilet constantly, you are depleting the local reserves way too fast. Why not do it every two times instead or get a low-flow unit.

There is another way to prove your worth in the conservation movement and show your values to friends and family. You can save energy on heating water in your home by using a digital system, preferably tankless, that controls quantity and average temperature throughout the day. You won’t be storing hot water on off days when you are not doing the dishes or taking that extra-long shower. Plus, you can reuse dish or bath water to wash the car or revive the lawn. They won’t know the difference! But you will be playing your part each and every day.

The only way to make anything better is to get out there and do something about it. I don’t care what it is, but you need to be active in the fight for a sustainable future. There are so many different things you can do that there is no reason for you not to. I’ll even give you some ideas.

First, get out there and take a walk in your neighborhood. Go for a hike and explore our state and national parks. When you’re out there, you will probably fall in love with the natural beauty of Indiana (or wherever it is you live) and be inspired to help sustain it. Take a look and see what you can do to help. What do you notice and what can you do about it? Does there need to be more trash cans on your local trail? Do we need more trees to prevent soil erosion or dunes to prevent beach erosion? Let your local and state officials know and get your community involved.

Now that you have seen and appreciated how beautiful Indiana (or wherever) is, we need to protect another important resource: our water. You can take a morning (or a few) and participate in a beach or river clean up. Lobby for mesh coverings or even just notices for storm drains that empty into rivers or streams, a trash wheel for waterways, more trash cans at beaches, or anything else you can think of that will prevent garbage from getting into our water in the first place. Use biodegradable and natural cleaning products so that you are not adding to the problem, and don’t dump grease down your drain.

Next, plant yourself a garden. There are health benefits in it for you and you can plant and grow the things you want to eat. Planting native flowers will help the local bee population, which helps local farmers. Plant trees and then enjoy the fresher air and the shade it provides. Use natural fertilizers and pesticides (did you know ladybugs are a good pesticide? How natural and awesome is that?) instead of harsh chemicals to take care of your garden. Compost your leaves and organic waste (like eggshells and table scraps) and you’ll reduce your carbon footprint and keep the soil healthy. If you don’t have a yard, you can plant a rooftop garden, a hanging garden, or you can even stick a few plants on your windowsill. It is a win all around.

Go green by installing solar panels if you can. If you’re building a home, use energy efficient and green materials. Reduce your energy consumption in any ways you can think of: turn off appliances when not in use (surge protectors are great for this), use solar lights for outdoor lighting, and replace big energy consuming appliances with more efficient models as you can.

Whether you choose to get involved in your own yard or on a bigger scale, you need to do something. We all do.

Carbon footprint is a bit of a buzzword, but it is important to know if you want to live more sustainably. Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide that you personally put into the atmosphere. Depending on your lifestyle, you might have a big or small carbon footprint. You can check your impact here and see how you stack up. If your number was a bit of a shock and you’d like to do something about it, don’t worry. I’ve got simple tips that go beyond bolting solar panels to your roof and using hybrid cars (which are good ideas and if you can do them, do it).

One thing I’ll ask you to do is be smarter. Less driving means less gas usage and less carbon dioxide pollution, so drive smart when you can. Carpool with a coworker or group your errands together. Shop a little smarter, too. Buy products that use less packaging. Use those fabric, reusable bags when you’re grocery shopping instead of getting those plastic ones that just rip while you’re trying to get your stuff into the house anyway. I thought shopping with reusable bags was going to be a hassle but I don’t have a huge ball of plastic bags with holes in them stuffed in a drawer somewhere anymore. It has become a reflex.

If you can’t be bothered with all that, I get it. Maybe you aren’t a big planner or it seems like a hassle. Then this paragraph is for you, because it’s all stuff you can do stuff at home. Recycle and reuse things! When you create less garbage for our landfills, you reduce your negative impact on the environment. Put a recycling bin right next to your trash can and it will feel like almost zero effort! Install aerators on your faucets or just take shorter showers and less baths. Use cold water more often when you’re doing things like laundry and washing dishes. Heating water takes a tremendous amount of energy, so any changes you can make will have an impact on both your carbon footprint AND your wallet. How’s that for motivation?

Another thing that you can do as you go along is replace lightbulbs and appliances with more energy efficient models. I’m not suggesting that you toss out your fridge and trash all your lightbulbs right now – then you’d just be creating more garbage and defeating the purpose. I’m saying lightbulbs burn out and appliances break. When that happens, don’t just look for the cheapest options. Get something with a good energy star rating too. You may think they are more expensive – sometimes the upfront cost is a little more, I won’t lie – but they are cheaper to run over time, so you’ll make that money back (and then some).

I’ve got one more suggestion: take care of your stuff. That means doing the recommended maintenance on your car so it runs as efficiently as possible. It also means changing the air filter in your furnace when you’re supposed to. Seal leaks in your house when you feel drafts. Make sure your home is properly insulated so you don’t have to run the heating and cooling as much. If you have a constantly running toilet or a leaky faucet, fix them. All that maintenance will be a small inconvenience when compared to the financial savings and positive environmental impact.

See, I told you, these are little things that you can do easily. Try a few of them and see how you feel. Then do a few more. Your carbon footprint will decrease, your utility bills will decrease, and you’ll have more money in your pocket.

Have you seen or read The Lorax? You know, the one with the little orange guy who speaks for the trees? We’re constantly cutting down trees – usually to make room for homes or roads, or so we can make paper. And while those things aren’t necessarily bad, we need trees. You might be surprised by all of the reasons we actually need them.

You already know about the air thing, right? We all learned that at school, I hope. Here is a refresher: trees take the carbon dioxide that we put out with things like our cars and factories, and the whole breathing thing, and turn that into oxygen that we can breathe again. Basically trees are air purifiers. We need air to breathe. The cleaner it is, the better it is for us. So trees are good for air. We know this already.

Lots of trees are food sources and support the livelihood of farmers – apples, oranges, bananas, plantains, cherries, lemons, avocados, cinnamon, coco, and a whole bunch of other crops grow on trees. We all like to eat something that grows on trees. So trees = food, so we need to keep trees alive and healthy. This is probably something else you already knew.

But… did you also know that trees also help with soil erosion and flooding? Seriously. The roots hold soil in place so that rains don’t wash it away. That prevents mudslides and the loss of land. Good things, right? Also, with you have green spaces instead of parking lots, roads, and driveways, water can be absorbed instead of pooling up everywhere and flooding everything. So, trees hold on to the land we want to live on and they help absorb rainfall. You with me so far? There is an added benefit to this – by absorbing water, they also help prevent water pollution. Have you ever seen a river after a huge rain? Anything and everything that people tossed around its banks wash into the water and can pollute it. When the trees absorb the water, nothing washes down into our water systems!

Great, right?

Also… when we have trees, we also have critters that live in and around the trees. This is also good. Birds live there and they help control the bug and rodent population. The bugs help decompose rotting material and help make the soul richer so that more things can grow. Bees make their homes in trees, and we need bees to pollinate our flowers and our trees so that we continue to have food. And who didn’t learn how to climb a tree or want to build a treehouse as a kid?

Also, believe it or not, trees improve neighborhoods and home values. A tree that can partially shade a house will lower your cooling bills in the summer (hello, better for the environment than running an a/c!). Neighborhoods with trees and green spaces statistically have less violence and can promote community spirit. Trees also uplift spirits, helping people improve their moods and focus better. When planted outside hospitals, patients with views of nature and trees recover faster than those who don’t. Interesting, isn’t it?

What more could we possibly want? Stop reading this and go plant a tree.

Let’s talk about green energy today. Green means better for the environment, which means a more sustainable environment and a better future for us all. So what are green energy options and how can everyone get in on it regardless of your circumstances?

First, we’ll talk about solar power. Solar panels are great – you put them on your roof and harness the sun’s energy to make power to run your house or business. How great is that? Well, it is not so great if you don’t have a lot of money or if you don’t have a roof to put the panels on. For example, take me. I’m a very happy renter. I love where I live. My landlord loves his roof and isn’t willing to let me put panels on it (yes, I’ve asked, and if you rent, it won’t hurt to ask either). You would think that means I’m stuck paying for whatever energy my power company uses, but you’d be wrong. First, there are some smaller solar panels you can put out on a sunny balcony and attach to a battery backup. There’s also the super cool looking smartflower, which doesn’t need a roof and is portable enough that you can take with you if you move. What if none of those options work for you? There are community solar farms available, and you can either buy in and rent a certain amount of panels at the farm (then any energy they produce is credited to you as a discount reflected on your utility bill). Some companies will even let you buy “green credits”, which are excess energy that people with solar panels produced but did not use or are from companies selling the power generated by their own green sources. So even if you don’t have room where you live for panels or you can’t afford them, you might still be able to use solar energy. It just takes a little creative legwork.

Another great choice is wind power, another great way to access energy that is naturally occurring on Earth. Our ancestors knew this – what do you think windmills were for? Turbine designs are getting better and better, bringing their efficiency up while reducing noise levels and bringing other side effects down. Here in Indiana, we’ve got quite a few large-scale wind farms. But did you know that you can even have your own personal wind turbine? If you have enough wind to make it worth it, and a place to install it, you can use wind energy to run your home! Pretty great, isn’t it?

If you cannot convert at least some of your energy to a green source, you can at least reduce your energy consumption. Use energy efficient appliances and light sources, use a thermostat with a timer, make sure your home is well-insulated, and turn off electronics and lights when they are not in use. Some energy companies will do an energy audit on your home and give you advice on what you can do to lower your utility bill. Anything you do will have an impact, so don’t wait!