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I’m not a vegan. I’m not even a vegetarian. I wear leather. I drive. I drive a truck. I live outside the city. I believe that carbon taxes won’t work (unless we use all the funds for environmentally-friendly energy investments). I don’t buy organic.
You’d think that I wouldn’t live a ‘clean’ lifestyle, one that is environmentally-friendly and carbon-neutral or free. While the last certainly isn’t true (I don’t believe anyone will ever be truly carbon-neutral or carbon-free), the first two are. I live outside of the city because I want to be connected to nature; not in the way that suburbanites do in the look-how-fresh-it-is-driving-my-SUV-through-these-paved-roads kind of way. But, in the way that means I become tuned into nature and ‘live off the land’. The last is a ways off, but I’m getting there. I think.
I compost nearly everything but meat. My compost pile is literally a pile that is turned every so often and coyotes often find their way into our yard. I don’t want to attract them anymore than I already do by adding meat to the compost. Composting is easy and takes nearly no extra effort (none if you don’t turn it and let it do its thing….this route is much slower and not as rich) and seems like a no-brainer. For those looking to get started, or whose neighbours wouldn’t be happy with a pile of compost next to their fence: for under the kitchen sink get this super cute compost bin and this lazy-man’s compost tumbler.
Plant my own Garden
My goal is to have my vegetables and fruits make up 65% of my meals. I would shoot for 100%, but due to our harsh winters and small growing season, unless I only eat canned or frozen vegetables all winter, I won’t make it. So, for now, it’s 25%, then 50%, then 65%, and maybe one day with a proper greenhouse, it’ll get to 85%. But that day is a long way off.
Order Meat from Small Farms
Ordering your meat from smaller farmers, where you know their practices, is an excellent way to enjoy delicious meats with a lower environmental impact. Plus, supporting local farmers and eating locally is always great for your community and the environment. Depending on your source, it can even be cheaper than store-bought meat.
My fiance also hunts, which means we eat food that hasn’t been commercially farmed, resulting in a lower carbon footprint, and, really, just tastes better.
Rain Water Harvesting
I LOVE rain water harvesting. I love things that just make sense. Like using the sun’s energy, the water we get for free, and eating freshly grown vegetables. We have three rain barrels (only two working at the moment) and use them for all of our garden watering needs. The two years before was heavy with rain and I ended up washing my clothes with our rain water as I didn’t need the full barrels for the garden and, again, it didn’t make sense to just throw away good water. I used this nifty little contraption and a little elbow grease.
I’m hoping in the next two years I’ll be able to replace all, or 75% (there’s that winter putting a wrench in my plans), of water use with rain water. But, those systems cost $$$ and take time to plan out.
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Acclimate to the Seasons
Besides being great for the environment, it makes me feel better, too. I’m not freezing in a house only to be hit with 35 degree heat once I step out the door. I’m not so warm and sweaty that when I go outside to shovel snow I feel as if I’ll perish on the doorstep. I keep it colder in the house in the winter and warmer in the summer. Thinking of doing the same, but not sure if you can give up your heat or A/C? Start by lowering it a little by little. One degree one day, then another one a couple days later until you’re at a cooler temperature that works well (mine is 18-20 in the winter months, usually only hitting 20-21 when it’s -45 and 22-23 in the summer months, sometimes climbing to 25 during the day when I know the night will be cool). So, keep your home a little cooler in the winter and grab some extra blankets or a cute sweater and cozy up on the couch.
Use your Windows
In the summer, our A/C rarely clicks on. Unless it’s a scorcher from day to night (usually only a couple of days at a time), we keep the temperature higher during the day and open our windows for some cool, fresh air at night. In the bedroom, I use a thinner blanket than in winter, open the windows and put on the ceiling fan. What results is an amazing night’s sleep, and sometimes, the quacking of ducks and croaking of frogs to lull me asleep.
Carpool, Drive Less
I drive a truck. Not the most environmentally friendly vehicle out there, but it’s what I love and what I drive. I bought it when I lived somewhat central and bused and walked to work nearly every day. Except for the exciting couple of weeks right after buying said truck, I drove it only a few times a week. Now, I live outside the city and don’t have the option of walking to work and need my truck to get out of my snow-filled driveway in the winter. But, I try to drive less by pooling my errands together and carpooling to work with my fiance. Even if that means I have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning to do so.
Use Natural Products
Okay, so the word ‘natural’ has gotten out of hand. A lot of people now think that if the word natural is in the marketing, that it HAS to be good for you. It came from the Earth, so it’s healthy, right? Here’s a reminder of natural things that come from the Earth: oil, carbon monoxide, fucking thistles. While the other two are definitely not healthy and are often forgotten that they are, in fact, natural, the last is a 100% natural plant that is just a pain in the ass, literally.
But, I try to use products that don’t have conflict palm oil (Pepsico, we’re all looking at you), are good for myself and the environment, and are products that I can make at home. Because I love being able to live sustainably.
Cook at Home, Mostly
While I don’t like to eat out a lot due to not wanting to be poor for the rest of my life, it’s also handy when it comes to the environment. You’ll create less waste by cooking at home and can eat those yummy leftovers for lunch the next day, skipping the excess waste of ordering.
Use A Clothesline
It’s embarrassing to admit, but when I came home to my clothesline that my fiance put together for me, I was so ecstatic I couldn’t wait to do a load of laundry. I love the fresh smell of sun-dried clothes after a hot summers day. Plus, it saves tons of energy by using the biggest, most environmentally-friendly form of energy there is: the sun.
Plant Native Plants
Sure, bringing in some gorgeous tropical plants from the greenhouse for your porch or deck in the hotter months looks good. But, you’ll have to either bring them indoors every winter (a huge pain in the ass) or let them die off. Instead, try planting shrubs, grasses, and flowers that are native to your area. They’ll grow much better in your climate, require less water (if it’s dry where you are, but the plant has always grown there, you won’t need to worry about wasting money), and attract bees, birds and butterflies. You know, all the good stuff.
Our home is surrounded by field, which means the wind blows like a fucker. It means not being able to sit outside when it’s beyond windy. It means that the driveway piles up with snow. It means that people can see me. So, I plant trees. Every year. I plant 20-50 trees a year, replanting seedlings that grow in places that don’t work (like my garden or driveway). One year, I’ll only be planting 5-10, which means less trees planted, then 1-2, then 0. But, that also means that I’ll have so many trees planted in my mini forest of a yard that there’s no where for them to go. That’s when I’ll reach out to those who plant trees in regions that need.