Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Living Sustainably

What is sustainable living?  If you ask one of our ancestors, they would say living sustainable was normal living to them.  Back then they had to live sustainably because there was no other option.  Especially for those who were poor, they had to reuse and recycle.  In today's world it is just too easy to throw stuff in the trash.  It is normal to throw away old things and buy something new.  It is normal to acquire a lot of stuff with no useful purpose.

In days past, people would reuse many items.  They recycled glass bottles and reused glass jars.  They wore their clothes until they were worn out with holes, then they just patched them and continued to wear them.  They used cloth for diapers, kitchen towels, napkins, and washed dishes instead of using disposable items.  If they needed to build a new building they would reuse lumber from old buildings that were not needed.  They didn't throw away many things, but instead saved them for recycling.

I used to think my grandmother was a hoarder.  Before she passed, her house was a disaster.  She had piles of things she saved like plastic butter bowls, newspapers, and clothes she sewed throughout her life (and a bunch we gave her new).  She would move things from room to room to make space for when we came and visited but she never threw anything away. 

Quite possibly she did have a hoarding problem, but it stemmed from her being poor her whole life.  She always said she'd keep it just in case she would need it for something.  She wasn't wrong in thinking that, but she wasn't organized about it either.  Now I realize that the older I have gotten, the more I am like her.  I try to stay organized but I still end up collecting things.  I do think clutter lowers your quality of life though and I try to clean out things frequently, but always selling or donating items, never trashing them. 

I have the same mentality that she did.  I might need it for something one day.  And sometimes I do!  I reuse glass jars, keep plastic tubs for sending food home with someone, and old sheets with holes for sewing projects.  I hate to buy anything in plastic packaging that can't be put in the recycle bin.  Just thinking about the amount of garbage on Earth that piles up in landfills disgusts me! 

Plastics do not break down.  Landfills give off bad gases that can make people sick.  They can contaminate the ground and water supply.  They use land that could be put to use in a better way and they encourage people to just throw things away.  Without landfills, people would have to think twice about throwing out stuff because most likely it would just have to accumulate on their own property.  But right now the lovely city or county picks up their garbage and then it's out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

Sustainable living is just living in such a way that you do not waste.  You try to reuse everything you can so that you do not trash the Earth or use more of its resources.  If you plant a garden, you give back to the soil in the form of compost so that you are not just drawing all the nutrients out of it.  You try not to use forms of energy that are not renewable.  Naturally occurring fuels will run out one day if we continue to use them like we do.  We need to focus on using renewable sources like the sun and wind's energy.

We use a lot of water in today's world as well.  With indoor plumbing and running water, we consume so much more than in the days of old when people had to haul in water from a fresh source for their needs.  Composting toilets are much better than water flushing toilets.  If it's done right, there is no smell either!  That's the part that grosses people out, but they don't even realize that if you layer any compost correctly, there is no bad smell.

When I was growing up I went out on the shrimp boat with my dad sometimes.  I learned early on that I couldn't just waste water.  We had a tank on the boat that only held so much fresh water so when we showered or washed dishes, we made sure to turn the water off while soaping up.  That's a good practice to do even if you live in a house with indoor plumbing and don't have to worry about running out of water.  If you live on city water it can save you money too.

Sustainable living is important if we want this world to be in good shape for our future generations.  If we continue to throw out so much garbage and use up all the natural resources the Earth offers, we will contaminate the soil and run out of energy eventually.  All it takes is one small step at a time toward sustainability.  Think about your kids' future on the Earth and start today. 

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