Sustainable Living is where I write about the practical skills we need to live in ways that nourish both our own health and the web of life we rely on. It's practical, sharing images, tips, how-to's and hands-on techniques. 

If you like, you can skip the intro and go straight to the Sustainable Living Post Collections: 

An Introduction to "Sustainable Living"

I define a “sustainable lifestyle” as one that's regenerative for ourselves, our families and communities, and our ecosystems. Everything is connected; good health for any one of these elements relies on good health for all of them.

We must do the work ourselveshere and nowin our own kitchens, gardens and communities.

If you are reading this, most likely you're at least a little concerned about the trajectory that we modern humans have been on. Maybe, like me, there are moments when you're terrified about it. 

We're living in a house of cards. 

We're outsourcing our needs to production methods that deplete our atmosphere, soils, water, ecosystems, and communities, and that are reliant on rapidly shrinking reserves of fossil fuels.

The apparent affluence on the shelves of supermarkets and superstores is part of an illusion

At the risk of stating the obvious, something needs to change.

Exactly what needs to change, how it should change, and who should do the work, are topics that continue to be flogged to death in discussions at every level, but discussion is much more valuable and productive if we also take action. 

Small actions are best, that we can learn from, that we can build on. Action at a level that we can sustain. 

And since governments, institutions, and corporations are too busy squabbling over details and profit margins to take meaningful action, its up to us to get on with the job.

Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up."

David Orr

Its up to us, in our own kitchens, gardens, and communities. Here and now. To get on with providing for ourselves and living in ways that regenerate, rather than depleting, the web of life we rely on.

This topicSustainable Livingis all about getting on with it. 


Sustainable Living Post Collections

Use the links to jump to a post collection. Many posts appear in more than one collection.

BATHROOM BASICS

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In the bathroom aisle of the supermarket, you spend hard earned money on mostly unnecessary products full of toxins that leave a trail of pollution and destruction in their wake.

“Bathroom Basics” shares ideas and tips for gradually learning how to meet your basic bathroom needs in your kitchen and garden, rather than in the bathroom aisle.

If these posts appeal to you, you might also be interested in the Online Workshop "Natural Oral Care and DIY Toothpaste." Find out all about that, here.

Our ancestors’ ingenuity and know-how kept them alive for untold generations – long enough for us to come along. Everything they knew is still available to us. We’re just not using it because it’s gone missing from the stories we tell ourselves.

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Home-based herbal medicine is an easy, accessible practice. Here are 9 quotes from herbalists about the oldest and simplest medicine in the world — so simple, a child can do it.

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Switching from synthetic personal care products to simple, natural alternatives means giving up superficial attributes like foam, fragrance, and texture​, which are achieved using toxic ingredients​. This article explores how we got so dependent on these products and shares 3 ideas we can rely on in our efforts to get back to natural.

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Essential oils are highly concentrated and extremely powerful, are harvested and processed on an industrial scale, have big impacts on plants and communities, and should be used sparingly, with caution and respect.

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Tooth cleaning did not begin with plastic toothbrushes or medieval concoctions. We’ve been cleaning our teeth since probably before we walked upright on two legs. Here’s how it was done (and in many parts of the world, still is).

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How I came to swear by yarrow (Achillea millefolium) for oral health care and particularly for gum health.

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GROWING WHAT WE NEED: Food and Fodder

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We grow all of the things we put into salads  (greens and other things, like flowers and shoots) and a small but steadily increasing amount of our other veggies and fruits.

We also grow many plants for their usefulness as animal fodder, and/or for other functions such as mulch production, shade, shelter, nitrogen fixing, and habitat. 

We're inspired by Permaculture, Syntropics, and all  Regenerative Agriculture philosophies and techniques, because they seek to build soils, care for ecology, and increase biodiversity as side effects of growing the things people need.

In short, we intend for our gardening and farming efforts to regenerate and enrich the ecosystems they're embedded in, rather than degrading them. 

Yacon tubers are sweet, crunchy, and delicious raw or cooked, and are a firm favorite in our family. This post is a quick introduction to yacon and my experiences with growing and eating it.

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Pesto can be made with any herb or combination of herbs and even leafy vegetables. When all you see in your garden is edible leafy greens, pesto is a great way to serve up all that nutrition in a form that’s easy and appealing to eat.

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Here are two ideas for preserving leafy greens. The first is a bit of an experiment. The second is a tried and true favorite in my kitchen.

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Long, flexible mulberry branches + pieces of old veggie net = caterpillar-proofed veggies.

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How to build a pond for tadpoles and frogs that will ​also grow food-producing water plants and edge plants. Includes diagrams, pictures, plant list, and frog resources.

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Long, flexible mulberry branches + pieces of old veggie net = caterpillar-proofed veggies.

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GROWING WHAT WE NEED: Plant Profiles

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This is a collection of posts about individual plants that we grow for people food, animal food, and other functions. Our focus is on perennial plants that serve as many functions as possible. 

Yacon tubers are sweet, crunchy, and delicious raw or cooked, and are a firm favorite in our family. This post is a quick introduction to yacon and my experiences with growing and eating it.

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Some of what you might want to know before choosing if and how you’ll use stevia-based sweeteners, along with tips on growing and using your own stevia plants.

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A vegetable from the tropical highlands of Papua New Guinea, rungi (Rungia klossii) is an attractive, edible, nutritious year-round ground cover for the tropics and semi-tropics.

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Sweet Violet (Viola odorata), is a shade-loving, ground-covering plant with a super-long list of nutritive, medicinal, and sense-pleasing attributes.

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Okinawa spinach (Gynura crepioides) is an edible, nutritious, prolific, and low maintenance ground covering plant. It looks good enough to landscape with. And the more you eat it, the better it looks.

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Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has a long ​history of use ​for ​food, medicine, cordage, and dye. Here are some ideas ​for ​​making use of the ​free food and fertilizer ​that this under-appreciated weed has to offer.

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LIVESTOCK: Raising Chickens

We keep many types of livestock, but if we had to downsize and choose only one, it would be chickens. These posts explore their many talents, as egg and meat producers, garden assistants and soil builders, and entertainers.

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The best way to have healthy, happy chickens is to integrate them tightly into a thriving, bustling ecosystem that benefits from their presence, rather than allowing them to spread out in a sparse ecosystem that they steadily ​degrade because it is unable to support them.

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Deep litter bedding for chickens approximates the forest floor environment they evolved in, builds their health, provides them with entertainment, and captures fertility for soil building. Here is why we decided to try confinement on deep litter with no outside foraging.

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Well-managed chickens can provide eggs and meat as well as composting assistance, pest reduction, soil amendment services and entertainment. But they can also be incredibly destructive, as you know if you’ve had garden beds dug up or fruit trees de-mulched.

How do we harness all that chickens offer, in ways that keep everybody happy, healthy and productive?

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This post shares the funny things one of our roosters gets up to, and it concludes the Backyard Chicken Series with the question, “Can good husbandry, regenerative agriculture, and morally right living, be defined in terms of happiness and connection?”

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Doesn’t happiness – even “just” the happiness of some hen in a backyard hen house somewhere, count towards a more whole, more beautiful world, a world that has a little more rightness about it?

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Why our efforts to address ecological destruction aren’t working yet, and how backyard chickens (or any other living thing that you care for) can help.

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LIVESTOCK: Raising Pigs

Pigs, for us, have turned out to be very rewarding animals to keep and also very challenging animals to keep. Rewarding because they're charismatic, intelligent, sociable, and also because pork, ham and bacon are meats we refuse to buy -- so we're very fortunate to be able to raise them ourselves.

And challenging, because pigs have big needs for space, play, clean soil to dig in, and a diverse diet -- and providing those while keeping their environment alive and vibrant is a big challenge. We're far from feeling like we've got it sorted; these posts share what we're learning as we work toward it. 

Visit the Raising Pigs Page

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Electric fencing works very effectively for pigs, but only if they get the right first impressions of it. Here are the steps we take to train our piglets to stay behind electric fences, without terrifying them in the process.

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Feeding ​the pigs, as they grow bigger, ​can ​easily degenerate into a full body contact sport in which the pig ​wins and the amateur pig-raiser ​gets discouraged and gives up on homegrown pork. Is there a way to keep pig-raising ​enjoyable when those cute little piglets are no longer cute?

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Why we buy piglets rather than breeding our own; preparing for their arrival and minimizing the stress of their transition; what to feed them; a few thoughts on choosing heritage breeds versus modern breeds.

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What we have (so far) found to be the pros and cons of mobile versus stationary pig raising systems, and why we are currently trailing a stationary arrangement for our pigs.

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LIVESTOCK: Happy Meat 

We eat only happy meat – meat from our own animals that are relaxed and contented from the day they’re born to the day they die in the midst of their own herd or flock, with their mouth full of grass or grasshoppers and no stressful transportation, crowding or hustling, and no undue medications, anywhere in between.

Our other criteria for the meat we eat is that it must come from happy ecosystems – ecosystems that are being enriched, not impoverished, by the outputs and behaviors of the animals we raise.

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In traditional cultures, organ meats were considered to be the animals’ most nutritious, most precious, gift to humanity. In modern society, we’re repelled by the idea of eating organ meats. What happened?

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“Happy meat” comes from animals raised in ecosystems, not cages. What if you can’t raise your own animals? Can you still eat happy meat? What if you’ve chosen a vegetarian lifestyle to protect animals from exploitation?

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What we have (so far) found to be the pros and cons of mobile versus stationary pig raising systems, and why we are currently trailing a stationary arrangement for our pigs.

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Why we buy piglets rather than breeding our own; preparing for their arrival and minimizing the stress of their transition; what to feed them; a few thoughts on choosing heritage breeds versus modern breeds.

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Electric fencing works very effectively for pigs, but only if they get the right first impressions of it. Here are the steps we take to train our piglets to stay behind electric fences, without terrifying them in the process.

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Well-managed chickens can provide eggs and meat as well as composting assistance, pest reduction, soil amendment services and entertainment. But they can also be incredibly destructive, as you know if you’ve had garden beds dug up or fruit trees de-mulched.

How do we harness all that chickens offer, in ways that keep everybody happy, healthy and productive?

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REAL FOOD 

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Food was once something that people shared, locally. For people fed by industrial agriculture, food is now a commodity, sold to the highest bidder, traded globally and anonymously. Commoditized food erodes our health when we eat it, and its production erodes the health of food growing families, communities and ecosystems.

I define "Real Food" as food that attempts to repair these broken connections and rebuild health on all these levels. Real food is not just healthy for the eater, but also for the grower and for our living planet. 

Regenerative gardening and farming has an intention to both feed people AND to leave the surrounding web of life stronger, richer, more complex and more resilient, rather than less so.

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Industrialized food is a commodity, a hollow copy of what it was before it was disconnected from the web of life that gifts it to us – just as a tiger in a zoo is a hollow copy of the real, wild thing.

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Minerals are ​essential to life, but they’ve become dramatically less available to us in the food we eat. This article explores why.

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In any truly regenerative style of agriculture, the harvest is a side-effect of ecosystem regeneration and vice versa – ecosystem regeneration is a side-effect of the efforts to produce a harvest.

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How I got from “I don’t think I could grow brassicas,” to “Ooh look – a cauliflower!”

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The complex web of connections and consequences attached to our supermarket choices.

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REAL FOOD: Nutrition

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This post collection includes strategies for getting the most nutrition possible from your food, along with profiles of super-nutritious plants (which will also appear in the Plant Profiles collection).

Pesto can be made with any herb or combination of herbs and even leafy vegetables. When all you see in your garden is edible leafy greens, pesto is a great way to serve up all that nutrition in a form that’s easy and appealing to eat.

More...

Here are two ideas for preserving leafy greens. The first is a bit of an experiment. The second is a tried and true favorite in my kitchen.

More...

Some of what you might want to know before choosing if and how you’ll use stevia-based sweeteners, along with tips on growing and using your own stevia plants.

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Assuming you’re eating the healthiest plant foods, grown in the healthiest soil, that you can find or afford, what else can you do to increase your mineral intake without using pills?

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Minerals are ​essential to life, but they’ve become dramatically less available to us in the food we eat. This article explores why.

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Wild edibles (aka weeds) provide better nutrition than supermarkets ever can, for free.

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Household and personal care products
The bewildering array of products in the cleaning and personal care aisles of the supermarket are in my opinion almost entirely unnecessary.
They are an example of how entire industries can grow up on the back of a series of cleverly presented suggestions to the unsuspecting public that they need this particular thing – in spite of the fact that umpteen prior generations got along fine without it.
A staggering proportion of them are also poisonous to you, your family, and the ecosystems that produce your food and drinking water.
Actually, let me restate that: almost all of them, not just a proportion, are poisonous. The only thing that varies is the degree to which they are poisonous.
Even a brief exploration into what their ingredient lists actually mean, is mind boggling.
( I researched the term “toxicants” – defined as “toxic substances made by humans or introduced into the environment by humans” for an article once…
I started out trying to comprehend the stupefying array of toxic substances used in the manufacturing of items seen as necessary for every facet of modern life, and was unable to go the distance. I ended up abandoning the entire project.
I concluded that most of the products and items I looked at with toxic substances in them are unnecessary, and for those that aren’t, it’s just simpler and safer to grow or make your own, or buy from a small supplier you trust, who uses ingredients you can recognize.)
Back to the topic at hand. Simply stated, almost everything in the personal care and cleaning aisle of the supermarket is:

expensive,
wastefully packaged,
poisonous to varying degrees, and
largely unnecessary.

So why do we use them? Well, let’s see. We use them because:

Endlessly sophisticated marketing campaigns wash over us constantly, programming us to assume we need them
Our friends and peers use them, and we must keep up with the Joneses
There are not many channels for us to learn that we don't actually need most of them, that they are detrimental to our health and the health of our environment, and that it’s really not hard to make healthy, simple alternatives for the few we do need
What channels for this information do exist are not funded in the way that the campaigns encouraging us to buy are funded.

I avoid the bathroom and cleaning aisles in the supermarket as much as I possibly can, and I have a goal to boycott them completely.
That’s much better for our personal health, our family budget, the soils that grow our food, the air we breathe, the life in the oceans, and the water we drink.


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