Nature and Environment

Because at 160,000 years, the party is just getting started.

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I have read several articles recently from a variety of sources about green living, reducing footprints, and sustainability. Most recently and perhaps most sadly, I read that 2014 was the hottest year on record. None of the articles, however, have mentioned one of the greatest ways, in my opinion, of creating positive change in the world. Voluntary Poverty is a far more fundamental and effective way to decrease consumption and impact while increasing connection and improving life all around. Our family of four lives on about $7,000 a year (less this year) and our lives are more enjoyable, fuller, richer, healthier, more inspiring to others, and more interesting to ourselves. (Note: for comparison, the poverty level as set by the government for a family of four is around $22,000). This is nothing new of course; sages and mystics have been sharing the joys and even the necessity of voluntary poverty and simplicity for eons. This article is simply my two cents as a modern day American.

Katy in the $30 greenhouse.jpg

Voluntary Poverty Has to Be a Choice

Being poor, for most folks, is truly awful. But that is very different from choosing voluntary poverty. Voluntary Poverty needs to be a lifestyle choice rooted in care for the earth and each other with a great awareness of our serious global challenges and our roles in causing them. And, voluntary poverty is for those of us in a position to choose it. For example, my wife and I are white, well-educated, healthy, American citizens who were raised in loving families. In every way in this time and place we have the world at our fingertips - we were born on third base. And, because we know what our American corporate and consumerist lifestyles do to people on the other side of the tracks - be they in our country or, more commonly these days, abroad - we feel a responsibility to choose another path that is as life-affirming and as sustainable as we can make it while still remaining connected and participating in our native culture.

When I bring up voluntary poverty in groups and talks there is often an uncomfortable stirring among the participants. This is to be expected as we have all been raised in a culture of scarcity, where we are expected to be go-getters and not go-givers, where the “American Dream” and our entire cultural myth rests of the pursuit of wealth, comfort, and satisfaction through stuff. Listen to the news and it is plain as day: being a good American means being a good, active consumer. Many others have told how we’ve gotten here much better than I can. What I can offer is what we do as one family in response to the destructive systems all around us.

Creating Contexts

One of the most helpful tools at our disposal is creating contexts or environments that support how we want to live in the world. This is a huge step in that every time you can alter your environment, your foundations, a context, in your life, you no longer have to rely on willpower to push your way towards a life of greater authenticity. Here’s an example I’ve used before: We live without electricity. It doesn’t come into our home. Our meter has been removed. We have created an environment that starts at zero electricity. Why we do this is, on the one hand, to withdraw support from Big Energy (think coal mining, acid rain, oil tankers, wealth inequality, and so on) as well as limit the amount of cheap electric consumer goods (made in China, out of plastic…) that we’d inevitably welcome if our outlets supplied the juice. On the other hand, we are moving towards more and deeper connection with ourselves and with nature and spirit (the seasons, our natural biorhythms, light and dark, long rests in winter, time outside, plants and animals…). Living this way is so lovely I generally choke-up about it when I share this with others. Oh, and we also don’t have an electricity bill. So, without the switch and the plug right there calling me to use them, I don’t. Just by preventing electricity from entering our home we have brought our lives so much more in alignment with our values. For us this means a huge increase in our quality of life and a much lower impact on our precious earth.

The same is true, more so even because it is so foundational, for choosing Voluntary Poverty as a context. We purposefully do not make much money. We could - we’re both college educated and beyond with a variety of skills and long and successful job histories – but we don’t. With our limited bills, money for our gardens and animal care, home upkeep and improvement, educational opportunities, clothes and stuff for our children, transportation (gas if we borrow a car, the occasional bus and train fares…), bike tires, gifts, books…we make and use a little below $7,000 a year. By having less money to live on (and no savings), a host of feedback loops kick into motion. Here’s a list:

• We are more creative with our use of resources. We cannot run to Home Depot every time we need a part so we Scavenge for them, cultivate patience with projects, ask around and rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle creating greater connections at each step.
• We are healthier. We bike, we garden, we don’t stress over jobs, we eat organic food, we play, we cultivate our hobbies, we live much more in tune with the seasons (no electricity), we live more slowly, use the light from beeswax candles, and on and on…
• We are wealthy in time. We have taken up instruments, developed our craftsmanship from pottery to natural building and permaculture. We also spend a lot of time with our kids!
• We are connected in our community. We are free to do our “work” and host community dinners, help neighbors start gardens, offer art classes for kids, make murals, orchestrate community improvement projects, distribute food and clothing, host workshops…We also have a network around our home that can help tend our place (gardens, animals) when we are away. It’s also amazing what shows up when you are available to receive, use, and share it: our little Be the Change project gives away over $200,000 worth of clothing each year from donations from the Common Threads program of the Patagonia company.
• We support the Gift Economy. Everyone loves to share their gifts and once the gift snowball gets rolling it keeps getting bigger and faster.
• We are home a lot! This means time with our kids, with my wife, our neighbors, friends, and folks who drop in. It means connection with land and seasons, too, at a local and personal level.
• We live more sustainably. Less consumption, more food growing, increased soil health and better habitat, less travel, passive solar heating and lighting, masonry wood heater, solar oven, locally-sourced wood, great use of salvaged materials, natural building and renovations using local clay and sand, greywater system, composting, great use of the urban the waste stream…
• Our lifestyles are less supportive of war. Very little of the money we generate goes to the government because we don’t pay income tax. There are estimates that the US government spends nearly half of every tax dollar on war (source: War Resisters League). Also, we use a very small amount of fossil fuels (in motors, from electricity generation, from consumer activity and stuff getting transported to us…) which are so linked to war.
• We are less supportive of extractive capitalism and the inherent inequalities it supports.
• We ask for help as we need it which connects us to neighbors and friends and encourages the gift economy.
• We are freer! We also unschool our kids so can take off on vacations or visits throughout the year.

This is a radical step that is hard to start but, year-by-year, less challenging to maintain. Speaking from experience, it has great rewards that far surpass the material rewards of lots of income. 

If you choose this path, good luck and keep in touch.  It’s nice to have a supportive tribe in such an endeavor.

Kyle Chandler-Isacksen runs the “Be the Change Project” with his wife and two young sons in Reno, Nevada. BTC is an urban homestead and learning center dedicated to service and simplicity and rooted I integral nonviolence. They were honored as one of Mother Earth News’ Homesteads of the Year in 2013. Check out their upcoming three-week cob/natural building workshop at House Alive!

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Feathers In Car

Below is an excerpt from the opening chapter of Natasha’s book, The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming:

The long, lone road stretches out in front of me and Lucille’s steering wheel feels sturdy under my grip. Dust from the farm road flies off of her windshield and the wind stirs all the beads and feathers hanging from her rearview. We glow together in the light of the setting sun, heading south to the next farm…

...After four consecutive months driving across this country, I have driven almost 15,000 miles, traveled through 16 states, laid my head in 49 different places, interviewed 53 farmers and taken roughly 3,500 photographs. It’s been quite a journey. And it’s not over yet.

I never would have imagined that my desire to dig in the dirt would lead me here, digging instead into the stories of farmers of color across America—Black, Latina, Native, and Asian farmers and food activists. All I wanted to do when this all started [five] years ago was grow food, know exactly where my food was coming from, and live more in tune with the Earth.

But as I began to feel rooted in my life as someone who worked the land, I quickly realized all the cultural and historic baggage that came with that. My father’s ancestors worked in the fields as slaves, in fact they were slaves owned by my mother’s ancestors. I’m literally the product of ownership and oppression reuniting, as if to rewrite the story. So when I ended up in the fields myself, I felt deeply conflicted. It was as if all of my feelings about my family history and this country’s agricultural history were converging at once. It was as if my agrarian story was already written.

The Color Of Food 

Many people ask me what inspired the creation of my photographic storytelling project, now turned book, The Color of Food. My answer always starts off with, “Well, I was just a girl who wanted to farm and then…” And it’s that ‘and then’ which brings them on a very personal journey with me. To these curious folks I always launch into explaining how, after joining the food movement and the beautifully crunchy calvary of organic farmers picking up the pitchfork nationwide, I instantly felt more alive and connected to the earth than I ever had. I had found my path.

But at the very same time, I also began to question whether I, and other people like me, belonged on the farm. As a young woman of color, the food and agricultural industry — crunchy, organic, or not — didn’t seem to represent me, or other communities of color. Nor, for the most part, did the farmer and activist movements working to bring change to the industry. My heart sank with the realization that this was yet another arena communities of color were being excluded from.

But then, within, something lit up. Whenever I pushed seeds into the earth with my hands; when I bit into a freshly harvested tomato from the vine; when I knelt in the sun watching the sweat drip from my brow to the black soil below, I felt a pull to discover a deeper truth. It was a truth that recognized the historical inequities in agriculture and the food system for communities of color, but also carried beautiful legacies resiliently persisting in our communities.

It was a shining promise that if I began to dig with open eyes, I could unearth an agrarian story far different than the one I was seeing for people of color. It was a story where food deserts, farm labor or the history of oppressive sharecropping and slavery didn’t define us. It was a reminder — no, a validation — that stewarding this land and eating the diet of my ancestors was indeed a path laid out for me, for all of us.

This promise of truth tugging at me on the farm is how I ended up out on the road digging for answers. This, I always conclude, is how I found myself living out of a 1990 Oldsmobile station wagon during the second-hottest year on record toting my Canon, pen and notebook around from farm to farm, traveling from the red-clay farms of the Black South to the desert farms of the Navajo Nation.

This is the story of The Color of Food and I hope you’ll join me as I share its lessons, reflections, and inspirations along with my continued experiences as a brown girl farming.

Photo by Natasha Bowens

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By 2025 half the newborn will be Autistic! That is the conclusion of Stephanie Seneff, Phd. a professor and researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She warned at a recent conference that, “At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.” She noted that the side effects of autism closely mimic those of glyphosate toxicity, and presented data showing a remarkably consistent correlation between the use of Roundup on crops (and the creation of Roundup-ready GMO crop seeds) with rising rates of autism. Children with autism have biomarkers indicative of excessive glyphosate, including zinc and iron deficiency, low serum sulfate, seizures, and mitochondrial disorder."

Glyphosate - Pronunciation: gli-fə-ˌsāt - Chemical formula, C3H8NO5P


Common sense should tell you that anything that does what roundup does to a plant, a living being, cannot be good or harmless to any other living beings.

How to Detect Autism

Moms and Dads, if your child is at least 6 months old and does not smile, it’s time for some serious concern. For more information and guidance consult the Global Autism Collaboration.

With the age old adage that one picture is worth a thousand words, I present two pictures that nail the lid on the coffin or Roundup. Use of this chemical should be banned.

Follow this link, Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines, and you will also find that Roundup induces breast cancer cell growth.

Cognitive Disorders

It not just herbicides that are destroying the brains and immune systems of the newborn, children and adults. The psychologists are starting to figure out what orgain gardeners, farmers and consumers have been screaming about for years An article in Psychology Today notes that “low-dose exposure to a variety of common pesticides and conditions ranging from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children to neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease in later life.”

Does the USA Really Feed the World?

The article explains that “By 2007, over 5 billion pounds of synthetic pesticides were sprayed, dusted, or coated on crops worldwide, according to the EPA.”

But the most striking statement made is that “The U.S. uses 22 percent of the total [pesticides] to produce 4.3 percent of the world's agricultural output.” That flies in the face of the ongoing lecture that US farmers feed the world.


Silent Spring Rachel Carson, one of my heroes, warned us about the dangers of chemical contamination from agriculture and industry in 1962 with her book Silent Spring. Since then the number of chemicals and the contamination of food and soil has increased by to the present level of 5 billion pounds or about four and a half pounds per person.


Global Autism Collaborative

Stealth Attack

• The work of Stephanie Seneff

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When we decide to grow our own food, we begin to reintegrate ourselves into nature's processes. Our western culture has been separating humans from nature for thousands of years. We tend to put each aspect of our lives into cubicles. We go downtown to the office. We expect agriculture to be off over the horizon. We “preserve” nature in special areas away from our work and living spaces. Then we go home where we have little in common with our neighbors. By growing our own food we bring a piece of agriculture and a piece of nature home with us. If our neighbors are doing the same, we will have that in common with our neighbors. This is the beginning of what I call “a pattern of interactions” that can build upon itself.

When we separate nature and agriculture and business and housing, we prevent the resources produced in one process from contributing to the productivity of other processes. Each process imports resources and uses them up. The by products become waste products. Resources are depleted.

In an integrated system, all of the products of an interaction can cycle locally. Food scraps from the table can feed the chickens. Chicken waste can feed the worms. Worms can feed the chickens. Worm castings can provide the nutrients for vegetables. Vegetable trimmings can feed the chickens. The chickens, eggs and vegetables can feed the people producing the table scraps. I call that “closing the production loops.” That is the way a system becomes healthy and how resources are conserved. A closed loop system can increase its contained resources with each process cycle.

Winter Greens 

There are no experts in what I am writing about. Our culture emphasizes separation rather than integration. We have thousands of knowledge specialties and few generalists. We belittle the generalist as a “jack of all trades and master of none.” But if we rely solely on experts we will always suffer unintended consequences because the expert has little knowledge of aspects of system function outside their expertise.

When experts give their opinion they are speaking from a silo of information that forms the boundary of their expertise. If you ask an agricultural scientist they can tell you all about the chemicals you need to grow food in a sterile system. They know no more than you about integrating agriculture into a naturally healthy system. If you ask an ecology scientist they can tell you all about the interactions in a natural system. They know no more than you about integrating a natural system into a suburban habitat. Every one reading this article is as qualified as anyone else to figure this out.

Building a Complex Pattern of Interactions

Imagine a pristine woodland or patch of prairie. What you see is beautiful and productive. It is a collection of individuals of many different species living together in the same space. Careful observation reveals a pattern of interactions among the many species. Interactions involve an exchange of nutrients. Each individual takes its turn as a consumer, excreting nutrients through its life until it becomes the eaten. As the nutrients cycle through all of the species the volume and variety of nutrients builds to increase the vitality of the pattern (the system). When we remove species from the pattern by logging, plowing or using poisons, we reduce the vitality of the pattern and it loses beauty and productivity. The capacity of the system to retain resources is also reduced.

When a leaf falls on healthy soil, bacteria and fungi begin to break it down. If the right species are present the products of the leaf are taken up and passed around. A particular atom of carbon from the leaf might cycle locally in the soil for a long time before it is lost to the atmosphere again. The length of time it takes depends on the number of species interacting within that space. As the number of interactions increase, the amount of carbon tied up in the form of nutrients increases. As the diversity of interactions increases, new forms of nutrients are available to support new forms of interactions.

The same principles apply to an economy. An increase in the number of interactions within a trading area results in an increase in the volume and variety of resources available to engage in new interactions. The interactions can form a feed back loop that builds resources into the economy.

I have no doubt that local production of food using a complex pattern of interactions can eliminate waste in the food system. By integrating humans into beautiful productive living systems we also address climate change and poverty as discussed in previous blogs. Perhaps in a future blog we can explore how integrating processes addresses violence in our society.

Closing Production Loops

When we concentrate animals into large facilities for feeding we increase the distance between the animal and the food source. If you put 10,000 chickens in a single building it becomes impractical to return the manure to the fields where the feed is grown. Then the farmer growing the feed has to buy fertilizer to replenish his depleted soils and the animal feeder has a waste problem disposing of the manure. Because the volume of manure is so great, the species who could have processed the manure into fertility in the soil cannot do their job. As a rule, the further apart our processes operate the fewer places there are for individuals of the many species to participate. The material that could have been processed and the participation of the species that could have done the processing are both wasted. Because of that waste, resources cannot build up in the system. Without a resource base we are more vulnerable to things that might disrupt those production processes. What happens if the cheap supply of food is disrupted?

Chicken Coop 

We cannot place a value on growing our own food in terms of money. Money measures “market value”. We value money based on the value of the things we can purchase for the money. Think about the value of your access to food. If you have money, food is relatively cheap. As the amount of money you have goes down the cost of food goes up as a percentage of income. Even more insidious, the nutrition contained in the food goes down when we are forced to choose calories over nutrition because of price. Then the value of the food is reduced even as the cost goes up.

Now think of owning the capacity to produce what we value. Increasing fertility in our local ecosystems creates a secure supply of food and a beautiful place to live. What value should we place on that?

The problems we face as a society are systemic. The problems derive from the way our culture has separated things. The solution requires that we integrate system processes at a scale where resources can cycle. It is entirely feasible to close our production loops and integrate our production processes. When we do, we create cells of sustainability. We are then less vulnerable to disruptions in supply lines and our habitat grows healthier and more beautiful with each production cycle. Each of you is as qualified as anyone else to do it and it all begins with the choice to grow our own.

I have been writing about specific techniques in this blog.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 



For an increasing number of Americans, the writing is on the wall when it comes to climate change. We have achieved scientific consensus, and the international community has finally recognized the shared responsibility that this problem represents.

Even so, skeptics remain who argue that accelerating climate change is neither humanity’s fault nor our responsibility.

What might be a little less taxing for the human imagination is the fact that we constantly affect the natural world around us in smaller and more easily observable ways. And one of the unexpected ways this happens concerns the worldwide illegal drug trade.

Let’s take a quick look at some of our drugs of choice and how they bring harm to the world’s already-fragile ecosystems.


Let’s ignore for a moment that 51 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization; that’s a debate for another day. We’re going to focus instead on some of the unintentional collateral damage of our fondness for cannabis.

Among the casualties are America’s national parks – particularly those in the Western US. Sequoia National Forest, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, is reportedly a popular haunt for some of Mexico’s drug traffickers who wish to stay under the radar. Their presence constitutes a risk to protected forests, which are often cut down to make room for staging areas and even runways.


But even cartel presence on protected land pales in comparison with the wholesale deforestation in Colombia. The thriving cocaine trade has taken a significant toll there, where it’s estimated that about 21.5 percent of the country’s coca fields were created by cutting down primary forests.

The cocaine trade spreads environmental damage other ways as well; in Peru and Uzbekistan, chemical agents known as mycotoxins have been in use since the 1980s in an effort to eradicate illegal crops and curb the spread of drugs. The problem is that these chemicals are known to be harmful to both humans and animals. The unauthorized use of mycotoxins constitutes a breach of the Biological Weapons Convention.

Prescription Drugs

Let’s take a moment to explore a problem that lives a little closer to home: in our medicine cabinets, to be exact. Antibiotics have done amazing things for our quality of life, but they also pose a significant risk to us any time they’re disposed of improperly, which happens all the time.

Research out of South Carolina indicates that, of the 128,000,000 prescriptions filled in the state each year, about 40 percent of it is never taken and eventually finds its way into the water table after people either flush them down the toilet or throw them out.

The damage goes far beyond “mere” water pollution; the problem actually exists at the cellular level. Medication in the water supply has the nasty habit of creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a phenomenon that results in a reported 65,000 deaths per year in the US.

A Shared Responsibility

This has been just a brief look at some of the ways that the chemicals we use to alter our bodies and minds may also alter the world around us. For a more comprehensive look, Clarity Way’s newest infographic (portion of the infographic pictured above) is well worth a look.

This isn’t about fear mongering or beating the Zero Tolerance drum. Drug policy is a complex issue, and one that will likely challenge us for a long time to come.

In the meantime, smaller battles can be won every time we recognize a new way that our habits hold the world hostage.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


natural gas

In an effort to live a greener, more eco-friendly lifestyle, you may be questioning the way you’re heating your home. This is especially true for those living in houses which are fitted with natural gas furnaces.

While the word natural is contained within the description of this fuel source, there’s great debate about how truly renewable and organic it may be.

Where Natural Gas Comes From

First, it’s critical to understand where and how we actually get natural gas. The gas, which is a combination of mostly methane mixed with other gases, occurs as a geological formation within the Earth. Once a large enough amount has been discovered, it is tapped by drilling wells. Using specialized equipment, the gas that is released from these wells is brought to the surface of the Earth and ultimately distributed to users across a region.

At first glance, this process seems to be entirely green; after all, we are taking a naturally occurring fuel and simply bringing it into our structures to burn. However, there are more elements to this picture to consider when determining the greenness of this product.

The Top Issues With Natural Gas

While the gas itself is natural, the methods used to bring it to market may be disconcerting for some people who want to live in an environmentally conscientious way. For instance, the machines that are utilized at drill sites use a wide variety of other fuels, including diesel fuel, oil and electricity (which is sometimes created using coal) to complete their jobs. This means that fossil fuels may be burned at high rates to get natural gas into our homes.

Another concern is that fracking – a method of bringing natural gas to the surface of the ground – may contribute to water pollution because chemicals are used. The levels of toxicity within the water and soil due to fracking is much debated among scientists, and is being studied widely to determine its validity as an argument against finding and uncovering natural gas. Additionally, when deposits of natural gas are removed, there is the chance for mini-earthquakes to occur.

In terms of renewability, natural gas is essentially a limited commodity. Although new sources of natural gas are being uncovered across the nation and world, it takes hundreds of thousands of years for reserves to be built back up. This means there will likely be some point in the future when natural gas is no longer feasible as an affordable fuel.

A final concern is that although methane only releases carbon dioxide and water when it is burned, any methane that escapes during the drilling process stays in the air for more than a decade. This may or may not be contributing to climate change.

Alternatives to Natural Gas

For green-driven consumers whose questions about natural gas production and usage create a desire to find an alternative fuel source, possibilities do exist. These can include burning wood, choosing solar power, harnessing wind power, using biofuels like sunflower oil or trying (pricey) radiant heat.  

Of course, if you don’t have the cash on hand to completely redo your heating system, you can always take the path of least harm. In the winter, you can simply keep the thermostat as low as possible, wear heavier clothing, insulate windows and doors, and use space heaters.

Just remember to follow recommended safety precautions when you’re using a natural gas furnace; this means being able to recognize any problems before they become major disasters.

Key Takeaways to Remember:

1. It’s critical to remember that when discussing natural gas or any heating source, we must always think beyond the obvious.

2. It isn’t just the fuel itself that makes it green, but how that fuel is brought into your home, how often it needs to be replenished and what it leaves in our atmosphere.

3. In the end, every homeowner must make the best decision for his or her family based on all the facts.

What are your thoughts about using natural gas for energy? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Photo by kobiecanka

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Seed Sharing Header

Sharing seeds is an innocent enough practice — people plant seeds, grow food, harvest it, save the seeds, and share the best ones with their neighbors. Humans have been doing it for thousands of years. But recently, seed sharing has come under attack. In June, agriculture officials in Pennsylvania cracked down on the Joseph T. Simpson public library’s seed library, stating that in order to comply with state law, the seeds needed to be put through burdensome, cost-prohibitive seed-testing procedures. Other states have followed suit.

But seed activists are fighting back. The Sustainable Economies Law Center has partnered with Shareable, Richmond Grows, and other seed sharing organizations on a multifaceted-campaign, including a petition urging state officials to protect seed libraries from aggressive regulation. The focus of the campaign is to get the word out about seed issues, educate people on the importance of sharing seeds, and address unnecessary legal restrictions placed on seed libraries.

9 Ways to Join the Seed Movement

Want to join the seed movement? Here are nine ways to get involved.

1. Use your local seed library. First things first: find a seed library and connect with the seed activists near you to find out what’s being done with the seed movement on a local level. SeedLibraries' “sister libraries” resource is a listing of nearly 400 seed libraries around the world.

2. If there isn't a seed library near you, start one. Seed libraries may be one of those things you can’t have too many of. Perhaps one day we’ll have an over-abundance of seed libraries. Until then, the more the merrier. Starting a seed library is definitely something you can do. Read Shareable's guide and check out Seed Libraries' website for more information.

Seed Sharing Petition

3. Protect your right to share seeds, sign the petition. Care about seed diversity and the future of seed libraries? Want to help protect seeds from being regulated into extinction? Sign the Legalize Seeds petition. Sponsored by the Sustainable Economies Law Center, Shareable, and Richmond Grows Seeds, the petition calls on the directors of all 50 U.S. State Departments of Agriculture to issue a public statement declaring that their state’s Department of Agriculture’s seed enforcement policy does not include seed libraries, and begin implementing regulations formalizing this policy.

4. Get educated. Check out the Community Seed Resource Program. Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) is on a mission to “conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.” SSE also offers dozens of educational resources. The Community Seed Resource Program, a collaboration between SSE and Seed Matters, provides tools and guidance for creating seed-focused events, exchanges, libraries and gardens. Resources offered include community seed toolkits, including seeds, educational tools, and seed saving supplies; access to SSE's national seed exchange; and mentorship.

5. Get the ultimate seed saving handbook, Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth

Widely considered the best book about seed saving, Seed to Seed is a detailed guide of specific techniques for saving the seeds of 160 vegetables. Covering everything from botanical classification, flower structure and means of pollination to the proper methods for harvesting, drying, cleaning, and storing the seeds, the book also provides regional knowledge from seed experts around the US.

Handful of Seeds

6. Teach the kids using Handful of Seeds: Seed Saving and Seed Study for Educators. Created by the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, a non-profit education center in Sonoma County that works to promote ecologically and culturally resilient communities, A Handful of Seeds is an introductory seed-saving curriculum for kindergarten through sixth grade. Seed saving can be used to teach science, language arts, math, social science, drama, music and more and the guide is a useful starting point for a variety of garden and environmental programs.

7. Join the Organic Seed Alliance. The Organic Seed Alliance is on a mission to advance “the ethical development and stewardship of the genetic resources of agricultural seed." Through research, education, and advocacy, the organization "addresses the consolidation of the seed industry by empowering regional seed networks to create change locally and nationally." Among the alliance's offerings are events, publications, webinars, and a seed saving guide for gardeners and farmers.

8. Read the Guide to Saving Seed, Seed Stewardship, and Seed Sovereignty Created by the Seed Ambassadors Project, an Oregon-based group of seed stewards with a global perspective, this guide is a collection of seed information and know-how created as a way to share the collective seed knowledge of the Seed Ambassadors to secure a resilient future. As the guide states, “We are losing diversity, biological and social, at an unprecedented rate. This erosion of diversity directly limits our ecological and social resilience and adaptability within this changing world.”

9. Find the other seed activists. Join the Seed Library Social Network The Seed Library Social Network brings seed activists to together online to brainstorm and strategize. Created in 2011 by seed activists working at the University of California at Santa Cruz’s Demeter Seed Library, the network now includes members from around the world.

A version of this article originally appeared on Shareable.

Top photo: Kate Ter Haar (CC-BY).

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All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

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MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.