Living Lightly in the City

If living in the city wasn't quite what the author wanted, she and her family are living lightly — more sustainably — by applying proven homesteading concepts.

| June/July 2006

  • living lightly in the city - Adrian filling bird feeder
    Linda Hochstetler’s son, Adrian, filling their bird feeder. Although the family is living in the city (Toronto), they're living there lightly.
    Photo courtesy of Linda Hochstetler
  • Scooter
    Linda Hochstetler uses an electric scooter to get around Toronto.
    Linda Hochstetler
  • living lightly in the city - Jeremy and Adrian
    Linda Hochstetler’s sons, Adrian and Jeremy, prepare produce for freezing.
    Linda Hochstetler
  • living lightly in the city - organic produce
    During the winter, organic veggies come to the family’s doorstep through a CSA (community-supported agriculture) subscription.
    Pete Gaffney
  • living lightly in the city - rain barrel
    The family uses a rain barrel to collect water for the flower and vegetable gardens.
    Linda Hochstetler
  • living lightly in the city - playing Monopoly
    Jeremy and Adrian play Monopoly in the kitchen with Josh and Josh’s girlfriend, Sammi.
    Linda Hochstetler
  • living lightly in the city - picking apples
    Linda Hochstetler’s family enjoys local, organic food. Adrian picks apples with his aunt and cousin (right).
    Linda Hochstetler
  • LindaRichard
    Linda and Richard, with Adrian.
    Linda Hockstetler

  • living lightly in the city - Adrian filling bird feeder
  • Scooter
  • living lightly in the city - Jeremy and Adrian
  • living lightly in the city - organic produce
  • living lightly in the city - rain barrel
  • living lightly in the city - playing Monopoly
  • living lightly in the city - picking apples
  • LindaRichard

My family and I live in Toronto, where I’m a social worker and my husband, Richard, is a home renovator. We live in the neighborhood of Roncesvalles, an older part of town originally settled by Polish immigrants and known for being a walking community.

Although I grew up in a small town and sometimes dream of moving to the country, I’ve found that living lightly can sometimes be easier in a city. In our multicultural neighborhood, one attitude everyone shares regardless of background is respect for healthy lifestyles. We chose to live in this neighborhood because people walk everywhere, cars slow down for pedestrians and bikes, nearly everyone gardens, and fresh food is readily available from local greengrocers, butchers and delis.

Our house is an old, two-story boarding house, built during the 1930s. We live here with our son, Adrian, and my two teenage stepsons, Jeremy and Josh, who are here on many weekends. This was our first house, and when we moved in seven years ago, we shared the cost and space with my husband’s brother, who lived on the second floor, while we took the first floor and partially finished basement.

When Richard’s brother moved into a new house two years later, we opted to turn the second floor into a separate apartment, from which we earn more than enough to pay the entire mortgage: not a bad trade for the loss of a few rooms! The rest of the house is just big enough for our needs, since each room serves more than one function. We think living in less space has helped us bond as a family, and we also appreciate spending less time cleaning.



Home Improvements

Toronto has numerous incentives that encourage homeowners to make environmentally friendly choices. We have taken advantage of several of these incentives, and in the past five years, we’ve received more than $1,400 in rebates.

The first summer after we bought our house, we took part in the city’s “downspout disconnection” program and redirected the runoff water from our house into rain barrels. Toronto started this program to reduce the amount of water flowing into the storm sewers; during heavy rains, overloaded sewers can back up into basements or overflow into lakes and rivers. The city provided two rain barrels and a whole new gutter system, labor included, all for the cost of one rain barrel ($60). In the front yard, I have the rain barrel hooked into a drip irrigation system for my flowers, and in the back yard, I use the water for the vegetable garden.






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