Taking the Steps We Can to Live More Sustainably

| 1/22/2010 3:35:39 PM

Rancho goatsLike most young families we didn’t have any extra money. We would have cherished a sleek, fuel-efficient car but we couldn’t afford to turn down my grandmother’s leviathan, hand-me-down station wagon. Our rented house was not well insulated but it needed to stay warm, especially while we had babies, so the furnace ran all the time. There were lots of trips to the market and the pediatrician. I wanted to minimize my negative impact on the planet but I needed to care for my family. I felt I needed to stay engaged with my life in a modern society.

If I stopped holding myself to an unrealistic standard, I found I could take great satisfaction in small achievements. The landlord was happy to pay for the materials and helped me install new insulation in the attic. It made the house a lot cozier, and cheaper to heat. We found an inexpensive, fuel-efficient used car. I kept the leviathan for my short commute to work, but the daily family errands and longer trips could be taken in the smaller car. We bought a living Christmas tree and planted it in the backyard after the holidays. When spring came, we planted a bigger garden. Gradually our life became more sustainable and more satisfying.

We’re still working on it.

This essay is excerpted from Beautiful and Abundant: Building the World We Want published by B&A Books in December, 2010. The book is available now on the Mother Earth News bookshelf.  

Bryan Welch is the Publisher and Editorial Director of Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Connect with him on .

For further optimistic discussion about our future, read Beautiful and Abundant by Bryan Welch and connect with Beautiful and Abundant on Facebook. 

3/16/2010 9:12:47 AM

This magazine makes me happy just reading things people are doing to be off-grid, sustainable, independent or whatever else we want to call it. I am still new to this but my motivation is to be self-sufficient, as off-grid as I can be while leaving in small town. This will be my first year - I will grow garden, install rain collection system to water it. I have made my own maple syrup this year and it was extremely satisfying experience eating sourdough pancakes(home made from culture) with home made maple syrup. There is nothing like it.

Margaret Meyer-Smith
3/15/2010 12:04:12 PM

I found that when my husband was laid off it was really handy to have a large garden and our own chickens till he got back to work. I know I am not the only mom in this position, plus it is a good activity and entertainment for the kids.

K. Pinet_2
2/12/2010 9:05:42 PM

t. brandt, You sound like a philosopher. I think you are right on with the individual living a better way of life and their collective impact on society. We need to get away from entities that are "Too big to fail." Smaller more local sustainable businesses will do better for our country and the world in the long run. Living more realistically is the place to start. Bryan does a good job relating the situation to peoples own backyard!!

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