I Can Always Do More – An Earth Day Reflection

Many of us live in the I Can Always Do More reality.  Well, this past Monday evening, Joelle and I heard a speaker that may have come the closest I have seen to pulling herself out of this reality by simply maximizing her sustainable efforts every moment of every day.  Even though I’m sure she would say she can still do more! The speaker; Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home.

 

The event took place at the Shedd Aquarium, who we were very enthusiastic to find is taking sustainability, and teaching others about sustainability, very seriously right here in Chicago.  They partnered with Zero Waste Chicago, which is the local chapter of the movement Bea’s book and efforts have triggered worldwide.  

 

The theme of her presentation and of her book, Zero Waste Home, is simple; reduce your waste, and therefore your environmental impact, to as close to zero as possible.  In Bea’s case, her entire family of four produces enough trash to fill a small glass jar in not a week… not a month… but an entire year! She even brought her 2017 glass jar of trash to prove it.  

 

The 5 R’s Bea abides by are not new – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot – but the way she employs them are profound.  By way of example, each time she travels she packs her entire wardrobe into a single carry on bag… that’s literally every article of clothing she owns.  Her family buys a locally made wooden toothbrush, which goes into the compost when it’s time for a new one… except for the bristles which they pluck out and add to the glass trash jar since they are not a natural material.  She only buys food in bulk or from local markets that she can place in reusable bags or fill in her own glass jars – she even has a sweet Bulk Finder tool on her website!  And pretty much any cosmetic, toiletry, or cleaning product is homemade from natural ingredients – which she also has wealth of resources about on her Blog.

 

The lifestyle choices and overall impact Bea and her family choose to make daily were inspiring to hear, and left me mulling a few thoughts this week heading into Earth Day:

 

  1. The Spectrum of Sustainability is Broad.  The road to sustainability for Joelle and I started with food and nutrition.  The road has since split into many other focuses of sustainability of which many are shared with Bea including minimalism, toxic free living, and composting.  Bea started with zero waste, and through it, also came to see the value of the local food system and nutrition. Sustainability as a concept is vast with many uncharted territories.  Each entry point, motivation, and step along the way is a cause worth celebrating!
  2. Zero Waste Needs to be Learned.  It struck me as fascinating that our culture’s current reality – filling up giant bins with trash every week – is so normal and accepted, and Bea’s methods are so foreign and unfamiliar.  In essence, throwing away absurd amounts of trash needs to be Un-Learned, and Zero Waste needs to be Learned. Bea even took a comical approach to this saying things like, “Oh, but we all dream of a world filled with plastic for our kids to grow up in, right?”  Humorous… but oh so true! Trash is the norm and our current trajectory is literally a world filled with plastic. There is a very finite amount of time we can get by with paying someone to haul it away for us so we never have to think about it again, before it catches up to us to have major impacts on the health of all things that depend on the water, soil, air, and sun for life.  Many would argue it already has!
  3. Sustainability is happening in Chicago!  This was a sold out, free event at the Shedd Aquarium that I would say had 150-200 people in attendance.  An expo was held beforehand with tables of many local sustainably minded companies and initiatives with the likes of reusable products, composting programs, local food production and a bunch more.  We were also encouraged to hear from interacting with a Shedd employee that this event was just one of many conservation and sustainability efforts hosted by Shedd that engages and educates the Chicagoland community.  You could feel the enthusiasm, comradery, and advocacy of each person there. They have more similar events on the dockett, so stay tuned!
  4. I Can Always Do More.  That’s right – WE can always do more!  I’m guessing when Bea started out, a single glass jar of trash after an entire year seemed like an impossible feat.  But now, it’s common practice for her family and a glass jar gets added every year. Earth day reminds us that our planet is worth fighting for… yes, even worth sacrificing for in our daily lives.  As Bea put it, Living with LESS = Living MORE. And doing MORE, even a seemingly small choice today, can add up to big impacts for our planet.

 

This Earth Day, what is your MORE?  And doing MORE, in the words of Bea, often means living with LESS!  Where is there unnecessary abundance in your life? What streams of waste do you see that can be avoided?  What do you consume that is overly convenient or disposable that you can take a different approach to? Bea’s book or website would be a great place to start for inspiration in how to go about making these choices.  Small choices become big habits. In light of Earth Day, I challenge all of us to begin applying a filter of sustainability to our daily choices.  Where do our daily lifestyle choices harm, not help, the cause? We all have a long list to improve on, and together we can choose to DO MORE, and LIVE MORE.

Dollars Equal Support

Dollars = Support

I’ve been fighting it all day – the feeling that I need to be out there shopping today.  Black Friday.  To boot, I’ve hardly even scoured the ads, so not only am I not there in the thick of it, I don’t even know the potential deals I am missing out on.  Can anyone relate to feeling that today is just too big a day to miss out on?

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Where we’ve been, are now, and are going…

Where we’ve been, are now, and are going…

Where we’ve been?

We’ve taken a much longer break than we anticipated from contributing to this site… and are ok with it.  Seasons ebb and flow, life changes, speeds up and slows down.  So, we thought we’d give you a little insight into what’s been going on and where we are headed.

Fall has finally begun to settle in and our bodies are feeling ready to move into this next season of shorter days and new focuses.  Our summer has been interesting and different for us, but also exactly what we wanted to pursue.  The two most shaping occurrences were hosting a young girl through Safe Families and expanding our backyard micro farm.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Granola Crisp

Strawberry Rhubarb Granola Crisp

Tis the season when strawberries and rhubarb abound in gardens and farmers markets!  These late spring/early summer crops pair together perfectly with the sweetness of the strawberry offsetting the tartness of the rhubarb.  Rhubarb has always intimidated me, but this year I am determined to harvest and incorporate everything we can from our garden into our meals.  I’m so glad I did because rhubarb is super easy to harvest and prepare and this crisp turned out amazing.  In fact, Jim complimented that it was one of the best things he’s ever had!  I’ll link to the homemade granola recipe that we make and used for this but any granola should work.  Enjoy!

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We Gave Up This for TV and Videogames?!

We Gave Up This for TV and Videogames?!

Any spare time we have had over the last two weeks has gone to tilling, planting, watering, chicken coop building, and related activities.  In one of these planting sessions, Jim made the above comment “We gave up THIS for TV and videogames?”  The more we learn about growing our own food and the industrial food system the more we are compelled to really know where our food came from.  Not just was it organically grown but what was its life really like.  There’s a lot of marketing ploy mumbo jumbo out there you see often:  all natural, cage free, grass fed, etc.  Companies know these labels will sell their product and commonly do the bare minimum to get them on their packaging.  Which is why we encourage everyone to grow your own food, talk to your farmer yourself, or better yet, go visit the farm.  How else will you know what you are really eating?

I could go on and on about this but the great farmer and writer, Wendell Berry, does it so much better in his essay The Pleasure of Eating.  I highly recommend giving the whole essay a read but this excerpt summarizes why we are so convinced that it is important for our own health and the health of the world to know the source of our food.

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Learning to Nurture

Learning to Nurture

In Wendell Berry’s, The Unsettling of America, he describes two types of people: the exploiter and the nurturer.  He states:

“Let me outline as briefly as I can what seem to me the characteristics of these opposite kinds of mind.  I conceive a strip miner to be a model exploiter, and as a model nurturer I take the old-fashioned idea or ideal of a farmer.  The exploiter is a specialist, an expert; the nurturer is not.  The standard of the exploiter is efficiency; the standard of the nurturer is care.  The exploiter’s goal is money, profit; the nurturer’s goal is health – his land’s health, his own, his family’s, his community’s, his country’s.  Whereas the exploiter asks of a piece of land only how much and how quickly it can be made to produce, the nurturer asks a question that is much more complex and difficult: What is its carrying capacity? (That is: How much can be taken from it without diminishing it? What can it produce dependably for infinite time?) The exploiter wishes to earn as much as possible by as little work as possible; the nurturer expects, certainly, to have a decent living from his work, but his characteristic wish is to work as well as possible.  The competence of the exploiter is in organization; that of the nurturer is in order – a human order, that is, that accommodates itself both to other order and to mystery.  The exploiter typically serves an institution or organization; the nurturer serves land, household, community, place.  The exploiter thinks in terms of numbers, quantities, “hard facts”; the nurturer in terms of character, condition, quality, kind.”

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Spring Chicken Fever!

Spring Chicken Fever!

At Creating Sustainable Roots we believe living more sustainably means bringing agriculture back into urban settings and we’ve found raising backyard chickens is one of the most fun and productive ways to do this!  Chickens have the capability to provide soil cultivation, weed control, insect control, natural and super effective fertilizer, compost, education for children, a very abundant and healthy source of nutrition in their eggs, and bring a lot of joy to your life.

We first got 6 baby chicks in the spring of 2014 and have been hooked ever since.  They are easy to care for and there really is nothing quite like checking the laying box and seeing a fresh bundle of eggs just waiting to hit the frying pan!  We parted ways with those chickens just before this past winter when their egg laying had more or less stopped and have been dreaming about new ones each day since.

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We have a website!

Hi!  We are so glad you found creatingsustainableroots.com.  Our site is just beyond conception but we are looking to progressively launch in the weeks and months ahead.  We believe in a life that is pure, simple, and sustainable.  To us, the phrase “Creating Sustainable Roots” captures this perfectly and our goal is to live it daily.  Come back soon as we document our many adventures.