Living a more ‘green’ existance? My top five favorite strategies

Globigerina_wondercabinet_PhillyTeam
Wonder Cabinet’s Globigerina

Wonder Cabinet

It seems that living a ‘greener’ life can actually be a very subjective process, as individuals make specific choices for lifestyle habits, eco-passions, or environmental issues that he or she considers most pressing. I realize that my choices are just as biased to my own subjective views and particular soapboxes, or so-called ‘green’ priorities.

1. Support local.
There are myriad benefits to supporting local movements and businesses. For one, you are investing in your own local economy, which adds to revitalization of the area in which you live, builds community, and provides numerous long-term perks. Second, you are decreasing the use of energy to transport items long distances. Third, you are making choices to support items p1oduced by individuals who earn a living wage for what they do. And fourth, you are considering your choices more carefully, whether that be a hand screen-printed organic cotton t-shirt, or local produce. I am lucky to have Greensgrow Farms  right here in my neighborhood in Philadelphia, and Greensgrow is a stellar example of an amazing local endeavor gone right.  The farm was actually built on a superfund site, using hydroponic agriculture and raised beds, and it is thriving as it directly supports, and is supported by, its local community, with a spring nursery, a CSA program, a regular farm stand full of all kinds of local produce, mik, dairy, eggs, meats, and hand-crafted goodies like arugula pesto and the most amazing smokey eggplant dip imagineable.

2. Cloth Diapering.
I know that there have been studies ‘demonstrating’ that the use of energy and water to wash cloth diapers negates its environmental benefit. But I’m sorry. There are plenty of studies that show that water use is wholly dependent on where you live (and I live in the most flood-prone state in the union) and in my opinion, untreated human waste, wrapped in plastic, sitting in a landfill for the next thousand years (trash in landfills don’t really decompose very quickly, to say the least) is simply not the same as using a bit more water and energy. It’s not equal! Check out an earlier post about greener breastfeeding support.

3.  Kitchen Gardens
I live in the middle of a working class, urban neighborhood in Philadelphia, I have a fantastic organic farm minutes away from me (right in the middle of the city), as described above, but I have no community garden in site. Community gardens are a fantastic investment of time and energy, and if I didn’t have so much on my plate, I might try to mobilize the formation of on. However, despite my absence of actual ‘land’ (we have what they call a “pavement” around here), I manage to grow quite a bit through the use of pots, trellises, and window boxes. Nearly everything in my garden is either a food or an herb, so that I can maximize the space rather than growing annuals that might not help feed the family. I just wish I could do more! Though I am an herbalist, that doesn’t mean I’m a gardener, and I am definitely learning more with every growing season, especially with a handy subscription to Organic Gardening. Someday I’ll have a ‘real’ plant-things-in-the-ground garden.

4. Keep your own Chickens
I had to put this in here because I think this is a brilliant move; many individuals are engaging in raising their own chickens, which is awesome! Fresh, organic eggs in your own yard; lovely fat chickens when needed; and certainly, a smaller population of pests such as ticks, a favored snacks of our poultry friends.  This is a fantasy for me at the moment, but again, someday when I have my own yard, perhaps!

Mushrooms_Pigeonsintheattic

Pigeons in the Attic's Toppled Mushrooms

 Pigeons in the Attic

5.  Composting, urban or rural
There is just no excuse for not composting this day and age, no matter where you live. I am a hypocrite here, because I have really wanted to figure out a good system for urban composting that is going to work for me and my family with extremely limited space. However, I have heard that many Montrealers have this down, and I have no doubt that there are resources out there for figuring out a good system. There is simply no excuse for throwing away kitchen scraps, tea and coffee waste, and especially herbal matter when one could be turning it all into garden GOLD!

Extra!  Recycle, upcycle, downcycle, whatever
I love the many artisans out there who upcycle sweaters, vintage clothing, leather, plastic–you name it–in order to create incredibly useful, beautiful hand-crafted pieces. I’ve purchased leg warmers upcycled from cashmere sleeves, notebook cases from recycled herringbone fabric, and other items with this focus on re-purposing goods that would otherwise go to waste, languish in thrift stores, or end up in the trash. I was walking outside one night and it happened to be ‘trash night’, when I happened across a pile of so-called trash left out for the trucks. Full art boxes filled with sponge stamps, paints, brushes, markers, and other crafty items intended for children! I was shocked that anyone would throw this out rather than even trying to take it to the thrift store, but Americans are notoriously wasteful. We would do better to learn from our European cousins or even our Canadian sisters and brothers to the North: even the plastic wrapper from a tea bag can be recycled. Do it! (and pay no mind to this hilarious blog post that pokes a little fun at those who prefer to recycle.) Just as an FYI: there’s a new on-line venue, Cosa Verde, that tries to bring together many of these artisans with ‘green’ practices.

Girls can tell moleskin

Girlscantell crafted moleskin

So tell me, what are your favored strategies for Greener Living? Comment below so that I and my readers can benefit from all that creativity and originality out there!
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10 Responses to Living a more ‘green’ existance? My top five favorite strategies

  1. lolasmum says:

    Great list, Sarah!

    You know supporting local business and cloth diapering have got to be tops on my list!

    Another thing I try to do is think twice before buying and thing that is a “convenience.” Convenience tends to equal waste. I can make my own convenience food – without the preservatives, thank you very much. Convenience also crops up in cleaning supplies, skincare, etc…

    tara – handmadeinpa.net

  2. lilithsapothecary says:

    That’s a great mentality to have, Tara — the ‘do i really need it’ strategy and the ‘is this needlessly creating more waste when I can do it myself’ questioning. I always feel that way when it comes to paper. And you know, for as much as I don’t love plastic, there are cool, very durable plastic plates that would be just as good for picnics as paper. Bring a gallon ziplock (which will, of course, be washed out and reused) and wash ‘em when you get home.

  3. Thanks so much for including my mushroom picture! My mushroom photography exhibit coming up has an enviromental theme. It is so fitting that you included the photo here. The exhibit is titled “Please Don’t Kick Me!” So to everybody out there please do not knock off your mushrooms. Please.

    P.S. Composting… Heck yeah I compost! :-)

    • lilithsapothecary says:

      Great Rebecca! Thanks so much for letting us know! You’ll have to let us know the details so us local Philadelphians can look out for ya? Hey, do you do urban composting? I’d love to know more about your strategies on the subject (a big traditional composting bin is just not really possible for me…and what about all that ‘brown matter’ one needs? (Straw, etc) I wouldn’t even know where to find it here down in urban-land! :-)

  4. Hi Lilith!

    Search the internet for vermicomposting “Under Counter” Just use newspaper as a bedding for the worms, (as opposed to manure). Many companies sell neat under counter bins. Look for one that has a charcoal filter topper. You can also order worms on the internet, “Red Wigglers”.

    Here’s a link: http://www.vegetariantimes.com/features/ft_eco_living/512

    I saw Martha Stuart make one one-time using a plastic tub with lid, and she just drilled holes in the top and placed worms and moist newspaper in there, and added food scraps right away. :-)Make sure the plastic bin fits under your sink before you drill holes in it. You could always return it and get a different size.

    enjoy & good luck!

    • lilithsapothecary says:

      This is a great tip, Rebecca! I noted another mention of the worm strategy in a recent issue of Mother Earth News, so I am really intrigued. This might be the perfect solution to a tiny urban back yard. The under the sink idea is also intriguing. Thanks for your great advice, and I hope to see you again!

  5. Mary Powell says:

    I have a small compost pile in my Medford, NJ backyard. Granted, it is larger than most city lots, but my compost pile is small. I started it with a pile of dead leaves (brown) and add coffee grounds and vegetable peelings etc(green). It seems to be working well. When I turn it over, there are tons of bugs in there. My current pile is about 2ft square. Enough, but not so big you can’t do it in an urban lot.

    • lilithsapothecary says:

      Mary,
      Thanks for sharing your experiences with composting with a small pile. It sounds like it’s something that is just worth diving into this summer. Perhaps if I get someone to build a wooden ‘box’ like a raised bed that I could use to kind of contain everything and keep urban critters away? You know what i mean! I’m sure that those buggies and worms or whatever woud do their good work for me.

  6. Hi again!

    As long as you don’t throw meat and or grease/fat in your outdoor compost rodents, and animals won’t be interested. Sometimes a squirrel or chipmunk tries to get in the sides because I accidentally throw one of their nuts or seeds in there. But they don’t bother anything. No meat… no critters.

    Animals getting in the compost is just a big myth that most people pass around who think composting is gross. My opinion is that it all started in the day of weed wackers and “modern marvels” where everybody just threw out everything.

    • lilithsapothecary says:

      Rebecca,

      thank you for those thoughts! I still have to convince my urbanite husband…but you’re right. That’s probably an urban legend. lol. Squirrels seem to prefer to take my fresh tomatoes right off the vine, take one bite, and THEN chuck it in my yard. Thank you for that feedback!

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