Friday, June 3, 2011

what sustainability means to me

AKA: What the hell is the difference between going green and urban homesteading and non-toxic living and organic products and sustainable living and all those other terms I hear?? And which labels apply to me?

"Going Green": this is the one we probably all started hearing first. All about being environmentally-friendly, right? You buy things that don't kill the fish once you pour it down the drain, that save electricity - and thus fossil fuels, that use less water, that aren't produced with toxic chemicals that can cause your kids to get cancer. To me, though, this term is so vague it's almost laughable. It's turned into a marketing ploy to make you feel better about buying, consuming, and generally being the same as before. To truly "be green", you have to read the labels, do your research, understand exactly how this product/process/practice is better than what you were doing before.

"Urban Homesteading": this is starting to become a lot more popular. Urban and suburban families, in tight quarters, learn how to turn their little place in the world into a mini-farm. Farms being places where you use, reuse, do things yourselves with grit and elbow grease. These folks raise chickens, compost with worms, grow as much as they can on their patio and when they run out of space, use abandoned lots for community gardens. They can their own jams and tomatoes, make their own mayo, use baking soda and vinegar by the pound, and have that can-do spirit. It kinda makes me want to live less rural (ok, everything about me screams "get me outta the pastures!").

"Non-Toxic Living": start reading the labels on every product you'll use, and you'll quickly get the point of this. We are constantly exposed to petro-chemicals and man-made concoctions. Some industries that use these products are not regulated in terms of what they use and how they market them, and the ones that are regulated... well, it's the government regulating these things; you decide how you feel about that. There is a lot of concern that these toxins cause cancer and any number of other ailments. For some folks, this can be solved by a combination of "old-fashioned" (pre-industrial) / homemade goods that have worked for generations and new technologies that produce our modern accomplishments in a more-natural way.

"Organic Products": this concept, more than any other, has evolved for me. It used to mean a stamp of approval, a lack of chemicals, assurance that everything was shiney clean. No chemicals, hormones, or anti-biotics; living in pastures with all their parts in tact; being shaved of their wool without needing to die in the process. Well, not anymore for me. I don't take the "free range" label or the organic labels too seriously. So many of those concepts are government-regulated, a government who has been in the pocket of the food & farm industry for far too long. Corporations know how to get around the red tape and through the loop holes, and can afford the certifications. Local farmers and producers can't afford the pricey certifications, but they can still produce the best "organic" products you'll find. For me, "organic" merely means knowing where it comes from: how it was made, where it was made, what was/wasn't done to make it a better-for-you/the-animal/the-community/the-world product. My new favorite phrase is "we-can't-afford-the-certification-but-really-are-quite organic".

"Sustainable Living": For me, it all comes down to sustainability; I sort of think of this as the big umbrella over all of these concepts. Using renewable resources in a way that allows them to replenish themselves before we need/use again. Making do with what we have, rather than consuming more than we need. Being a part of the full cycle of seasons, of growing, of the circle of farm life pest control where the ducks eat the snails and the cats eat the mice; of planning for more than just the next day or week or month or year, but for our lifetime. It can apply to what we eat (local/organic, not shipped from South America), what we put on our bodies (no-poo, not toxin-filled shampoos), what we buy for our houses (sustainably-forrested durable wood, not cheap plastic crap), and what/how we grow around us (gardens watered with rain barrels and pests controlled by natural products or natural methods, not water-depleting hoses and pest poisons).
Do you embrace any of these concepts? Practice them? Disagree with their principals or how I've put them?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


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