1. Motivation

WHAT is sustainability?

There are a number of definitons, but basically, the concept of sustainability means achieveing a perpetual state of stability between





Can SUSTAINABILITY work in a recession?

Sustainability was MEANT for recessions. Better yet, you will learn such great money saving tips that you will find they are helpful for your whole life! Keep reading and you will find out how to help your pocketbook, improve your health, keep your health, and protect the lives of those closest to you!

In fact, I’ll bet that in a two worker household, one of you could stay home from all the money you can save by being sustainable. Sound interesting? It works. For an idea how to stop the current cycle: http://www.storyofstuff.com/movies-all/story-of-stuff/

WHO is this for?

 The recycling rate has tripled in the past 30 years and waste in landfills has decreased from 89% to 54% (meaning more is getting recycled). HOW did that happen? You? Me? Your neighbors? Well, a lot of us started becoming more conscious and it’s still growing! Travel to Europe and you’ll tell, it’s the “norm” there. I don’t want to be odd man out anymore, so I for one hope the U.S. can pick up the pace. The easiest and most effective way (Ripley’s Believe it or Not) is individual participation. Yup. You and me. Pretty cool to think how much of a difference people have made already and how much more we can do.

Thoughtful reflections from my sister:

An important part of sustainability is to give credit to families that pass it down through generations. Our grandparents and especially Mom and Dad give us food all the time they have grown: fresh carrots, potatoes, herbs, meat, etc. Actually, we’re heading up there today to make a big batch of burritos to freeze! And they help us can our own foods. This may sound time consuming, but even if you just pick one weekend to do a bunch of canning, you will make a substantial impact.

Encouraging family members to do the same (be sustainable) and being supportive of their efforts will not only help your family, but will help by passing it on to future generations.

 WHY worry about it?

People in the United States (and other affluent countries) are blessed with excess…but with those blessings comes a responsibility to use just what we need and to save the rest so that future generations can live healthy, happy lives like we get to live.

The concern with our current living habits: how LARGE is our environmental IMPACT?


Population within the United States is at or below a sustainable level (around 2 children per couple, or replacement rate). So this factor is more of a concern in developing countries. The U.S. needs to maintain a healthy birth rate in order to maintain a tax base, so a certain number of children DO need to be born every year to keep our society functioning properly! In developing countries, support systems for families can encourage survival rates and education which leads to more stabilized moderate family size.

Affluence is the number one influence for un-sustainable behavior. Our convenience lifestyles in developed countries have a major impact on the earth in the form of pollution and excessive use of natural resources.

Technology Use can work toward sustainably helpful or unsustainably harmful purposes. Changes in application of technology can lead to more sustainable practices.


For an example of how someone has used I=PxAxT to change their business: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iP9QF_lBOyA

How to reduce your environmental impact:

  • Ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”
  • “What is the purpose for buying this product and do I have something at home that can work in its place?”
  • “Is it something I can buy, borrow, or get free from a second hand source?”
  • To get an idea of your environmental impact (and where to improve on), try out the quick calculator here: http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu

Recycling is already a well-known sustainability measure. So I won’t go into detail. But here are some basics:

The biggest areas of improvement for recycling in the U.S. are as follows:

  • Paper products – Your local recycling spot should have a place for paper.
  • Steel – The price of steel is as high as ever, and you can make big money selling your scrap metal to local buyers! We earned over $300 just cleaning up old equipment and junk around the farm!
  • Aluminum – When you are done with your can, save them up in a bin for 5-10 cents each. That adds up! You can also clean up your roadways by filling garbage bags with cans. Sell them back to buyers for cash!
  • Plastics – If you must buy, check for #1 or #2, as those are recyclable and the rest probably not. These might include your milk jugs, beverage containers, detergent, plastic bags, etc.
  • Wood – Try advertising it on freecycle or craigslist. People with wood stoves love to find free wood!

Seems kinda hard…Is it?

Any change takes time, then once you’ve been doing it for a week or so, your brain automatically will do what you want without even thinking about it! So, if you like soda pop, start there.

  1. Get a container to keep the empty cans in (this can be as simple as a paper bag from the grocery store).
  2. When the fill up, take them to your local recycling place (Google: your county name and recycling center to find the one nearest you).
  3. Next, work on separating your milk jugs and bottled water into another container.
  4. Then the big one…Look for an alternative to bottled water, such as a filter for your faucet or a Brita jug for your fridge.
  5. And now the biggest…Ask your friends about it, talk over ideas, see what is working for them and share what worked for you! (This is the funnest part, getting fun tips and helpful information. It’s amazing how much people know if you take the initiative to ask!)


What’s even better than recycling? REFUSING!

To learn why PLASTIC is the single most important pollutant for individuals such as myself and yourself to refuse to by (basically, why recycling is not “good enough”): http://plasticpollutioncoalition.org/learn/basic-concepts/


Why do humans need to be “sustainable“? Studies show (and common sense, think of how this relates your own life…) that humans NEED nature. Many of us love our pets, right? And people who have pets live longer. Well, that is the idea. We obviously need sunshine for photosynthesis (growing things)…Take that one step farther and think about if you got through winter, just to have winter again. I know I get spring fever and all I want to do is be outside to get some sunshine after a long winter! THAT is how we “need” nature. So it’s really in our best interest to make sure we keep having sunshine…and clean water…and fresh, crisp air…and ice cream. 😉

Types of Sustainable Thinking Ethics by Bob Doppelt

  1. Do what is best for the greatest number of people
  2. Act in accordance with the laws you would want everyone else to follow in similar situations
  3. Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

How to implement these ethics for sustainability:

  1. Recognize the issue
  2. Is the issue a concern between right and wrong?
  3. Is the issue a concern between right and more right?
  4. Apply the three types of sustainable thinking ethics to make a decision about the issue
  5. Act, evaluate, learn, improve

Here’s an example:

  1. Identify issue: Should I start growing a garden?
  2. It’s not “wrong” not to grow a garden, just not fun or helpful not to!
  3. Yes, eating food grown in your own garden is safer, healthier, closely available, and involves less packaging than if I purchased all my food.
  4. Ethics considerationsActions:
    1. I will cut down on pollution, which is good for all people
    2. I am not harming anyone by growing a garden, on the contrary, I’m helping!
    3. Maybe I can share my extra food with neighbors, and if my neighbor grows different kinds of foods, maybe they will share with me!
    1. I start by asking my friend, a gardener, about gardening tips.
    2. I will start by learning how to make my own compost
    3. I will find scrap wood to build little box containers or raised beds
    4. I can buy seeds from a local company or online
    5. I will keep notes of my plants and what grows well for me.
    6. At the end of the season, I will celebrate with a harvest dinner and invite my friends over!

Reference: Doppelt, Bob. The Power of Sustainable Thinking: How to Create a Positive future for the Climate, the Planet, your Organization, and your Life. (2009) London: Earthscan, 136-141.

Why Civility Matters

Becoming a sustainable society requires interaction, respect, and consideration between people. I recently read an article in the AARP Bulletin (hey, information is everywhere, right!?) written by Sara Hacala who writes that “rudeness is pervasive and rising” and incivility has many social and financial costs that impact “homes and relationships, schools, economy, health care, and government.” The word civility in Latin means “good citizen” and can be the difference between life and death, surviving or thriving. Hacala recommends five tools for improving civility:

  1. Make kindness, generosity, and gratitude a habit. (Studies show if you do, you will live longer, be healthier, and lead a happier life!)
  2. Nurture/encourage social interaction and especially relationships. Instead of automatically sending your friend an email, try calling or planning a face-to-face visit. (Internet is not bad, but humans need direct interaction because a large percentage of what we say is not our actual words, but how we say things and our gestures. Plus, human contact is a form of “nature” which we have learned is so important!
  3. Maintain communication. She refers to medical doctors, to make sure you are getting individual care and concerns are identified. But, this also applies to any aspect, such as business dealings, community functions, and political ties.
  4. Seize “teachable moments” with your younger relatives (such as grand children or nieces/nephews). Studies show that a. we are lacking in teaching young people respect/manners and b. social skills are more important for adult success than test scores. This relates to #2, face-to-face interaction.
  5. Vote for decency in your elected officials. Some people say, “What they do in their own time is their own business.” But when Clinton was president, his affair was obviously very public and an unacceptable example for young people. Our president for petes sake!

Hacala ends by saying this: “These are the seeds we can all plant. One at a time.”

Sara Hacala. Why civility matters: With this handy tool kit, we can help reverse a trend of bad behavior. March 2012. AARP Bulletin. (This is not an online source, but you may be able to find it at the website www.aarp.org or by going to the author’s website: www.savingcivility.com)

You may have heard about large companies creating genetically modified foods that will save developing countries from starvation. Well, those countries are starving for a lot of reasons, but GM industrial food (strings attached, because remember even if these countries buy this seed to grow on their own, they must then be dependent to buy their seed every year from that business. Ahah, therein lies the secret: profit! More profit for the seed company and less for the farmer!)

What you can do instead is support organizations that are working in developing countries to teach the locals how to grow foods that do well in their area and work with farmers to increase their ability to feed themselves such as through the Heifer International program. A heifer is given to a family and the organization helps them with the animal and when the animal has offspring, the family gifts some offspring to more families with the idea of “paying it forward.”

Another great way to help those less fortunate is to join a mission group. There are many mission style groups out there with different purposes. Some may be religious orientation others may be environmental others may simply be helping for social wellbeing. Consider taking a week or two of a different kind of vacation! Plus, the “cost” of travel is no more expensive than any where else you would travel and modest accomodations are often included in the cost of the trip for workers.

For more information on helping people in developing countries become more sustainable and how to be an impact in your own community, check out this book: Kingsolver, Barbara; Hopp, Steven L.; Kingsolver, Camille. (2007). Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A year of food life. New York: Harper Collins, 165 and 226-227.

8 thoughts on “1. Motivation

  1. Shawna

    To the egg carton comments, my dream would be zero trash, so when mine get dirty I stockpile them for fire starters. I fill the cartons with my saved dryer lint then pour any leftover candle wax on them to make them more water resilient for times we use them for other than our wood stove. Thank you Pinterest 🙂 I think the wax also helps them burn slower, thus starting the fire with so much less effort.


  2. Jan

    I am so happy to hear that you’re trying to go plastic-less as much as possible; that was one of my New Year’s Resolutions this year, too!

    Another is “considering the source”: When I stop to think about how a company can manufacture a gazillion widgets and sell them for less than a buck apiece after being shipped halfway around the world, I absolutely have to wonder how much integrity and sustainability is associated with that product. In my very limited mind, I can’t help but think that a lot of shortcuts are being taken without consideration of the resulting consequences.

    For instance, the toxins in toys, the poisons in paints, the BPA in baby bottles, flame retardant on baby clothes (?), the infinite number of toxic substances in the various items that we crazy consumers buy! We were looking for “healthy” wooden toys for the grandkids a couple years ago for Christmas, and what did we find? Warnings that the blue paint used on the “healthy” wooden toys contained cadmium. Huh?

    Amalgam fillings at the dentist…mercury is a key component. Now how can you convince me that it’s okay to put that in my mouth as a permanent fixture and it won’t harm me, when the dentist has to dispose of it as toxic waste? Um, sorry, I may not be the brightest bulb on the tree, but that doesn’t add up!

    Same thing with all the processed food we (particularly in America) buy…do you know what’s in it??? Not only do most people not know, but they don’t care! I don’t know how much “razzing” we personally get because we’re a little obsessive about hydrogenated oils or artificial/chemically-derived flavors that have absolutely no business being in the food chain! What earthly good does adding FD&C Red #7 or Yellow #2 do for my food besides add more toxins to my body, I ask you? Do I really need the chemically-changed fat that will destroy my blood vessels or can I make a simple choice to enjoy the full-flavored naturally occurring fats found in both vegetable and animal products.

    Now I fully realize that the common response to all of my objections to such things is, “Oh brother! We’re all gonna die of something, I may as well enjoy it!” Well, this is true that we’re all going to die. However, I’d like to think that I’m going to enjoy aging more if I’m halfway healthy along the way!

    So, we’re weird. We grow as much of our own as we can. Organically grown in rich, manure-compost-enriched soil or on fresh, non-toxic grass that naturally grows on our acreage. While we do eat out occasionally, its becoming less and less.

    Enough of the old woman’s rants!

    But wait! What do we do with glass now that the county isn’t recycling it anymore?? Boo!!


    1. Sabrina Fu

      Glass is a great thing to reuse!

      I buy milk and honey in glass bottles that I can return to have them reused.
      Ideally, we should be working toward reusing all glass bottles locally. Glass is too heavy to justify reusing more than locally, and takes a lot of energy to recycle.



  3. I think this is terrific! It gives a basic overview as well as many things to a sustainable life that most wouldn’t think about.. its not just about growing food or raising animals, it covers human to human interaction, which really is an overlooked part!


  4. Kyle

    just thinking about how much we save as one family in milk jugs and egg cartons each year by reusing egg cartons for our own eggs, and using glass jars for the milk we produce. we save 466 egg cartons by reusing the same ones until they fall apart and then getting used cartons to replace those ones. we save 1,424 half gallon plastic jugs in one year by jugging our own milk in glass jars which only need to be replaced when broken. buying in bulk also cuts down on massive amounts of packaging waste.

    good article. i appreciate the mathematic equations you shared about sustainability.


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      I was just wondering yesterday how long an egg carton lasts. I usually only throw one away if it gets dirty, like if it gets egg yolk all over it. The next step is to get people to buy only paper cartons and NOT plastic or foam! 🙂


  5. RR Miller

    I would reiterate, do what you can, even if it’s only a tomato plant on the deck. It’s a step toward local and sustainable. Better a small success that can be built on than a larger attempt that fails.


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