October 7, 2008

On Being Green


So what do you call it?
Eco Friendly...Sustainable Living...Being Green

According to the "Eco world" there is a hypothetical color chart, with all shades of green practitioners, the colors range from slightly green to deep green. I think we fall into the medium to light green shade by being aware and making an effort. We just try to make a difference, be it small, but we do try.

Did you check out the link the other day about the Ecological Footprint or Earth Impact Footprint?

It’s basically how much of the planet you use in sustaining your lifestyle. The main ecological components that are used to determine a footprint are -
Food: What you eat
Goods: How many goods you buy
Shelter: The kind of house you live in
Mobility: How and how far you travel

According to some studies I have read, for US citizens the average footprint is 12.25, hectares per person. The average ecological footprint worldwide is 2.3 hectares per person. We added up our numbers and we average 5.25 hectares, less than half of the average US citizen but still double the average worldwide footprint.

The Earth’s capacity to sustainably support humanity is limited to 1.9 hectares for each person.

So what do we do?

Food - we grow the majority of our own. Since we are not vegetarian, eating meat increases our food imprint, though the fact we grow our own animals for meat actually lowers our score.

Our Farmstead Animals and Purpose:
- Chickens (eggs/meat/manure)
- Turkey/geese/ducks (eggs/meat/manure)
- Dairy goats (milk/manure)
- Meat goats (meat/manure)
- Pigs (meat/manure)
- Sheep (fiber/manure)
- Angora goats (fiber/manure)
Yeppers, manure... that is the one thing we do not have a shortage on...seems at times we are knee deep in it. LOL

Gardens:
We grow roughly 90% of our vegetables, fruits and herbs. We provide our own fertilizer.

Other Food Choices:
When we buy, we buy
- in bulk
- organic
- local
- we eat seasonal
This reduces the "food miles", packaging and waste.

Green Kitchen & Food Preservation:
- Make 90% of our dairy products
- Bake/cook from scratch
- Bread making
- Canning
- Drying
- Freezing

Goods
– We honestly try to consume less.
We ask ourselves if we truly need the item we are considering buying. We are definitely not impulse buyers. Many times we make do or do without. Though when we buy, we try to make a conscious effort to reduce, reuse & recycle and buy green. We also shop at salvage and thrift stores, frequent garage and yard sales, auctions and barter. We use canvas bags not plastic or paper. Plus we take in to consideration "green" retailers and manufacturers when we do buy.

Shelter
– We recently purchased a new home for the farm, a modular (built off site, transported in), installed all energy efficient appliances and lighting, low flush toilets and high-efficiency showerheads. We chose extra insulated ceiling, walls and floors to optimize energy efficiency.

Other Home Energy Conservation Methods:
Double pane insulated windows
Ceiling Fans
Use candles and day lighting
Rechargeable batteries
Portable solar lights
Line dry clothing
Passive Cooling (blinds, screen doors and windows)
Changing all lighting to compact fluorescent bulbs

Mobility
- We have 6 car free days a week, 1 trip to the city a week. We never fly anywhere.
The farm truck is considered a gas gussler, it’s a 4WD but is needed in the big picture of the farm. We occasionally carpool and if our neighbors need feed, hay or groceries when we are making our weekly trip we will get it for them.

Around the Farm
- Most equipment is hand powered; we push mow, rake, shovel, build fences and buildings by hand. We use a wheelbarrow instead of a bucket loader on a tractor. Good old elbow grease. We are not organic, but we do what we can to be as close as possible. Never use pesticides, we strive to use non-toxic, phosphate free and biodegradable products. Bleach is the most "un-green" product we use.

More Small Eco Steps -
The better half hunts and fishes.
We collect rainwater for watering gardens and container plants.
Make our own soap.
Use cloth instead of paper towels (recycle old T-shirts, socks, etc. into dust clothes, cleaning and kitchen wipe ups)
Do not use hair dryers, blow dryer or electric curlers/curling irons.
Use non-electric small appliance such as can opener, mortar and pestal, whisk instead of electric mixer. (guess it’s a trade off because I do use the electric for yogurt making and dehydrating.)
We do pay attention to peak electric demands and micro-electronic use, run appliances only when they are full or have full loads. When not in use, all electronics and appliances are unplugged and turned off.
If we are cold we layer clothing instead of turning up the heat.
We compost and all food scraps are fed to animals.
We have well water (which is one important reason for water conservation, don’t want the well to run dry).
Save seeds for the next years gardens.
Our animals browse and eat off our land. When we supplement their diets, we buy grains from a local mill and buy hay from local farmers.

Hobbies,Crafts & Skills:
- leatherwork
- fiber arts
- animal husbandry
- carpentry
- plumbing
- electrical work (better half was an electrician)

In The Future -
Investing in a heat pump is on the top of our future Eco improvements. We also hope to one day have solar and/or windmill power.

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