I want to be more sustainable. I want to be more self-sufficient. I do believe that this world’s off to Hell in a hand-basket courtesy of our over consumption, our belief that we should consume what we want, rather than what’s readily available.
I was raised in the same environment that many of you were: anything we desire is readily available to us, often 24 hours a day. And? I like Cheez-Its. In fact I’ve been asked by my children more than once, “If you were stranded on an island, with an unlimited supply of one food, what would it be?” My answer is always Cheez-Its, so long as I also have access to fresh water. I know this is wrong. I know Cheez-Its are bad for me and bad for the environment. They are fake food. But I like them. I rarely eat them, but I like them.
Knowing what’s right doesn’t always mean it’s easy to implement. But because I’ve made it a priority to be more responsible for my own needs, I’m improving. Luckily, I grew up in a frugal household and many of the frugal activities my mom engaged in translate really well to the sustainable lifestyle I’m working toward. I’d never dream of throwing the carcass from a roasted chicken in the trash before simmering it for a soup stock. The library, rather than the bookstore, is my go-to source for reading material. And garage sales and thrift stores not only offer endless entertainment value, but a way to fulfill some of our needs without the environmentally damaging shipping and packaging wrought by brand new products.
I’ve always gardened. Growing up as a young girl in Northern California, I’d walk barefoot through the freshly tilled soil, tucking seeds and plants into the rich brown earth. I still love to garden. Providing fresh, pesticide free food for my family right outside my door, rather than buying inferior quality food that’s been shipped in from who knows where makes me happy. In contrast, my childhood gardening experience included not only planting, but sprinkling seeds with Diazinon as they went in the ground. Yes, you read that right. Back then, nobody thought twice about adding a little poison to the food that would show up on our table in several weeks. My dad’s the garden guru, but he’s a far cry from organic. (The year he visited and told me that my little orchard and garden looked “pretty good” instead of insisting that I needed to use chemicals was a coup of epic proportions.)
I’ve continued to grow my own food throughout my adult life – minus the poisons that my dad swears by. Most of my gardening experience comes from several climes in Northern California, but I’m currently living with my husband and two sons in Hawaii. And before you get all up in arms about how easy it must be for me to garden here in paradise, let me say this: You know how people talk about one zucchini plant taking over and creating enough squash to feed an army? That doesn’t happen here. Squash and tomatoes – two of my usual garden staples – are hard to grow here.
Food preservation is another skill that I learned early on, in spite of growing up in a household of contradictions. My mom made pickles and canned applesauce, jams, and jellies but breakfast was often courtesy of Cap’n Crunch. She baked cookies and bread (sometimes) from scratch, but cakes and pudding came from a box. It was the 70s and food preparation had become so convenient!
Note that the goal here is to become more self-sufficient. While I’d love to be off-grid someday, for now I have a mutually beneficial relationship with the electric company – though I am trying to be smarter about the electricity that I do use. I purchase ingredients that have been grown (organically) in some far off state – but by making my own cookies, muffins, and pizza dough I’m eliminating fake food from our diets along with unecessary packaging. I have no doubt that there’s always room for improvement, and that’s what I’m working on. I hope you’ll find this site to be helpful in your quest to leave a lighter footprint on the earth and provide real food for your family.
When I’m not working on becoming more sustainable, I’m writing about that and other topics as an author and features writer.