A few years ago I began to question the way my family was living. We shopped for sport. We ate out frequently. Our bills were big, our carbon footprint was bigger. We had the big house in the good neighborhood with two new cars.

But we weren’t exactly happy. We were drowning in STUFF, but not enjoying most of it.

And the more I learned about the environmental threats looming over our culture, the more I came to realize that the way we were living just wasn’t sustainable over the long term, even if we could afford to keep wasting our financial resources. Realistically, though, financial concerns and environmental concerns are intimately linked, even if most people can’t see them smooching. The more we waste the planet’s resources, the more using them will cost us.

The big environmental bogymen that concern me most are:

  • peak oil: We’re reaching a point where global demand is exceeding production capacity, and this is going to result in increasing oil prices for everyone. All other impacts of oil use aside, relying on oil for energy is not a smart position to be in if you want a vibrant and comfortable future. The movement towards local living is a good way to fortify your lifestyle against and sudden or dramatic increase in transportation fuel costs.
  • peak water: As global population increases, so does our use of water. Many aquifers, including vital ones here in the United States, are being drained at a far greater rate than they can recharge. This worries me more than any other “peak” scenario. We can live without oil, but not without water, which we need for drink, irrigation, and bathing.
  • global climate change: I don’t even know what to think about this one anymore. On the one hand, I try to reduce my personal carbon emissions. My household get’s electricity from wind and small hydro through Green Mountain Energy. I drive a hybrid, and my hubby drives a compact car that gets 36 mpg. I bike when I can, and walk when I can. On the other hand, I am starting to think that we may have already passed some critical tipping points, and our focus should also include planning to adapt as the climate changes around us.

Those are the big three motivators, but I am also concerned about the impact of garden chemical on my family (weeds don’t cause cancer; killing weeds does), supporting the local economy by using local businesses; crafting communities to allow lifestyles that prevent obesity; and reviving lost home crafts.

Over the past three years my family has changed our mindset and crafted a homesteading lifestyle in a few ways:

  • We don’t have a yard anymore; we have a garden with some grassy areas. By prioritizing the garden over the lawn, we spend our time and effort on the more interesting plants, and emphasize edible plants as being the more valuable to us. Grass is boring and useless, when you really think about it. Do you know the origin of the American obsession with grass lawns? Here’s a brief history.
  • Recycling is not an option in my house. It’s mandatory. Heaven help the fool that throws a recyclable carton in the trash can in my kitchen. Your ears will burn for weeks. If it doesn’t need to go to the landfill, it doesn’t. This includes kitchen scraps, most of which go into my composters.
  • The kitchen has become a playground. Bread, jelly, yogurt, beer…little intimidates me in the kitchen. I have turned cooking into a hobby-I had to do it anyway, so it might as well be a fun challenge.
  • Learning to hate to shop. Somehow, in the last 6 months, I went from loving an afternoon at the mall to dreading it. There’s just so much else I’d rather do than go shopping. I’d rather create than buy.
  • If I do have to shop, I choose locally produced things whenever possible. I use local bakeries, dine at local restaurants, shop in the locally run boutiques, and get my garden supplies at the two local garden centers. We’ve built relationships with the local business people that have proved more rewarding than any national rewards program.

I’m not going to claim that the lifestyle we’re crafting is easy-peasy; it’s often a lot of hands on work. But it’s worth it. Our lives are more fulfilling, more satisfying, more enriched than they were before. Spending less time dealing with STUFF has left us with more time for truly living.

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