Resolving to Live Sustainably

I consider myself to be pretty environmentally responsible. I work hard to reduce my consumption, to re-use items I already have, and to recycle the things that I can’t re-use or re-purpose. I garden and shop at farmer’s markets, and I buy local and handmade whenever I can. Of course, I am far from perfect. I don’t think anyone is, and I’m certainly not holding myself up as an example for everyone to follow. But I really do try to consider the impact of my actions.

How well am I doing? I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that question, but I decided I would look to the internet to see if I could find any clues. I came across an Ecological Footprint Quiz, which calculates the impact that your choices have on the earth. Overall, my results were pretty good. I have a much lower carbon footprint than the average Canadian, and my goods and services footprint is less than 25% of the national average. My housing footprint is lower than the average as well, and my food footprint is only a little higher. But even still, if everyone lived as I do we would need 3.43 Earths to sustain us all.

Where am I falling down in my efforts to live sustainably? Our single family home in the suburbs is not the most environmentally-friendly option, but I’m not planning on moving. Plus, in some ways living where I do actually helps since I have a garden, and I have excellent access to composting and recycling unlike my apartment-dwelling days. But the other big area is my choice to eat animal products. I eat meat and seafood and lots and lots of dairy. There are few foods that are not improved by a generous topping of cheese, in my opinion.

After I finished my quiz I read the suggestions for reducing my carbon footprint. And in the spirit of making a fresh start for 2010 I resolved to make a few changes.

1. Reduce my consumption of animal products. I will not cut these out completely, but I could certainly get by on a little less. Baby steps, right? I will start by doing one meatless day a week. I will also strive to find ways to cut back on dairy while I’m at it. Recipe suggestions are welcome!

2. Wear a sweater. We keep our house really warm. Last year I considered lowering the thermostat, but with a small baby I was hesitant to go that route. This year, though, I have a robust and active toddler who never stops moving. Reducing the temperature by a couple of degrees would not hurt us, and it could save some money, too.

3. Expand my garden. I would like to put in a new raised bed so that I can grow more of my own food. I also think that with a little more effort in the planning I could get a better yield of produce that we actually want. I like cucumbers, but we really will not eat more than 70 of them over their short growing period, you know?

These are not huge, earth-shattering changes by any means. But smaller changes are more likely to stick, I think. And then maybe next year I can grow on these changes even more. What about you? Do you have any plans to implement a more sustainable lifestyle in 2010? If so, please share!

I wrote this post for the Green Moms Carnival, which is all about green resolutions this month. To read some more thoughts on a greener 2010 visit Non-Toxic Kids on January 1.

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    Comments

    1. Let me know what "kinds" of food your family prefers and I will hook you up with some tasty veg recipes!

    2. I will eat almost anything. Sadly, my husband and daughter not so much. I think the more pedestrian, the better. If you can dip it in ketchup or serve it with a side of fries or garlic bread, it's up their alley.

    3. I love reading your blog. Your self-reliance is super and should be a great example to follow for other moms out there who want to make a difference. I, too, am on the enviro friendly, self-reliance wagon…hopefully for good. I have a suggestion…for your garden issue, when you don’t want to have 70 of one thing at one time…I suggest dehydrating. I bought a dehydrator last year and it was one of my best buys. I could buy in BULK items such as onions, carrots etc, and dehydrate them (took 1 day) and now I have an over abundance of this stuff that is preserved, and ready to cook with, AND it lasts forever! Just an idea. ;)

    4. I have tons of meatless recipes that I’m happy to share– in fact, you might have to tell me to stop, because I tend to go overboard.

      My favorite recipe is super easy and quick and very adaptable.

      Cuban Bowls. Rice, Black beans, roasted sweet potato slices, salsa, avocado, and (yes) cheese. I slice the sweet potatoes thin, spray them with a light coating of oil and roast them for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, the rice goes in the rice cooker and the black beans in the microwave. Then I layer everything in a bowl, squeeze some lime over it and garnish with fresh cilantro. It’s so yummy.

      Two good book recommendations for meatless transitions: Food Matters by Mark Bittman and for easy recipes for kids, Vegan Lunch Box by Jennifer McCann.

      Good luck!

    5. I need to start a Garden in 2010….my husband and I are considering selling our house and moving, but regardless we need a garden where ever we are!
      .-= Rachel´s last post ..Crafting Christmas =-.

    6. Go Amber. We are big meat eaters and I have also instiuted a meat-free day (which seems so pathetic considering I was a full blown vergetarian for a year in my 20s).

      The things I am committed to for our family are 1) Walking everywhere that I can. I live in the city and everything is is walking distance. I think walking is good exercise and great for babies and kids. And I love the fresh air and love being in nature. Added bonus, my kid does not have to get in the car (yippee). Of course this may get harder as my kid begins to hate the stroller but I’m still going to try.

      The second, is I love hand me downs, and while I realize toys will be a needed (a boy without dinky cars??), I hope to get them second hand. In the case of clothing, unless absolutely necessary, I have no intention of buying them.

      We’ll see how I fare in a few years!!

      Keep up the good fight! But most importantly, enjoy it!
      .-= harrietglynn´s last post ..New Theme: Duotone =-.

    7. Amber, I’m with Debbie Jo on dehydrating. When I lived in Victoria, I used to grow an absurd about of tomatoes, and dried most of them. They’re awesome in soups and make great gifts to foodie friends too! I got a cheap dehydrator at London Drugs as I recall and it worked well, if a bit noisily.

      You’re so right to aim to reduce the meat intake of your family. Cultivating livestock consumes a horrific amount of our planet’s resources. I’m married to a committed carnivore, so it’s a bit of a struggle in our house, but we try.

      My big plan for the coming year is to move somewhere close to public transportation/walking distance things/where-ever I end up working so that we can continue to be happy with one or less cars… We’re doing great where we are now: just in the wrong country!
      .-= CaroLyn´s last post ..It Gets Easier =-.

    8. This is my idol for dehydrating and using it as you go. Check out her website! I spent 5 hrs in one day just watching her you tube videos. FULL OF INFO!

      http://www.dehydrate2store.com/

      I ended up buying one of the dehydrators she uses. The Excalibre! mmmm just love the smell of my house when I’m doing onions and garlic, and peppers. She’ll show ya how all dehydrated foods come back to “normal” when re-hydrated.

    9. We also need to eat fewer animal products. It’s funny, because when we do have meals with less meat/etc., we’re just as happy. But being raised to have “meat and potatoes” meals just makes it more difficult for me to make that mental switch.

      I will have to re-take that footprint quiz. I did quite awhile ago and have implemented some changes (turned down the thermostat, gardened, etc.), but we could definitely do more.
      .-= Dionna @ Code Name: Mama´s last post ..What Breastmilk Tastes Like, Part 2 =-.

    10. Dominique McGrady says:

      I have just started drinking raw milk and the whole process of picking up the milk at the farm (for several families) has had us thinking a lot about cows and veal and our consumption of cheese and yogurt. I, the vegetarian realize that you need baby cows for the mama to have milk! At the commercial farm up the hill from me they kill 70% of the babies (all male) because there is no market for veal. I have started to put a little less cheese on my pizzas and nachos and we drink a little less milk.
      PS we have started making our own yogurt. My 6 year old loves to use the thermometre in the milk and it saves so much money not to mention the endless plastic containers!
      Thanks again for your pust!

    11. Those are 3 great resolutions, and pretty siliar to mine. Though I’m also going to learn to can, sew & knit more often, and scale down our stuff even more.

    12. I took the quiz, and my lifestyle is 2.2 earths. Still very tragic! My veggie plot was so excellent this year (I won’t have to buy green beans for a very long time)! And it is tiny, so I feel encouraged to expand next year.

      We have been walking more this year now that the kids are old enough to get home from school unsupervised, so that HAS to help! Also me working at home (no commute) helps offset my husband’s 20 minute daily commute.

      We have always liked a cool house compared to our peers (18 degrees at night and 20 degrees during the day compared to the average “room temperature” at 22). I love wearing fluffy socks and big cardigans and it has to be that cool to get away with it!!! LOL!!!! But others look slightly chilled when they vist so we crank it up for company.

      We probably eat (on average) 2-3 meatless dinners per week and only one meated breakfast and a few meated lunches a week. There are so many options to not have meat. They aren’t VEGAN meals though, we get our protein as often from eggs and cheese as from animal flesh. And we only splurge on seafood a few times a month. My family prefers the vegetarian lasagna, and the Moosewood Cookbooks have oodles of SCRUMPTIOUS and flavourful recipes that you would never guess were vegetarian. And I have to mention that I cook about 90% of the meals my family eats. We generally don’t like the options in the restaurants that fit our budget, so we just don’t go out for meals very much at all (the exception being coffee).

      I also love drying clothes outside, recycling, compost, using my push/reel mower, and buying second hand for almost anything I can get away with! But I am not fanatical about it, and only do these things to be frugal, find better quality in my daily life and because it’s EASY.

      For Earth Friendly resolutions, I do want to MAKE more gifts this year. Sewing is on the top of my wish list… but there is making preserves in that list too.
      .-= *pol´s last post ..SANTA IS COMING! =-.

    13. We are striving to leave a smaller footprint as well. I use cloth where we can: diapers, hand towels, kitchen towels, napkins and handkerchifs. I recyle, re-use, make things from scratch and handmade, we garden and now we are trying to go vegetarian… Hopefully…
      .-= Joni Rae´s last post ..Love Affair =-.

    14. 2.8 earths for me…which is okay, but definatly could be better. I admit, it isn’t easy being green. But, it does help me sleep better at the end of a day.
      .-= Heather´s last post ..Popcorn =-.

    15. Reducing household gas/electricity is definitely on our list for this year, for both the environment and the cost. Good luck with your plans!
      .-= Lady M´s last post ..A Huggy Christmas =-.

    16. I took the quiz and came out worse than you. Sad to say that we would need 3.9 earths to live like I do. Where I fell down is on the food. It would seem that we eat a bit too much meat and dairy. I have tried to be a vegetarian and I know it doesn’t work well for me but I think I should really make more of an effort to have a few veggie days a week. I’ve joined a CSA though so next year we should be reducing our carbon footprint for food a bit more.
      .-= Marilyn´s last post ..Diabetes Blows =-.

    17. I think taking that quiz (ie ‘quizing’ our lifestyle) should be the first big step for anyone. I was vegetarian for over a decade, and I must say that one of the most important lessons I’ve learned was how to use and combine nutritiously and delisciously different food groups. We eat lots of legumes in place of meat, my kids especially love lentils.
      PS I’m all for expanding gardens, but you’ll always get lots of one kind of vegetable, and, when possible, canning and preserving for winter are the next step. I always end up having way too many zucchini, but the one year I figured I only needed the yield from three plants, those three plants got infested and I ended up buying zucchini…

    18. The thing about sustainability is that everyone knows what really needs to be done, but very few people are willing and / or able to do it. Did you know that a meat based diet contributes to deforestation, food injustice, massive pollution and energy waste? Even if you did, you’d probably still eat meat because you enjoy it or think that giving it up is too much of a personal sacrifice. It’s the same with driving, traveling, and all the other human comforts we’ve come to enjoy.

      We can all do a little here and there, but until we’re globally ready to do what actually needs to be done all we’re doing is patting ourselves on the back to make us feel good.

      The worst part of it all is that the countries least responsible for climate change will suffer the most.

      Don’t get me wrong; I’m doing everything I can, but I know in the big scheme of things it’s not even close to being enough.

    19. I’m a vegetarian, I have heaps of recipes you could try. But the one that springs to mind (that even my carnivore husband likes) is Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna. So good!
      .-= Zoey @ Good Goog´s last post ..The Plague =-.

    20. Great idea to incorporate the quiz. I have to say, I was shocked that my lifestyle consumes 2.46 Earths…a sobering reminder of how far I have to go. Of course, if I could retrofit my house to be completely energy efficient we’d fare much better!

      Re reducing meat, I think if you switch to organic, naturally raised meats you’ll fare much better than with industrially produced meats and dairy. (Of course, there’s the expense, but if you eat less often, it should balance out the cost AND it will taste so much better!)

      Good luck and happy new year!

      Thanks for your contribution to the carnival!
      .-= Lynn from OrganicMania.com´s last post ..Greener New Years Resolutions: Tackling the Big One – Weight Loss =-.

    21. As a vegetarian with a meat-eating hubbie, my suggestion for hesitant veggie eaters is to check out bean burger recipes. You can serve them with fries, so they tend not to be too much of a stretch for meat and potato people. I have a few recipes on my blog. Mexican is also a great idea – I could eat burritos everyday and still be satisfied.

    22. My kids adore meat whereas I could be a veggie girl to the end. It seems kind of ironic since my garden is always expanding.

      I love the dehydration idea and wonder if people dehydrate or can more. What is the advantage and disadvantage if any of either? I freeze alot and it takes up too much room in my freezer.

    23. Linda Anderson says:

      I took the quiz and my big downfall was my house. It is too big for 2 people. I am trying to make it as energy efficient as possible. I am cutting down on eating meat to help reduce my footprint also. Loved your post.

      Linda A

    24. Great post, Amber! Thanks for contributing to the carnival. I’ve been a vegetarian for many years but share your love of cheese. I’m always trying to cut down on it in our food. We keep our house cool too. I feel bad for those girls getting out of the tub!!

      Katy
      http://www.non-toxickids.net

    25. Thanks for reminding me to put on a sweater – instead of turning up the heat! I like how you admit that particular things will not happen but you can still do your best to be green and make a difference in the upcoming year! Good for you!
      .-= Sommer´s last post ..Recycling =-.

    26. Instead of eating doing one veggie day a week have you considered doing one veggie meal a day? I usually pick lunch – easy with a toddler just give ‘em a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
      .-= Condo Blues´s last post ..Bottle Cap Magnets =-.

    27. Your goals may not be earth-shattering – but they are impactful. Keep up the good, green work!!
      .-= Mindful Momma´s last post ..Kids Eat Kale? =-.

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