As we face into a most uncertain future (though, really, there’s no other kind, is there?), it strikes me that what we’re doing here at Bluestone Farm is walking right up there with green front-runners of all stripe. And that this is one of the things most needed in our current global situation.
Here’s my little list of how we’re participating.
• Even though we have our own well, we are careful water users:
- No running water with tooth-brushing
- Brief (and less frequent) showers
- Water-saving “hold-offs” at the kitchen faucets, to stop the water flow when you don’t need it
- Saving shower water to use in first wash, then to flush a toilet (for the non-humanure-ers)
- Humanure composting
- Harmless household products
- Collection of rain water
- Purchased a water-sipping washer when the old one died
- Our old ailing Volvo (a gift) may soon be replaced with a Prius
- Our old non-ailing, hard-working Nissan continues to bless us with 45 mpg when driven smartly — and we do
- We save up traveling tasks to make sure that two, three or more errands are run in a single trip
- Whenever possible, we take the train between home and our NYC convent (I just love the train)
- Fluorescent, of course. Everywhere.
- And turn ’em off when ya leave.
• Energy costs. This one is our biggest challenge. We live in a large 265-year-old house with an oil-fueled steam system.
- We’ve begun a serious energy audit to help us plan how to get out of this little mess.
- In the meantime we’ve managed to reduce our oil usage by having a (kindly donated) wood-burning stove installed in our great room fireplace. The fires aren’t quite as romantic to watch, but, oh is that heat nice. And the wood comes from our own property, which helps us take better care of “our” woodlands.
- When winter comes, we do our best to seal windows, close all the storm windows (though every year I’ve discovered one that escaped my notice), make sure the radiator air valves are working right and set properly.
- We had a good thermostat installed a few years back, so we can set the temps for day and night (and even days of the week) appropriately.
- The boiler is gasping its last, so it will soon be replaced with a more fuel-efficient model.
- We try to use only the amount of electricity we need, turning the copier, computers and other electrical items off when not in use.
- In the winter we try not to leave doors and windows open or ajar.
- We purchased an energy-star efficient washer and dryer when they needed to be replaced. Same with a new freezer.
- If we can find non-electric tools (kitchen and garden), that’s what we use. We grind our own coffee and cornmeal by hand, for example.
- Recycling is getting a mixed review these days; no one seems to know what really happens to items collected in recycling bins in many places. I know what I’m told, but you can’t prove it by me. Nevertheless, we continue to separate out office paper, corrugated cardboard, glass, plastic (some of it anyway) and metal so they can be collected by a truck that says “Recycling” on the side. One of these days I’ll see if I can check out where that stuff really goes.
- Recycling is only a stop-gap measure, though; what we really need to do is stop bringing non-usable, unsustainable items into our homes in the first place. It’s a challenge, and not always possible, but we do our best. Whenever we can we take our own food bag (as in bags that will directly hold bulk food items), our own shopping bags, etc. We buy very little “stuff” in general, and what we do buy we try to get in re-usable containers. (Even though our raw milk came in recyclable bottles, for example, we asked our farmer to let us have the milk in re-usable glass bottles. He happily complied!)
- We try not to purchase or accept as a gift any item that isn’t essential to our lives.
- We recycle items right here on the farm, too: mostly that would be composting of kitchen scraps, or feeding them to the animals when appropriate. It all goes back to the land, which grows our food, which fuels our bodies … We also use cardboard to help keep the garden paths weed-free (or close to it). Any used clothing goes to a drop box or to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Which is where we buy almost all of our clothes, by the way. A worn-through knee or a ripped shirttail doesn’t warrant that Goodwill trip; we patch and mend, just like my mom used to do. (It’s actually soothing work, and usually buys at least another year of good wear.)
• FOOD!!!! This one is the heart of our efforts and joys here. It deserves its very own blog. Or two.
• Living simply. Another blog.
And one of the very best things about all this “effort” is that it is not — not hard work, not unpleasant, not difficult to do. Living more sustainably feels good, from our bodies to our souls. We are learning many of the old ways and using them more and more. We are happier, more peaceful and more grounded.
We’ve learned that “being green” isn’t something we do because we think we should or have to — it’s something we do because we want to. And that feels best of all.