Self Sustainability Is The Future
Updated: Nov 21, 2021
In January of 2020, news was spreading that a super virus originating from China was causing hundreds of thousands of people on the other side of the world to get sick.... really sick. This virus wasn't like anything we've ever seen. It was identified as part of the coronavirus family and named SARS-CoV-2.
Like other members of this virus family, SARS‑CoV‑2 is an enveloped, positive-sense, single-stranded RNA virus. It was named COVID-19 for short.
By March 15th, 2020, the United States was "shutting down". Travel was limited, stay-at-home orders were issued, mask mandates were put in place and social distancing bubbles were placed on every floor of every store 6ft apart. Stores ran out of food, supplies were limited, our children attended school online, and our lives were disrupted. As the virus spread, and the death toll continued to rise, the panic it created was a pandemic itself.
The labeled "non-essential" businesses like Salons and Gyms began closing their doors for good, unable to stay open due to the mandates. Restaurants closed their dining rooms and desperately struggled to set up online ordering. Some succeeded, while others did not. The Small Business owners all over the country suffered great loss.
The need for masks and ventilators rose, as the supply dwindled. Plants such as GM were closing production and beginning to manufacture ventilators and PPE equipment for hospitals. Essential items such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bleach, clorox disinfectant wipes, facemasks, respirators, were hard to come by.
The idea of self sustainability is not a new concept but has been long put on the backburner as our society was growing and thriving without it..... until now.
Now that we are bruised and humbled, we sit with our eyes wide open to what we thought impossible, but wiser than ever before. Self sustainability has been brought to the forefront of our conversation We're staring it right in the face because it is now a matter of SURVIVAL.
COVID19, as tragic as it is, has taught us all a hard, important lesson - we are not invincible. It has robbed us all of our (false) sense of security that we held so confidently and has awakened us to a new world - one where our government cannot save us.
No one can.
Self Sustainability asks the hard questions -
What if we could grow our own food?
What if we could live off of the land alone?
What if we could produce our own energy?
What if we could harvest our own water?
What if we could learn the skills to be able to survive on our own?
We are here to do just that. In the wake of the worldwide pandemic, where everything around us has been compromised and we have grown weary of waiting to be rescued, it's time we took matters into our own hands. It's time to cut the lines and sail on our own. It's time to step out of our comfort zones and explore new ways. It's time to free ourselves from the slavery of modern comforts. Because more pandemics are sure to come, the earth is constantly being blindsided by natural disasters; devastating earthquakes, landslides, uncontrollable forest fires, Category 5 Hurricanes, Tsunamis, droughts, Tornadoes. These along with our human-made disasters such as COVID19, war, terrorism, economic collapse, just to name a few, solidify the importance of self sustainability, not as a hobby, but now more than ever, for our survival.
But how do we get started?
There has never been a better time than NOW to begin.
Lets start by evaluating our home:
Sit down and start with a list. What do you have in your home that you use everyday that requires a "service".
This is a great place to start. While some of you may not be able to go completely off grid, what you can do to is take steps to become more self sustainable and less dependent. That is what we are going to focus on - less dependency on "services".
(If you are interested in taking the leap and going completely off grid, I encourage you to have a plan for everything we discuss here.)
For example, if your power went out for a week, what backup system do you have in place? How will you heat and cool your home? How will you store food? How will you survive without cable?
What alternative energy sources do you have available for power and heating/cooling your home?
How will you get news and information? How will you charge your iPhone?
Here are a few alternatives:
Solar (such as photovoltaics) generally using solar panels
Wind using a wind turbine (windmill) to turn a generator for your power
Geothermal which is basically heat extraction from the earth
Micro-hydro using the natural flow of water
Generator, although not considered renewable, generators offer a convenient back up for your system
Not all of these may be possible but you may be able to use a combination of these alternatives to generate and store energy.
Just like our dependency on electricity, we also have a dependency on water. Maybe your water comes from a well, or maybe your home runs off of city water.
In both cases, having a backup plan for water doesn't hurt. FEMA recommends having a 3 day supply of emergency water available in the case of a natural disaster - that's 1 gallon of water per day per person.
For a family of 4, that would be 12 gallons of drinking water. This only lasts 3 days. I don't know of a natural disaster in my lifetime that only lasted 3 days. Most of them lasted months.
Having an alternative plan to a water source or replenishing your water is something to consider. Collecting Rain Water is our number 1 choice. We run off of a well here on the farm, but last winter the water line was cut when the neighbor had a septic tank system installed, it left us without water for quite some time.
We are designing and installing a Rain Water Collection System this spring. Capturing rain water is free, but I encourage you to check your local ordinances or regulations in your area before installing your system. (We have no regulations here in Wentzville, Missouri) I know as crazy as it sounds, some areas don't allow you to collect rain water.
Rain Water Collection allows us to collect and store water which we can use to water our garden, provide water for the livestock, and store large amounts of it for emergency use.
If your home has a pool or a lake or pond, you may be able to depend on this as an emergency water source.
Gas is a hot topic today. With President Joe Biden shutting down the pipelines, driving the price of gas up, and essentially "forcing" us to become less dependent on gas, the need to have alternatives to gas is even greater.
When we moved into the farm and rehabbed the existing house, that had been abandoned for about 2 years, we removed all of the gas lines. Our intention was to run the whole house on electricity. We planned to add solar panels to the pole barn and generate and store our own electricity, therefore removing any dependency on natural gas or propane.
Maybe your home is run off of natural gas or propane for your furnace, dryer, stove, refrigerator, fireplace, and generator. That's great, as long as you are not dependent on that gas, you have a way to store a supply of it safely, and you have an alternative to this in case gas is no longer available or too expensive.
We cook over an electric stove, we have several propane grills, and we also have a fire pit. We have alternatives in the event that we need them.
While our vehicles, tractors, lawn mowers and other small equipment takes fossil fuel, there's not much we can do about the price of that these days. As more and more battery operated equipment is being released, giving us an alternative to our gas guzzling equipment, transitioning over to this just takes time. Remember the goal is less dependency. Always.
Before we moved to the farm, we lived in a subdivision on a 1/4 acre lot with house and a fenced in yard. Our sewer bill jumped from $40 per month to $433 per month. Why?
Well, according to the sewer company, we had a huge surge in our sewer usage which they believe was from a leaking toilet or bathroom, or perhaps the boys left the hose on in the yard. We were completely bewildered by this because neither of us could recall a leaking bathroom or a time where the hose ran for days. The only difference between our usage back then and our current usage was that we had remodeled our kitchen and both bathrooms during that time, as well as replaced our washer with a newer model.
If you live in a subdivision and you are hooked up to city sewer, there really isn't anything you can do. You aren't going to "disconnect" from that, but you can control how much goes into the sewer. Remodeling your kitchens and bathrooms with water saving devices and appliances can substantially decrease the amount of waste water as we found out.
Being conscious about how much water you use is just as effective.
Did you know that the average person creates 4.4 lbs of trash per day and 1.5lbs of recyclable material per day?
All of this trash ends up in a landfill. In fact, it's estimated that in 2020, over 80 million tons of trash found it's way into our landfill.
Landfills are disgusting. It's not just an eye sore that is the problem. If you are not familiar with landfills, what's in them and how they work, there is a great informational video on them here.
The three main problems with landfills are toxins, leachate and greenhouse gases.
Toxins are produced from the toxic substances from the material thrown into a landfill. Waste such as televisions, computers and other electronic appliances contain a long list of hazardous substances, including mercury, arsenic, cadmium, PVC, solvents, acids and lead - just to name a few.
Leachate is the liquid formed when waste breaks down in the landfill and water filters through that waste. This liquid is highly toxic and can pollute land, ground water and water ways.
Greenhouse gas production is perhaps the biggest environmental threat posed by landfills.
When organic material such as food scraps and green waste is put in landfill, it is generally compacted down and covered. This removes the oxygen and causes it to break down in an anaerobic process. Eventually this releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfill gas comprises 35-55% methane and 30-44% carbon dioxide. Methane is also a flammable gas that can become dangerous if allowed to build up in concentration.
The only way to counter this is to be more conscious of the products we use and throw away. Recycling programs have been established in many areas to combat the amount of trash that ends up in the landfill. Separating your trash at home is a great way to start to control your trash production.
Burnable: Paper plates, napkins, cardboard boxes, junk mail.
Recyclable: Plastic bottles, aluminum cans, glass jars
Compost: newspaper, eggshells, banana peels, apple cores, coffee grounds, hair
(Read more on Composting here )
Trash: anything that cannot be recycled, reused, or burned.
Specialty Recycling places may also exist such as:
Electronics Recycling Centers
Old Prescription drug drop off locations
Paint Can Drop Off Locations
Mattress Recycling Locations
The slogan Reduce, Reuse, Recycle CANNOT be stressed enough. If we all lived under the assumption that we had to process our own trash, this would become a religion. Our conviction would be much stronger when it comes to our own environmental responsibility. From the air that we breathe, to the water that we drink, and the beautiful environment that mother nature has created, we are our own enemy when it comes to polluting and destroying our own valuable resources.
GROWING YOUR OWN FOOD
While the pandemic left empty shelves at the stores, and uncertainty of when things would "return to normal", more people began getting comfortable with adopting the idea of growing their own food, and raising their own animals.
HOMESTEADING - Born out of the necessity for self sustainability is homesteading. Today, more and more people are giving up their homes in suburbia for a much simpler rural life. With a lot of employees now working from home, they are able to balance both farm and corporate jobs, without the hassle of a long commute. Homesteading offers the ultimate self sustainable environment with endless possibilities.
But rural life isn't for everyone.
And not everyone is cool with butchering their own animals for food.
LOCAL FARMERS MARKET - Another resource, beyond the grocery store, is your local farmers market or your local farm community. You can buy your food from a local farmer or farmers market if you find you don't have a green thumb, or the stomach to butcher meat. Because local farmers are not pressured by national food chains, and the food is grown locally, you may stumble upon a quality of food you haven't tasted before.
COMMINTY FARM - You could also start a community farm which is a designated plot of land that everyone agrees to assist with growing and harvesting the food. The food is shared with the group or community. This is a great technique for subdivisions and communities as a way to control the quality of the food you put on your table and share skills of harvesting and planting between neighbors.
CONTAINER GARDENING - If you would prefer to grow your own food at home, but don't have the space to do it, maybe you could check out container planting or vertical gardens. Container planting is just as it sounds. All of your plants are grown in containers. Container planting works great in areas with poor soil quality and limited space (or yard).
VERTICAL GARDENING - Vertical gardens work great for areas with limited space because it maximizes the space available by growing up instead of out. I hear harvesting for vertical gardens is easier on the back as well!
With our new self sustainable lifestyle comes even more freedom. I hope you found this information helpful, and maybe you picked up some inspiration and passion for moving towards self sustainable living. Your effort, even on a small scale, can make a huge difference.
I'd love to hear what steps you have taken to become self sustainable! What has worked for you? and what has not worked? Please share your experience in the comments below.