When Michelle and I first took on the challenge we had brought upon ourselves to obtain sustainability, we knew there would be challenges and roadblocks. We fully understood that our efforts to do what we believe to be right goes completely against the grain of what we believe to be what represents our modern culture. What we’re doing is not much different from what hundreds of thousands of others around the world are doing as well, and from what I’ve gathered, they’re all doing it for the same reasons.
We knew there would be challenges and roadblocks. We knew that what we had already known was only a small fraction of what we would learn over the course of our journey, but we never expected the rabbit hole to go so deep.
We’re doing well. We have a small plat at the community garden, and we’re making up for the space we don’t have there by growing in our driveway. It’s not the perfect setup, but that’s the beauty of urban farming, I guess. It’s working with what you have and adapting to the environment to your advantage. Sometime we don’t always have the best conditions, but we make them work, and that’s what matters.
I thought I had conquered the biggest part of sustainability when I learned to grow my own food, buy from local farmers, and preserve what I had grown and purchased, but in all reality, it’s a very small part. Yes, it is what I would call the one of the most essential parts of sustainability, but there is so much more to it.
It starts with culture. We all are taught to believe and think a specific way from the very day we were born. We’re taught what it means to be successful and the importance of success and upholding a modern traditional status quo of what’s bigger is better and the more of something one has, the better. As the bar for perceived success continues to get higher, so does our dependence on natural resources to power the tools this success. Over the years, as we continued on the path toward personal success, we began too look at the Earth in a different way. What many ancient cultures and religions once revered as a deity in itself, had been reduced to being nothing more than a warehouse for natural resources with no limits or restrictions.
The idea of sustainability isn’t a new one. It’s been around since the beginning of time, but until the industrial revolution happened, it was simply called living. No one really thought of things like environmental impact or economic crisis, because prior to the industrial revolution, we were a largely communally- based economy in which most of the commerce took place within the lines of a village, town or city. Though there was some, there was far less international and global trade than we have now. We would live within our communities supporting our families and our neighbors, as our families and our neighbors would support us. This was the foundation of the pre-industrial era economy. Sustainability never had to be a talking point. It was just the way it was.
Today, sustainability is often looked at as some kind of hippie nonsense. Many see it as a communist or anti-capitalist conspiracy to spread communism, as sustainability may impede on an individuals ability to profit from the extraction and consumption of natural resources. Sustainability is an ideal which favors the small independent businesses rather than the international conglomerates as community rather than money is the heart of sustainability.
The truth is, if anything, sustainability encourages capitalism, but on a smaller scale where not only the business owner benefits, but so does the rest of the community. It’s simple economics that tells us that when our money is spent with a local company, our money stays within the community. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure that one out. Also, when purchasing a locally made product made from local materials from a local vendor, the amount of fuel used to get that product to the end user is minimal. This is how sustainability works on the community scale.
The idea is simple, but implementation is a pain in the ass.
Growing our own food is something we thought would be a walk in the park. We have a community garden plot, a small greenhouse, and plenty of room in the driveway where we can grow, but it’s not quite like having a farm or even a nice big suburban garden. One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is that all we knew about gardening and farming in the past is completely irrelevant today. Instead of having big open spaces and fertile soil at our feel, we have pavement and limited sun. Instead of growing in a freshly tilled garden or even a raised bed (which we do have at the community garden), we have buckets. As we have very limited room, we are forced to plant in small to medium sized buckets in which are scatted about the driveway and stacked on shelves in our 6×6 foot greenhouse. It’s not the preferred gardening method, but it works. We had a roadblock, but we were able to overcome.
Another roadblock is finding specific products in which we need that are produced locally. We have found the farmers markets are the best places to get the produce we need, but there are other things that just aren’t as easy to come by. As more and more manufacturing is heading overseas, its becoming increasingly more difficult to find the things we need made locally, regionally, or even withing the United States. By purchasing foreign made goods, we’re throwing off the cycle that ensures the sustainability of our communities.
As I’ve stated, there is a lot more to sustainability than shopping at the farmers market and canning your own jelly. It’s a communal action. My challenge to you is to find a community network. There are people in every community who can take care of your every need. All you have to do is search them out.