100 things you can do to live more sustainably

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This was originally posted by Sharon Astyk from a position of resource scarcity consciousness, specifically peak oil, but the ideas that are mentioned could prove useful regardless of why you feel they would be necessary. I found it interesting and I hope you do as well.

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100 Things you can do for Peak Oil

By Sharon Astyk

March 5, 2007

http://www.groovygreen.com/groove/?p=2270

Home:

1. If you live in a place where it gets hot in the summer, consider building a screen room (a room with screened windows all around or almost always around), either attached to your house or seperate. You can put a wood cookstove in the screenroom and use it as a summer kitchen for cooking and canning, avoiding adding heat to your house. You can also sleep in the screenroom when it is too hot to sleep inside, and reducing or eliminating the need for air conditioning. The room can double in the winter as a woodshed. If you cannot build on, freestanding screenrooms are also a possibility. For sleeping even a mesh camping pavilion or tent under the trees will be better than many houses.

2. For those in cold climates, consider a four poster bed. These were once not merely decorative – with heavy coverings for the top and the sides, they could be heated with your body heat, and provided a cozy sleeping space in an era when bedrooms were unheated. A frame can be added to many existing bedframes if you are at all handy, and curtains are easily made. You can also add wall hangings and tapestries as cheap forms of insulation to existing walls. They can be made from old blankets and cheap fabric, or can be as artful as you like.

3. Clean and organize your house, and get rid of anything you don’t need. Time is at a premium, and will only be more so in the future. For things that you wish to keep for the long term, pack them up and keep lists of where they are. You may need to find things quickly. Make sure emergency supplies, such as medical items, flashlights, etc… are readily available and can be found in the dark and under stress.

4. You’ll save yourself trips in the car and problems in the future if you stock up on fasteners of every kind – commonly used nails and screws, pins, hinges, latches, shoelaces, twine, rope, tacks, you name it – if it holds one thing to another, you’ll want it and running out is a pain. Stash a few extras of everything, and make sure you know where they are.

5. Expect if times get hard to consolidate housing with friends and family. Make sure you can live fairly comfortably. Yard and rummage sales are excellent sources of extra blankets, towels, and pillows. Fold up futons, tatami mats, even rolled up carpets make excellent emergency guest beds, and can be stacked and stored pretty easily. It may get crowded, but it doesn’t have to be miserable.

6. Pay your mortgage ahead whenever possible. If economic times get hard, and you are unable to pay, the bank will foreclose first on people who own only a little of their home equity. The more payments you can make on your *principle,* the more secure you will be, even if you don’t own the whole thing. If you rent, be a good tenant and establish a relationship with your landlord, who is thus more likely to be accommodating of you in difficult times.

7. Make sure you have a reliable source of non-electric water, whether rainbarrels, a cistern, hand pumps on your well, or a community source, such as a public pump. If you cannot easily create a private such source, consider advocating with your community that public water sites, with either manual pumps or solar powered ones be created at local public centers, such as schools, parks and community centers. Use the examples of extreme weather to emphasize the need to ensure a reliable local water system in a crisis.

8. Invest in several solar shower bags – there’s nothing like a hot shower, and they can be left in the sun in warm weather or hung in a greenhouse or behind a heat source in the winter. A good sized washtub also has many uses, from bathing kids to doing laundry by hand.

9. If you decorate for holidays and special occasions, invest in permanent, sustainable sources, or consider making them. Wreath making, for example, is comparatively simple and many of us have access to local evergreens. Decorate your sukkah or for a birthday party with hand knit or sewn “streamers” made in the shape of intertwined tubes or in roughly the style of tibetan prayer flags. Festivals and rituals are important – maintaining them sustainably is equally important.

10. Time to put in a composting toilet! They can be purchased at places like Lehmans ( http://www.lehmans.com ), or you can make one from plans readily available on the web. John Jenkins’ book, _The Humanure Handbook_ is available for sale or internet download, and covers all the relevant issues.

11. I know you’ve already converted over to compact fluorescent lights, but have you also converted to LED, solar or hand cranked flashlights? Have you got a solar battery charger and rechargeable batteries for your flashlight? How about a solar charger for your cell phone?

12. If you plan to buy a house or land, remember, that an acre is a lot of land. It is easy to get all worried about peak oil and imagine you need 20 acres, but one acre, or half an acre or even a quarter can do an awful lot.

Garden:

13. Take an introduction to permaculture class, or read up on permaculture. Toby Hemenway’s book _Gaia’s Garden:An Introduction to Home-Scale Permaculture_ is an excellent start. Begin replacing ornamental plants with edibles that are also beautiful.

14. If you are concerned with having to grow much of your food and don’t have a lot of space, prioritize root crops, especially potatoes and sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes can be grown in much of the northern half of America), rather than small grains, and beans, instead of meats. The people at Ecology Action, who have done more than almost anyone to figure out how to grow the most food in the least space recommend that 60% of your land be in cover crops, 30% in root crops and 10% in everything else.

15. Grow only or mostly open pollinated varieties of plants and practice seed saving. It may take some experimentation to find suitable varieties, but the security of saving your own seed is worth it. Seed saving does take practice, so start early. Check out Suzanne Ashworth’s _Seed to Seed_ for ideas, but beans and peas are an excellent starting place. Overwintering biennials like carrots and cabbage is easier than it sounds, so don’t assume you can’t save such seed. Join Seed Savers Exchange http://www.seedsavers.org

16. Connect with local garden clubs and beautification projects, and encourage them consider replacing street trees and public landscaping with edible trees and shrubs.

17. Start a new trend. Grow food plants in the shape of a V, or spelling out “Victory.” Bring back the Victory Garden!! Encourage victory gardens in your neighborhood.

18. Encourage your local religious community to reconnect with the agrarian roots of your faith. Every religion has harvest and planting rituals, traditions associated with spring and rebirth, etc… Create special gardens for religious holidays and community festivals to grow some of the food to be used in these. Share it publically, or donate it to the poor in your community.

19. Make compost tea out of your weeds. Many weeds contain useful trace minerals, and they’ve already absorbed some of your soil fertility. Dump them in a bucket of water, allow it to sit for a couple of days, and then fertilize plants.

20. Urine is sterile, and a person’s yearly output can provide a good part of the fertility for 1/2 acre. Pee in a bucket, jar or commode, and fertilize your garden with liquid gold, diluted 1 part pee to 10 parts water.

21. Encourage useful plant volunteers, and learn to propagate more plants by cuttings, layering and grafting. Plant your extras, or share them with neighbors and friends.

22. Many unusual fruit trees have few pests or disease issues, unlike some of the more common varieties. Consider trying pawpaws, medlars and quinces as well as apples, peaches and plums.

23. Barter your gardening skills, or offer them as gifts. Off er to put in a food garden for your neighbor, either in trade for something or as a gift, perhaps for an anniversary or child’s birthday. Or ask a neighbor to do you a favor, and let you garden on some spare lawn in exchange for help maintaining the property. Do whatever you have to get people growing food, even if it is a little sneaky.

24. Now is the time to get comfortable with season extension techniques to keep your supply of fresh food going as long as possible. Build a greenhouse or a strawbale coldframe. Put up floating row covers or a hoophouse.

Animal:

25. Grow some food for your animals in your garden. Alfalfa, root crops, even wheat are easy to grow in garden beds, and the animals can sometimes even harvest them themselves.

26. Make sure your animals have updated vaccinations, in case the time comes when you are unable to revaccinate. Try and get 3 year rabies boosters when possible. Plan to keep pets indoors or contained if disease outbreaks in animals occur.

27. Shredded newspaper makes good animal bedding, as do dried leaves and even dried weeds. You don’t have to depend on purchased shavings or hay for your animals.

28. If you are attempting to get chickens in an area that hasn’t had them before, talk to your neighbors first. Ideally, bring samples of beautiful fresh eggs and the baked goods that come with them. Approach your zoning commission after you’ve gotten the support of those around you.

29. Some small varieties of sheep and goats are appropriate for even suburban lots. You might convinceneighbors by offering to graze the animals on untended marginal areas that make the neighborhood look messy, or by letting goats clean up brush on other properties.

30. Spay and neuter any animals you do not intend to breed. Hard times are tough on animals, and we can expect proliferation of hungry, unwanted pets.

31. Consider training your dog to “go with” your children – train the dog to stay with your kids at all times when commanded, as an added measure of security. Or perhaps teach the dog to fetch small objects, guard animals or even dig holes for planting trees and perennials. Everything you can do to make your animals more functional will help you. Feel free to try it with cats.

32. If you are choosing a dog and taking peak oil and climate change into account, think seriously about a dog suited to your climate, environment and skills. A St. Bernard in the south may be miserable without air conditioning, a hairless dog unhappy in the wintery north without lots of heat. If your means of accommodating your animals include driving, fossil fueled temperature control, etc… choose an animal that doesn’t require these things. Remember that dogs and cats must be fed and have an ecological footprint. Think hard about how you will feed them in hard times.

33. If you are knowledgeable and committed to do it well, a small home business breeding working dogs, excellent mousers, meat or fiber rabbits or other useful animals might be an excellent source of income.

34. Consider horse transport and basic animal traction. Could you give up your vehicle if you had a horse? Do not, however, assume that hay and feed will be readily available – only raise horses if you have the land to feed them, or reason to believe it will be available.

35. Choose breeds of poultry that set, and can hatch out their own eggs in case replacement chicks are not available. Orpingtons, Cochins and most Bantams are good choices, although there are others.

Clothing:

36. Practice doing laundry without power. There are several ways, including long soaking, using a plunger and a bucket and various devices such as hand washers and pressure washers. But make sure you are not dependent for clean clothes upon power.

37. If you are troubled by towels and jeans that don’t dry as soft on the line as in the dryer you can add vinegar to the rinse to soften them, or use less detergent. Or just get used to it.

38. Acquire basic patterns for simple clothing that is comfortable and sturdy, and will adapt to your family over the long term. Practice making clothes.

39. Buy sturdy, high quality, well made boots, and make sure you have several extra pairs. The same is true for work gloves.

40. Always make sure you have extra pairs of glasses, including sunglasses and reading glasses for everyone who needs them. Even if you don’t yet need reading glasses, it might be wise to store a few pairs for the future.

41. Many people with indoor jobs don’t have an appropriate wardrobe for a life largely spent outdoors – their winter clothes aren’t warm enough for extended periods of outside work, their summer clothes are made of artificial fibers and don’t breathe well, they don’t have appropriate shoes, hats, etc… Now is the time to assess your wardrobe and overcome its deficiencies by checking out thrift shops, ebay and yard sales.

42. Many rummage sales have “bag sales” on the last day, allowing people to fill an entire bag with clothes for 50 cents or a dollar. This is a perfect time to acquire clothes for making scrap quilts and braided rugs, shruken and felted woolen goods for rug making, and clothes in other sizes to be able to offer refugees, family members, and growing children.

43. Consider creating a neighborhood clothing, book and toy exchange – it can be run out of a spare room, a garage, etc… Each family brings its outgrown and used items and others are free to take them. This expands neighborhood cohesion and also makes sure everyone has what they need without feeling uncomfortable about it. It can be expanded to include many other goods.

44. We dress our kids for winter nights in unheated bedrooms in several layers – long johns under blanket sleepers. Sweatshirts and sweatpants can be added over those. So even small children who don’t reliably keep covers on can be warm at night with minimal or no heat. A nightcap really will keep you considerably warmer.

45. Save some baby clothes and children’s items. Someday you or your children or a family member may need them when there are fewer available at greater cost.

46. Watch carefully that older family members do not overdress in hot weather. They often don’t feel the heat, but their bodies need to be free to cool off. Don’t overdress babies, who have difficulty regulating body temperature, either.

47. Switch to cloth menstrual pads. They can be made from patterns available on the web or purchased. Or consider a diva cup or keeper. Use rags instead of paper towels, cloth napkins, handkerchiefs instead of kleenex, cloth diapers that you wash yourself instead of disposable.

48. Consider growing cotton or flax in your garden, and spinning, weaving, knitting or crocheting with it. Even if you cannot grow very much, we will need people with some experience with small scale clothing production.

Community:

49. Invite someone new to your house once every month. Try and expand your community and circle of friends regularly. Invite people to eat with you regularly – sharing food is an important part of community building.

50. Attend zoning meetings and consider running for zoning board. Work to amend local zoning laws to allow green building, composting toilets, clotheslines, small livestock, cottage businesses, front lawn gardens and other essentials.

51. Have a large house and not a lot of people in it? Consider a roommate, or borders. This will make you more economically stable and also expand your community and local resources. If you currently rent an apartment, consider sharing housing with a roommate.

52. If your community doesn’t have a food coop, start one now. There is a great deal of information on the web here: This can be a powerful tool for creating local food economies.

53. Consider creating a community currency. They keep money local and encourage small businesses and sustainable economies.

54. Sometimes you get more by giving things away than by selling them. Do you have something you don’t need? Extra produce? Spare time? Give extra tomatoes to a neighbor, offer spare items to friends, go over and help out someone who could use it. Good deeds mostly return to us.

55. Build an in-law apartment, or set your home up so that elderly family members can live comfortably with you when the time comes. Sit down and talk to them before the problem becomes acute, and tell them that you want them with you. It is easier to move elderly folks in with you before things become difficult.

56. Take time to get to know children in your neighborhood, especially teenagers. Make friends with them, talk and listen respectfully. Consider inviting them to apprentice with you on some work, or join in a work project (don’t forget to pay them for their help). Older children and teenagers need *meaningful* work – they need to know their contribution matters. Make sure it does.

57. Get to know local farmers and encourage them to fill gaps in your local food system – get together with neighbors and friends and create a market for local wheat, local dried beans, and other foods that are often grown industrially. If farmers know that even small quantities of these foods, locally grown, would be welcome, they will grow them.

58. Create a community festival to showcase local agricultural products, arts or other truly local creations and skills. Instead of focusing on simply drawing tourists, emphasize activities that bring the community together as part of it – dances, demonstrations of skill, children’s activities.

59. Draw attention to your local watershed, and on your vulnerabilities in that regard. Will you be competing with other communities? Are there areas of waste to be dealt with? Wetlands to be preserved? Make assuring a safe, long term water supply a community priority.

60. Create local educational systems – resist regionalizing schools and advocate for the creation or recreation of neighborhood school and library systems. Build homeschooling coops, and set up library branches at walkable sites. Encourage extension programs, community college branches and everything you can to make education more local.

Family:

61. Talk to your older kids about sex, birth control, responsibility, your values and what you expect of them. Have this conversation early and often, and combine it with a discussion of peak oil, so that they can understand what the implications of early sexual activity and childbearing might be in a post-peak world. Offer them a vision of what yo uhope for and expect from them, as well as a list of negatives. And while condoms have a limited lifespan, even old condoms are better than nothing. Store some in a cool dark place if you have teenagers, or will soon.

62. Children, the elderly and ill or disabled family members are more likely to experience “appetite fatigue” and stop eating if their diet suddenly changes because of a crisis. Start eating the foods in your storage in the ways you are likely to enjoy them right now. Allow your bodies time to adapt to whole grains, more fresh vegetables, beans, a vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diet, fewer fats, less salt and sugar, etc.. Dietary changes are stressful – so make them gradually. Even short periods of malnutrition can do real harm.

63. Resolve family conflicts whenever possible. Unless you are prepared to see your parents go homeless, your annoying brother in law starving, you will end up helping them. You might as well get along in the meantime. Find common ground – you will need each other.

64. Write letters to family and close friends to help them be prepared to come to you in a crisis or evacuation – include direction including via back roads, lists of things to bring and not to bring (what should they do with pets, for example?), a list of your expectations if you are together for an extended period, etc… Also, consider where you would evacuate to, and what plans you need to make.

65. Do everything you can to nurse your babies. This is not a criticism of those who cannot, but as Hurricane Katrina proved, nursing can literally save your child’s life in a crisis situation. In less severe situations, the additional health and nutritional benefits may help an infant or young child survive, and can provide them with security and comfort as well. Nurse as long as possible – the world average age of weaning is 4, and “at least 2 years” is recommended by the WHO. In a crisis, a lactating woman may be able to help out someone else’s baby, even if their own is fine.

66. Learn basic first aid, herbalism, and any other useful medical information you can come by. Have the tools to assess conditions, deal with basic medical crises, and endure an epidemic or crisis in your home if hospitals are turning people away.

67. Encourage your children to start a business of their own, perhaps managing animals, or growing food in their own gardens and selling it. Treat what they do seriously, and validate them for contributing to the welfare of the house.

68. Don’t entertain your children all the time. Even older babies (1 year+) can be expected to amuse themselves for periods of a half hour or so, assuming their basic needs are met, or can be expected to hang out quietly in a sling or carrier. Increase the periods of time that children play independently gradually. Help older children learn to guide and watch out for younger ones.

69. Talk about your economic values with your kids – begin early “local food is better because it doesn’t use so much energy – let’s ask where these carrots came from.” As they get older, you can offer more information, and use it as an educational tool. “Well, the reason we don’t want you to have these clothes is because we think they came from a company that forces children to do work for them – and we don’t want to support that. But let’s see if we can find out whether that’s true or not. We can call the company, and search for articles about the brand and its labor practices…”

70. There is enough baby stuff on the planet already. Don’t buy new if you can avoid it. If you ask around, or check freecycle, all the cute clothes you could ever want will appear.

71. Consider homeschooling if you can. Not only is it a good energy saver, it can spare your kids some ofthe heavier pressures to consume. It is also a lot of fun for both parents and kids.

72. If an emergency happened while everyone was at school or work, where would you meet up? How would you get in touch if cell phone lines were overloaded? Make a plan, or several plans for who checks on who, where you meet and where you go, and choose a relative that everyone can leave connecting messages with.

73. There is no need for children to know all the bad news. Make adaptation fun – tell them we’re making our presents because homemade things are nicer or that we’re doing it this way because that’s how they did it long ago. Older children need to know about some realities, but young kids should be protected as much as possible.

74. More than half of people who undergo trauma experience depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Know the signs, provide support, and watch children especially. Expect it to take a long time before the symptoms disappear and life gets back to normal. Be understanding.

75. Create household routines that can be adapted even if things change – bedtime routines, the morning cuppa, whatever it is, these provide reassurance and stability for adults and children. Even if the bedtime routine is done by flashlight and the cuppa is hot water poured over mint from your garden, stable routines say “some things have changed, but the essentials remain the same.”

76. If you have young children, buy books for older kids at yard and library sales. Stock up on educational books as well so that if the schools close, you can continue their education. Remember, children who are raised in hard times may not be as excited as you are about reading books on gardening and building – these things may be natural to them. So have books on as wide a range of subjects as possible – mathematics, art, history, politics. And have some escapist material for both children and adults – mysteries, science fiction, comic books, romance novels – everyone needs to be taken away now and again.

77. For disabled family members, make sure your local responders and local utilities know there is someone seriously ill or disabled here. If special treatments are required, learn how to give them whenever possible. Plan your daily life to integrate and include them as much as possible.

78. Pay attention to your marriage/partnership. Stress is a problem for many marriages. Make sure you have healthy, enjoyable ways of dealing with stress, and that even in hard times, your partner knows that you love and are committed to her/him. If you don’t have a partner, consider making it a priority – life is easier as a duo.

Transportation:

79: School buses are very inefficient – they only run 2xs per day – consider getting your community to make use of its existing buses to provide local public transportation.

80. For families with young kids and the elderly or disabled, bicycles may not be an option. Consider a bicycle rickshaw, where passengers sit in front and able bodied people pedal behind. These are very expensive, but it is possible that one could be made by a handy person.

81. If you live in a snowy area, acquire snowshoes or crosscountry skis to facilitate getting around.

82. Consolidate trips whenever possible – do your grocery shopping, your library run, your errands ahead. This involves planning ahead what you will eat, where you will go, so keep records and record expected activities – if your mother’s birthday is next month, make sure you think about the ingredients for her cake and her present while on your monthly shopping trip.

83. If you haven’t ridden a bicycle in a long time, recognize that it will take some practice before you can do it as well as when you were 14.

84. If you have a bad back, recumbent bicycles are more comfortable than regular bikes. They can be purchased or made.

85. If you have to choose between being close to family and community and being close to work, choose work only if you believe your job is quite stable in the long term.

86. If you live within 2-5 miles of shopping, invest in one of those little carts that you drag behind you. There is no reason able bodied people can’t shop on foot at those distances.

Miscellaneous:

87. Honeybees have been in a dangerous decline – attract pollinators like mason bees and other wild bees to your home and garden to ensure reliable crops.

88. If you are adding a backup heating system (or even if you aren’t – your neighbor might be), don’t neglect fire prevention including good extinguishers, escape ladders and 10 year smoke detector batteries.

89. You will keep heat in your house better if you bank it with snow or bales of hay.

90. Sing as often as possible – it will make you happy, provide you with music, and the songs you know by heart will always be with you and your family.

91. Learn to sleep anywhere, in any situation. Self-hypnosis and meditation can help with this. Being able to fall asleep when you cannot change your situation means that you will be rested when the time comes that you can.

92. Pay attention. Look carefully at your surroundings. Notice your weeds, your seasons, the birds at your feeders, the flowers that bloom on the roadsides. Notice your family – look for what they are doing more of, better, and reasons to be happy. Notice your spouse or partner. Show them that you notice. Notice what you are doing – do it carefully and joyfully.

93. Think in terms of turning off, doing without, reusing, making less, rather than keeping your life essentially the way it was with only minor refinements of consumption. It is often better to get rid of the appliance entirely than spend a lot of money finding the most energy efficient option.

94. If others don’t seem to be responding to your message or sharing your concerns, remember that the evidence was there before you saw things too, and that everyone is ready to hear things at a different time. Don’t stop trying, but be gentle and respect the time people need to adapt.

95. Distinguish between present scarcity and future scarcity – try and be more generous, more appreciative of abundance now when we have it. It is easy to look at the future and feel we are already enduring deprivation, to horde and panic. Remember, we are here now, and there is much to enjoy.

96. For every new project you take on, consider letting something else go – if you are going to begin canning your vegetables, consider giving up vacuuming every day, and put it off. If you are getting involved in community affairs, cut down on the number of long phone calls with people you don’t like. Try and cut out something you hate but do because you feel you have to, and replace it with something you enjoy, that also helps you prepare.

97. Try and look cool. Of course it feels weird to say, “nope, I’m going to walk 3 miles to work” or “nope, sorry, we’re not buying anything new this year.” Do it with class and elan – pretend you are having fun, and leading the pack, even if you feel weird. The weirdness will go away on its own.

98. Learn to like your work. If you hate your job, either find a different one that serves your goals, or if you can’t, minimize your needs so that you can spend as little time working as possible and devote yourself to the other things you do. Try and do work that helps others, improves the world, improves your life. At a minimum, try to do no harm. And try and take pleasure in the work you will be doing in the future. We can choose what we enjoy in many cases.

99. Think of peak oil and the other challenges that face us as an optimization exercise – how do I get the most fun, the best life, the most happiness, the most love, with the fewest inputs – the least money, the least energy, the least waste. Get excited about making it work.

100. Find your special “thing” – your passion, your interest, your delight that will make the post peak world better. Peak oil will affect our whole lives – so find the one thing that needs doing most urgently that you care most about, and fix it. Find an underserved population and serve them. Find an unfilled niche and fill it. Find a loss or a need and help mend it. While the future will demand a diverse set of skills, it will also demand passion and energy. No one can fix everything at once – focus on your passion.

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