My friend once asked me what the word sustainable meant in the context of society and humanity. My reply was that it was:
"The ability for an organism or organization to perpetuate itself and it's progeny over time"
But how to accomplish such a large goal without breaking the bank?
Below are my top 5 cheapest and most effective goals towards becoming a more sustainable society and person.
- Composting - the number one cheapest solution to waste management, healthy food production and greenhouse gas reduction. When food goes to a landfill it takes with it valuable nutrients. Furthermore, as it decomposes in the oxygenless environment of a landfill it releases Methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more 'greenhousey' than Co2. And even if you don't have a garden, or friend with a garden, to put the compost in, you can always spread it around some trees at the park... I'm sure they'll appreciate it!
- Insulation - Insulating our houses and building will keep the hot air in (or out). It's one of the simplest technologies around and when applied correctly is extremely cheap.
- Solar/geothermal heating and Cooling - Sunny climates can get most of their warmth through the winter from the sun, and dry climates can get most of their cooling needs from evaporative cooling in the summer. If an extra step is taken, warm or cool water from the earth can be used to modify the temperature of a house or building as well. Cooling and Heating our buildings is the #1 usage of energy in the world.
- Walking/Biking for transportation - it may not be suitable for commuting on snowy or blisteringly hot days, or for trips greater than 3 or 4 miles. But that's okay because the vast majority of trips we make are < 2 miles and in places like CO there are over 300 sunny days a year. Walking is free and enjoyable! Biking is almost as cheap.
- Micro Farming - aka gardening. Participting in growing your own food (if only even for a few tomatoes) is perhaps the most beneficial and cheap green activity. It teaches you about: soil health; what it takes to grow food; what it takes to use water efficiently; how much work goes into getting a return on your investment; and finally it teaches you to be much more conservative with your food purchasing and consumption. One quickly realizes how what goes into the soil, goes into the plant and ultimately into us! It also helps to really learn the old maxim: waste not want not.
Enjoy your cheap sustainable life!