Our Thoughts on
Consumption, Waste and Technology
Sustainability as a Lifestyle Choice and Practice
knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think
too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More
than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities,
life will be violent and all will be lost."
Chaplin, "The Great Dictator"
Although our lifestyle is
different than the typical urban or suburban American consumer, it is not
as much so as you would imagine. It is very easy for people living
in the modern world to get caught up in the "norms" of their society.
Since we choose to not live
in isolation or separation, it is a constant effort to filter out much of
what the media and the world around us is saying and still maintain our
set of values, moral principles, and beliefs (which we do not try and
force on others just as we are tolerant of other points of view).
We strive to live deliberately and purposefully, to be conscientious consumers,
non-materialistic, and live by "The
We are 21st Century citizens
who study and strive for
proficiency in the "olden-day ways" of doing things and truly
believe that people should possess the necessary skills to be
But the reality is that in order for us to do
great things that have a positive impact
on this planet beyond the physical boundaries of the land that we are
stewards of, we selectively integrate technologies - both ancient and
modern - to maximize the output of our
time. We choose to reach out into the world as opposed to retreating
from it and live our lives as examples thus offering alternative ideas for
people to consider and possibly adapt or adopt into their way of life.
technology, we chose to use
our brains and integrate it into our lifestyle and
goals. We are continually trying to refine and rethink our daily
living practices. The following list is a few of these areas.
Recycling and Reuse Practices - Our goal is to walk as lightly on the planet as we can.
We are trying to minimize what our family sends to landfills which
naturally causes us to think about the purchases we make.
Recycling begins at the check-out counter of your local store.
[Climbing up onto my
soap box, purchase decisions also start by choosing the actual store you
are supporting. We choose to not shop in the large, big box stores
with "mart" or "depot" in their names. When practical, we buy from
local stores in an attempt to keep our local economy thriving.
Additionally, to supplement our food requirements of what we do not
produce ourselves, we support local agriculture. Not only does
this result in the freshest, most nutritious, best quality food we can
buy, it helps to support small farmers and encourage them to keep
farming. There is enough prime farmland paved and developed in our
world. Help slow the growth by supporting local agriculture.
Join a CSA. Buy at local farm stands or farmer's markets.]
Composting Bins - Time is
always short on the farm. If a process is not easy to use, it will
be circumvented. We have composting bins located in garden
areas but within reasonable walking distance from food preparation
- Compost Piles
- This is our primary method of improving the friability, structure
and fertility of our soil. Read more about this by
- Composting Toilet
Humanure is not used in edible gardens but in fields, woodlots and
Click here for more information.
- Reuse -
This is a primary goal for materials that would otherwise enter the
conventional waste stream. [Click here for more information]
- Glass and plastic
containers - New uses found.
- Lumber and
building materials - Salvaged from building or demolition sites
and used to build new structures on our farm. Refer to our tool shed and composting toilet projects.
- Donations to
others - If we have good, serviceable items that we no longer
need and cannot think of a reason to keep, we donate it to others. We first look to people in our local community and then to
organizations within our metropolitan area. We donate things
like outgrown clothing, household appliances, money, garden produce,
extra eggs, automobiles, and once, a whole cow, to serve
organizations like the
Portland Rescue Mission.
- "The Emporium" - This is a concept that I (Mike) learned as a teenager while working as a cabinetmaker. The shop happened to be located on my boss' family's farm and they were huge proponents of reuse and recycling. They had one whole farm building, an old
production chicken coop from the '30s or '40s, that was dedicated as
a repository for all things hardware related. It was awesome.
Family members from all over, not just ones living on the farm,
would bring items like hinges, door knobs, windows, tools,
appliances, etc. If you were working on a project and needed
something, you first searched the tables and shelves in the Emporium
and 90% of the time you would find what you needed. We use
this principle but do not yet have one dedicated building for the
purpose. My grandfather practiced this form of reuse as well. I still use parts and items that he salvaged and stored in the
basement (neatly organized in hanging jars or bins) or in the barns. Waste is just plain ignorant.
- Recycling - It is a secondary option to reuse. Recycling is better than
tossing something into a landfill because the raw materials are not
wasted, but it still requires energy and expense to convert into
local trash service provides a free
solution for recycling of glass containers, waste paper, cardboard,
plastic bottles, metal, motor oil. Other items deemed as
hazardous (used batteries, florescent lamp tubes, etc.) are
collected and taken to a recycling center so that dangerous
contaminants stay out of the
- We try and support
recycling efforts by purchasing items made with recycled materials.
- Sensible Use of
Technology (Sustainable Technology) - This is an ongoing area of
study, experimentation, and work.
- Working to Reduce
Our Dependence on Fossil Fuels.
- Minimizing the amount of driving we do. We no longer commute to off-farm jobs. We combine trips to town and route errands logically. We carpool with others when possible.
- We are in the very
early stages of investigating how using used cooking oil and
converting to bio-diesel might be used on our farm (we have a
tractor which is minimally used).
- Experimenting and
implementing alternative energy technologies.
- Solar and wind
power generation technology - Again, this is a project that is in
early investigational stages. We have implemented solar for
application specific purposes (our main entry gate, pathway
lighting, composting toilet light). But we are committed to
look at ways our energy consumption can be reduced and how we can
implement solar and wind systems economically. The ultimate
goal would be to remain on-grid but generate more energy than we
have chosen to spend a little more for our power in order to support
renewable energy projects in our region. The program was called "Green
Power Oregon" and we subscribe to the "Green Source" program with energy being
generated from wind, geothermal, and
- Water Use
- Our main source for
drinking and watering is a well drilled in 1961. We have had
it comprehensively tested and it is about as pure as you can get. We have it tested for common contaminants about every other year. Right now it is pumped using electricity from the power grid. Future goals would
be to convert the system to alternative power or pumping methods.
- Rain Water
Catchment - This is a project currently in the planning stages.
It will be implemented by redirecting the runoff from our farm building
into a series of small ponds to serve various uses.
- Waste Water
- Our "indoor plumbing" was added to the house in 1943. It was
plumbed with a standard septic system (tank and leach line drain field)
but the kitchen gray water was kept separate and runs out to a tank and
leach line that waters the orchard. Both systems work well and are
monitored and maintained. We are reducing the load on our system by
using a solar