Reflections of going sustainable in 2018

2018 was an exciting year for us as we started our journey, officially, to go Sustainable in the Suburbs. And we were pretty green… And I’m not talking in the good way!

Okay so we fancied ourselves as pretty environmentally friendly, we did our recycling and tried to use reusable shopping bags when we could remember… but in retrospect, that was about the extent of it.

So as we embarked on our mission to go sustainable in the suburbs, which for us meant a 5 to 6 year journey towards going as off grid and sustainable as we could while living in the suburbs, we needed to brainstorm exactly what that meant and then set ourselves some goals.

Here are the goals we set ourselves for 2018; they include the long term broader goals as well as the ones we set ourselves for 2018. We hit quite a few of the major ones but definitely overestimated the amount of work that each one would take! So the ones we didn’t hit remain on our radar for 2019.

RECYCLING, REUSE & WASTE GOALS:

To generate no more than 1 rubbish bag a year of landfill waste and to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as we possibly can.

  1. Cut down recycling to 1 bin a fortnight by end of year ✅ 2018
  2. Cut down rubbish bag collection to 1 a quarter ✅ 2018

GROWING FOOD GOALS:

To feed family of 6 a vegetarian meal each week from homegrown and homemade food.

  1. Have veggie garden beds in place for year round cultivation ✅ Nailed it in 2018
  2. Have a seasonal calendar and plan for sowing, planting and harvesting (Didn’t quite hit this – it’s my focus for 2019 🎯)
  3. Have a secondary compost ✅ Nailed it in 2018
  4. Research and settle on an aquaponic system to implement (have decided this is not a priority in 2019)
  5. Learn about growing mushrooms (2019 Goal 🎯)
  6. Have fruit trees assessed and treat (had some people look but need a professional horticulturists’ opinion – on the to do list for 2019 🎯)

PERMACULTURE GOALS:

To develop our suburban plot based on permaculture philosophy 

  1. Learn about the Perma philosophy (2019 Goal 🎯)
  2. Get chickens (Can’t wait! 2019 Goal 🐓 🎯)
  3. Research Bee Keeping and steps to become registered (Maybe next year, let’s do the chickens first!)

ENERGY GENERATION GOALS:

To aim for a suburban off grid property

  1. Minimise power bill by 25% (Let’s try for this winter – 2019 Goal 🎯)
  2. Research and settle on a solar power plan (2019 Goal 🎯)
  3. Research and settle on a wind power plan to implement (Zanda wants to HIT this one! 2019 Goal 🎯)

As you can see I didn’t really get to the energy conservation part so this will need to be a future focus, probably this year, by focussing to retain heat this winter and reduce our energy bills.

So what did we do in 2018?

So what exactly did we achieve in this first year of changing our lifelong habits in order to reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the planet?

Our main focus for 2018 was to reduce waste and get our vegetable garden up and running and I reckon we did pretty well! See those goals we hit just above.

Just before New Year’s Eve I sat down with Zanda and we brainstormed everything we’ve achieved, started or tried for the first time which was a step towards our longer term goals, and looking at the list I feel pretty satisfied that we’re off to a good start 👍

These are the smaller achievements that helped us hit those bigger goals:

  • Learned to make cheese! ✅
  • Learned to make Booch! (Kombucha). ✅
  • Made Sourdough bread for first time. ✅
  • Launched new WAM rebrand! ✅
  • Built new garden and retaining wall ✅
  • Made 12 Eco Bricks with soft plastics ✅
  • Started Bin Inn shopping reducing my plastic intake considerably ✅
  • Launched successful Plastic Free July and grew the Wake Up Warriors Community. ✅
  • Made beeswax wraps. ✅
  • Tried fusing plastic bags together! ✅
  • Made homemade pasta. ✅
  • Unearthed hidden terraces in our garden and planted in them ✅
  • Built compost bins ✅
  • Filmed and published 4 Sustainable in the Suburbs monthly videos ✅
  • Started shopping with a butcher reducing plastic intake even more ✅
  • Got a new Eco Friendly washing machine ✅
  • Harvested Kiwifruit ✅
  • Planted potatoes for first time and harvested by Christmas! ✅
  • Installed irrigation in our top garden

What were the main takeaways?

Now I know above I say everything ‘we’ achieved, but in all reality most of these activities and achievements were mine and this was possibly my biggest learning all year:

Living sustainably needs to be a passion for all involved

You need to be passionate about leaving as little an impact on the environment as possible.

You need to be committed to reducing your personal waste, reducing your reliance on mainstream consumer products, minimising the amount you consume and own, letting go of stuff you think you want, making compromises and sacrifices in order to do the better and planning for situations when there is no sustainable option to choose.

So unless your partner and family are just as passionate as you are, anything less is going to require mostly all your effort and that can be demoralising at times.

 

In my case, I have a husband who’s supportive, but works full time and has other things on his mind that take precedence. He isn’t focussed on hitting sustainability goals like I am and while he’s keen to make more sustainable choices he doesn’t always have the time to really think that through and therefore make the right ones.

Half of our family (my 3 stepchildren) are with us only 50% of the time and when they’re not with us they are in a household that is not at all focused on sustainable practices so herein lies another problem with how to nurture a passion within them about the issues that we face for our earth and their future, when they can see that they equally have a choice to ignore these truths and do nothing.

This has been my hardest lesson and a bitter pill to swallow in 2018. I guess I shouldn’t be defeated by it and I hold out hope, that the actions and decisions we are making in this household are for good reason, that they aren’t on the whole, difficult and are in fact a very real options that they can choose to take in their own lifetimes.

I have to remind myself that the whole point of the ‘Sustainable in the Suburbs’ project is to prove that these changes are realistic, they can be easy to implement and don’t have to compromise our modern lifestyles in a way that means we won’t even try. We are not all going to become hippies, be all peace and love in a caravan singing Kum by yah. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m keen to show people like me that these changes can be made easily and still have a significant positive impact if we all made them.

So, we are going to continue to live a modern, suburban, family lifestyle with a regular home, technology, consumables, good food and the usual creature comfort’s that most people in western society don’t want to give up in a hurry. We just don’t need to keep up with all the damn Joneses and we sure as hell are ‘aware’ of our privileged lifestyle insofar that we don’t squander it or take it for granted.

There are things we need and then there are things we want, we are going to think hard about just how much we really want things.

Deb Rock-Evans

So this discomfort and this challenge I face in trying to bring the whole family along on this ride with me, highlights to me that with my mission, I need to find more ways to make a sustainable way of life easier for people.

Going sustainable has to be sustainable

So the above lesson learned in 2018 leads me to my focus for 2019 and beyond which is to focus on making changes and creating new habits that are sustainable and that I can easily keep and incorporate in our lifestyle.

Going sustainable can’t be like going on a diet. You know what I mean, when it feels good for a while, you see some results, you get excited, but then life throws some curveballs or temptations and before you know it, the diet is abandoned and you feel crappy for not having made it work thus making it harder to try again next time because you remember that pain.

You need to start where you are and celebrate all the small wins along the way. Pick the low-hanging fruit as in start with the changes that are easier and then challenge yourself more as you celebrate your successes.

This year I chose to start with reducing our plastic coming into the house and this was a great one as it was so noticeable when I started making key changes in certain products and ways I was shopping. I shared all the main learnings in this blogpost about the Plastic Free July Challenge.

I also share all the ways you can reduce your plastic consumption in the Plastic Free Challenge which you can do at any time – just sign up for it below. Over a series of emails and over a few weeks I take you step by step through tackling your main plastic problems. You can take it at your own pace of course and you’ll have all the info there available in your inbox anytime you need inspiration. Give it a go if this post has got you inspired!

Get into the garden everyday

I’m amazed at how quickly the garden gets out of hand, especially after lot’s or rain. I definitely could have done better at touching base with the garden everyday and observing what was going wrong and dealing with it while it was still controllable or manageable.

Not only rapid growth or plants bolting but also pest and bird raids as well as fruit trees dropping fruit all could’ve been discovered and dealt with sooner, not to mention keeping on top of my mulching.

The other benefit of everyday contact with the garden is that I would have stuck to a sowing and planting plan far better than I did, meaning I wouldn’t have gaps in my harvesting – something that would help me hitting my goal of at least one meal a week with homegrown food.

It feels to me that the more connected I am to my garden the more connected I am to my mission to live more sustainably. There’s something very primal about growing food, it’s very therapeutic and satisfying – it’s good for the soul and I need it everyday, it’s a form of self care I reckon.

Don’t be all talk and no action!

On a more personal and unrelated note (for most of us), another takeaway for me was that the actual acts of living sustainably need to take precedence over the talking about and sharing the journey of living sustainably.

I found myself falling back into old habits of prioritising the Facebook Group or the website or the YouTube videos over actually just DOING IT. Hence my issue of not getting into the garden enough.

This is an area that I don’t want to give up on, as I’m passionate about reaching and inspiring more people who think they can do more (and they can!) to give it a go and make some significant and meaningful changes.

 

SITS-1-Spring-in-the-garden

 

So I’ve more recently found some help in this area and I’m very lucky to have found an amazing video editor who is chopping out finished versions of my monthly videos faster than I could’ve ever dreamed of. So jump on over to my YouTube Channel and Subscribe for notifications of when they come out. I really appreciate your support!

 

What will you do in 2019 to live with less impact on the planet?

Will you join my Plastic Free Challenge and get started making changes to the way you shop for groceries?

Will you plant a veggie garden and try to provide a vegetarian meal once a week for your family?

Will you start making your own bread and other baked goods?

Perhaps you’d like to make all your own household products like laundry detergents and household cleaners, plus hygiene products like soaps, shampoos, moisturisers, toothpaste etc. If so, get in touch with me as I’m going to be hosting some in-person gatherings here in Whitby but will also share videos and recipes here and on YouTube – so keep following for ideas!

I’d love to know in the comments where you think you should start based on your situation and would love to support you on this journey!

It all starts with committing to making a difference and it’s all driven by your passion for our planet and for our kids’ futures.

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