Growing up, my mother always had us shut off lights when leaving a room, and we used cloth napkins instead of paper. Kitchen scraps were composted, and even though we lived in the city, we had a small vegetable garden. All the talk on “green living” and recycling got me thinking recently about my childhood ways and I've realize that I've come a long way since then.
I am so much more in tuned with nature, wasting, consumption, reducing, reusing, re-you name it. It has become such a way of life for my husband and me that we no longer even think about it, it's second nature.
Being off the grid makes you so much more aware of power consumption. All of our light bulbs are compact florescent, and I even pay careful attention to the watts they use (why have 18 watts when 11 will do the job). We plug our TV, DVD and computer into power strips and turn off the power strip when we are not using it. Some things even get unplugged from the power strip (the computer monitor hums, must still be drawing power). I plan my laundry (for which we have a front loading washer, uses less electricity and less water) and laundry for sunny days.
Here are some of the other things we do:
We no longer buy paper towels. Living on a farm, we always have lots of rags, just as easy to use one of those as a paper towel.
We shop yard sales and thrift shops. Sometimes we come home with great treasures- lots of building materials (thermal glass kitchen window for $20.00, see photo), garden tools, outdoor furniture, sky light for our mud room; even our work clothes that become rags come from yard sales (double, or triple? recycling).
Dexter cows mow most of our yard and are working hard clearing the woods. Dexter's are great for eating bushes and scrubby plants. In one summer they do a remarkable job.
We grow a garden and can all of our fruit and most of our vegetables for the winter. What food we do buy, we buy in bulk to save money and to reduce packaging waste. Buying spices in bulk saves a lot of money. Rice, pasta etc. is stored in one gallon glass jars that are recycled from a local nursing home.
We make our own organic bread.
When the home made pickles are gone, we reuse the brine for pickled eggs. Simply boil up some eggs, peel, and put right in the jar of brine and refrigerate.
Local consignment shops are a great source for clothes. The quality is good, plus you can bring in your own good quality clothes to sell.
Even before we had a wood water heater we heated kettles of water on the wood stove for washing dishes etc.
We shop local, locally owned stores whenever we can. Surprisingly, the prices at our local hardware store are just as good, if not better than, the big stores. Plus we're helping a local business, and (because of where we live) saving gas.
Each year we save seeds from our garden. This is new to us (in the past few years), but so far we have had pretty good luck. We are also trying to start all our own plants, a good goal for us.
Our herb gardens get bigger each year. We are trying to have more gardens, and less lawn. We dry herbs for winter use and have been growing more herbs for tea.
We grow everything organically, no chemicals, no spraying (only with a compost tea that we make).
We use glass containers to store food and rarely use plastic wrap, bags or aluminum foil.
Handkerchiefs replace tissues.
Composting kitchen scraps makes wonderful soil (or try your hand at vermiculture), and keeps trash out of land fills. You can even do it the lazy way- take your kitchen scraps to the garden, dig a hole and bury them (in a different spot each time until the scraps have a chance to break down); an easy solution for someone that doesn't want a compost pile.
We plan meals around what's in season; rhubarb time, we eat lots of rhubarb; cucumber season, we eat lots of cucumbers.
Actually, the longer I sit here and write, the more things I come up with. I know not everyone can make use of all the ideas, but maybe there are a few that will spark your interest.