Contemplating Homesteading

Should This Be The New Normal?

This may sound strange, but our family has actually kind of enjoyed these last couple months on lock down.  While people all over the world are going stir crazy, protesting and just plain acting foolish, we have been slowing down and enjoying our already simple hygge-lism life.

Now don’t get me wrong, we have had to cancel a couple vacation getaways, and that is a bummer.  We planned on thoroughly taking advantage of our time in Europe by seeing all the sights to be seen.  In the meantime, there is something to be said about experiencing life, at home, with family.

We have settled into a kind of quarantine routine of sorts.  I wake up a little later than I used to, since my commute is about 15 steps.  I brew a pot of french press coffee, water the plants both inside and out and then log into work.  I wake up the boys, they eat and then join me in the classroom/office for their schooling.  After bringing coffee up to my wife, I work and teach for the rest of the morning.  By lunchtime typically all of the schooling is done.  We all eat, check on the plants and work on house projects while I bounce back and forth between work and home tasks for a few hours in the afternoon.

The “Classroom”

In the evenings we sit and talk about the day, the past, the present and the future, it’s nice.  

We have solidified our meal plan, we are saving and investing more than we would have.  Minimizing our trips to grocery stores has made us more creative in our food processes.  We have had the time to really focus on what we want, we are being more conscious of our spending, reducing our wastefulness and paying attention to our environmental impact.  We have started our garden, looked further into the plants and trees that surround us for their possible benefits and have gotten even more self reliant and sustainable than we have ever been before.

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All of these things have turned our attention to homesteading.  Living sustainable and as much off grid as possible is something that we think could become a reality for us.  To be able to raise, grow and harness nearly everything that you need to feed and support our family would be a dream.  Only, it doesn’t have to be just a dream and we are in a unique and opportunistic situation to make it happen. 

Our current situation is financially beneficial and also beneficial in the aspect that we have a clearly defined timeline that we can schedule, save, research and plan too. By planning, saving and focusing on what we want now, we will be able to hit the ground running, as they say when the time comes, also as they say.  I also have a job that offers multiple location possibilities that I can take advantage of while we get a sustainable homestead established.

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Covid-19 is a horrible pandemic, and has been devastating worldwide.  Self-isolation on the other hand has had eye opening benefits for families and offered the chance for connections and realizations that were never even imagined before.  While everyone is pining for the chance to run back out and return back to the old normal.  We are looking at what could be the new normal for us, ready to stay in, be self sufficient and sustainable for the long term.

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Cheap Vs. Luxery Vs. Quality

On the rare occasion when you are ready to bring some new items into your life, it is important to do it responsibly.  High quality, responsibly manufactured items are often more expensive than what you would find at a bargain store but are not to be confused with luxury items.

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Cheap

Stores like Wal-Mart do everything they can to acquire and sell the cheapest and most irresponsibly manufactured items possible in order to be able to sell items at a low price and still maintain a large profit.  The reason you can buy a pack of three t-shirts at these stores for less than five dollars, is because they are manufactured in countries with the lowest labor cost and that have the most lax labor laws. They are made of the cheapest possible materials and are designed to last only a few wash cycles before they begin to fall apart.  This planned obsolescence is causing you to return to purchase more items; increasing their profit; proliferating their poor manufacturing morals; increasing their foot traffic through their doors and exposing yourself to their marketing tactics. This in turn, adds to the amount of clothing waste as these items are so poorly made that they do not have a secondhand life.  This causes more material to be harvested with all of the equipment required to convert them from nature to material to shirt. Uses an enormous amount of energy and water to complete this conversion, often from developing countries where water and energy are an extremely limited commodity. Leading to increased climate change, and the eventual peril of the planet. All for the sake of saving a few dollars and not being inconvenienced by having to travel to more than one store.  But I digress, this is a soapbox for another day.

Luxury

Luxury items are often expensive due to the brand name attached to the item.  They are more of a status symbol than a functional item with a high return on investment.  Luxury items sole purpose is to elevate one’s perceived status, regardless of the quality of the item.  These items are often tempting due to the marketing tactics of the brands and the draw of celebrity endorsement.  Endless barrages of social media ad placement and television commercials promoting these brands in combination with a high price tag transform these items into luxury items.  They are designed to separate the low and high income classes via a prominent brand name or symbolized association.

With all of that said, luxury items are often also quality items.  Luxury items can be bought, utilized and kept for long periods of time.  Most often though, the extra high price tag makes the return on investment hard to achieve.   

Quality

Quality items are gauged by their return on investment and durability.  You are paying for the reliability, responsibility and peace of mind that you receive when you purchase a quality item.  Quality items are made of quality materials and are assembled in such a way as to make them useful, reliable and long lasting.  The higher price tag that comes with quality items is due to the time put into the manufacturing an item in a responsible matter, with a lot of thought put into the design and the quality assurance that the item is well tested and known to be reliable for an extended period of time.

For example, a well made watch that will last you for innumerable years and keep perfect time is a quality item.  When the word Rolex is attached to the item and an additional zero is added to the price tag it becomes a luxury item.  In contrast, a cheap, irresponsibly manufactured watch that is designed to be replaced completely if the battery dies, has questionable time reliability and never works the same after it falls off a dresser one time will have one less zero on the price tag and will be on sale.

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With this said, luxury items are often but not always high quality items, and cheap items can on occasion be quality items.  A Rolex watch has been known to keep exceptional time and last for many years, even being passed down through generations. For the additional cost of the brand name Rolex though, being passed down through generations is what it takes to achieve the return on investment that was put into it.

You could purchase, say for instance, a Citizen brand eco drive watch and receive the same amount of quality and reliability for a fraction of the price.  Both are quality, responsibly made items that could be purchased one time and last a lifetime. Weighing the up front cost in this situation is the determining factor.

Fast fashion brands on the other hand do not correlate luxury and quality as well.  Brands such as Forever 21, H&M and Nike all sell what would be considered name brand, luxury, status symbol items.  They do so though, while manufacturing them in developing third world countries utilizing cheap labor and questionable labor practices and still charge a premium price.  They are able to do so and still claim the items are U.S. made because as little as 3 or 4 percent of their products are still made in the U.S., in this instance luxury does not equal quality.

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     The most reliable vehicles of the past decade…Toyota owns the top 3 spots; 4 Runner; Prius; Camry, in that order.  In no way would those three high quality vehicles be considered luxury vehicles. Lexus holds down the number 4 spot, and is the first luxury car to make the list.

Do Your Research

So how do you tell what is what?  Simple answer – research, research, research.  One luxury that we all have, and we all happily pay for  these days is the internet. Researching quality brands and the manufacturing processes of any and all brands of any object is at our fingertips.

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Bamboo Bicycles

A Step Further in the Sustainability Direction

Bicycles are an incredible innovation, a health conscience, Eco friendly alternative to fossil fueled vehicles.  They are universally loved throughout the entire world, from children as young as two, to men and women of every age.

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There are more than 100 million bicycles manufactured every year and there are well over 1 billion bicycles currently present in the world already.  The largest accumulation of bikes is estimated to reside in China with nearly 500 million plus found there alone.

Those able to forego fossil fueled vehicles for a bicycle to complete their daily commute have an incredible positive impact on the environment and their own health.  It’s hard to look at a bicycle with anything but positivity in correlation with the economic impacts. But what are bicycles?

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Bicycles are hunks of metal, rubber, plastic, carbon fiber and grease.  Now, many of them are also equipped with batteries, but that’s another story for another post.  Bicycles don’t seem so enchanting when you think of them like that, but I’m not here to bash on bikes.  They are still a thousand times better than the alternative…automobiles. There is another, even more eco-friendly and sustainable option out there though – Bamboo Bicycles.

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Multiple companies have sprouted up with high quality, well made bamboo bicycles.  These companies are taking an already incredibly eco-friendly product and making it even more sustainable.  Bamboo is arguably the most sustainable material in the world. It’s regenerative qualities are unrivaled, when harvested it can regrow up to four feet in a single day.  It can absorb five times more carbon dioxide and create a third more oxygen than a similar sized grove of trees.

While most bamboo bikes still do typically contain some metal or carbon fiber at the joining joints, the longer stretches of material are replaced by bamboo stalks.  Not only does this decrease the carbon footprint of bicycle manufacturing, it also serves as a highly capable material. Bamboo is very lightweight and has a high tensile strength, it also has a higher shock absorbency than carbon fiber.  On top of that, it’s a cheaper building material than steel, aluminum and carbon fiber. A good company will pass that savings on to you!

If you are interested in a bamboo bicycle, there are quite a few established companies out there already, here is a handful:

BooomersYes, the three O’s is the correct spelling.  Booomers also uses there bike sales for additional socio-economic impact as well which you can read about by clicking on their company name. Additionally, the joints of a Booomers bicycle is created with a plant based fiber and epoxy which is somewhat unique in this industry.

My Boo – Is an impressive company based out of Ghana and Kiel, Germany, My Boo bamboo bikes offers handmade city, sport and electric bicycles.  The joints on these bikes are formed with glued and polished hemp rope adding to the sustainability of their product.

Ewabi – Established in 2016, Ewabi uses locally sourced bamboo from Bali, aluminum joints wrapped with natural fibers, resin and hardeners. Unique in its addition of bamboo mud guards.

Pedal Forward – These sustainable bikes are built with steel joints and Pedal Forward uses a portion of every sale to reinvest back into developing the transportation needs of developing communities.  They only have a few models at the moment, but offer them at a cheaper price point than most.

Bamboocycles – This company, based in Mexico manufactures bamboo bicycles with carbon fiber joints and offers a plethora of frame styles and designs.

In-Bo – A French company, specializing in bamboo products such as bicycles, skateboards and eyeglasses.

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Flirting with Zero Waste

Sustainable Hygge-lism; Level I

Zero waste is an achievement that I sometimes imagine as a far off dream that is nearly unattainable.  This is not, in fact, the case. A simple search of Zero waste on Google or YouTube, makes this clear as day.  What it also makes clear is that attaining a zero waste lifestyle is not something that can be done overnight. It is something to be worked towards slowly, baby steps.  One small change followed by another small change, then another, then another, taking the time to let each change settle in before adopting the next.

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We do not live a zero waste lifestyle…as of yet.  On the path to a zero waste lifestyle though, you walk the path of sustainability.

We do live a sustainable lifestyle…but we could do more.  One small step at a time. 

Minimalism, Hygge and Sustainability are all siblings, as you get to know one you automatically get to know the makings of the others.  Reducing waste and our carbon footprint is a key point of minimalism and automatically leads to a more sustainable, intentional lifestyle.  Whether you no longer want everything to come wrapped in plastic, or you no longer want to be throwing out straws, napkins, coffee filters and paper towels only to turn around and buy some more.  Minimal lifestyle changes are sustainable changes, and zero waste changes are the most sustainable changes that you could possibly achieve.

I encourage everyone to venture into the world of sustainability with even the smallest changes, here are some beginner level changes that are easy to incorporate into your lifestyle:

Trade plastic shopping bags for cloth reusable ones.

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We have gotten to the point in our society where plastic shopping bags are nearly a thing of the past.  Everyone is becoming aware of the massive negative impact of plastic on our world. Cloth grocery and produce bags are available almost everywhere, and there are even highly compact reusable bags that can be carried virtually everywhere so that you will never be caught off guard or unprepared.

Stop using plastic straws

This too has begun to draw worldwide attention.  Alternatives such as paper, metal and glass straws are readily available and small enough to carry along with you wherever you go. In lieu of carrying around a straw alternative, you could always just NOT use one.  I struggle to come up with a situation where a straw would be a necessity.

Get a reusable water bottle, preferably not a plastic one.

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Reusable water bottles are wildly popular, and that is fantastic.  Unfortunately, lots of times they are still plastic bottles. Research has started to uncover the health hazards associated with using plastic over and over.  As well as the negative impact of plastic as a whole as I mentioned before. So when shopping for a reusable water bottle, be sure to explore glass and metal options.

Transition to glass Tupperware.

Don’t throw away plastic items that you own, unless they are no longer useful.  Waste happens when an item is purchased, so throwing something out prior to it becoming no longer useful just doubles the waste.  Tupperware is a great example of this, if you have plastic tupperware that is just fine, then keep using it. Once it becomes no longer useful though, recycle it and if you replace it, then do it with glass.

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Recycle.

I shouldn’t even have to mention this, if you are not recycling at this point then I don’t even know what to say.  Recycle everything that you can. Compost everything that you can.

Buy a bamboo toothbrush, next time.

Anything that you can do to reduce your use of plastic products is a good thing.  Toothbrushes are replaced fairly often, so the next time you need a new one look into a bamboo one.  Bamboo is highly sustainable.

Adjust your commute.

If possible, look into riding a train or a bicycle to work rather than driving a car, or at least try and organize a carpool.  Forego the elevator and take the stairs. Small changes like these will help you reduce your carbon footprint.

Take pride in your clothing.

A minimal wardrobe is a great way to reduce waste by investing in higher quality clothing items made with sustainable materials, and not falling for the fast fashion trends that dominate social media and trendy magazines.  Pay attention to how often you wash your clothes, and try and use a clothesline to dry them rather than a dryer. There are plenty of laundry soaps that are much more environmentally friendly as well such as “Soap Nuts”. I also have this post about a hygge-list wardrobe.

Go Paperless.

We often take paper for granted.  90% of the paper that comes into your life is discarded without even a second thought.  Recycle all the paper you can, and then try and go paperless wherever you can. Also read “Cutting the Paper Clutter” for lots of useful tips and tricks.

Incorporating even just a couple of these simple changes can make a world of difference, let’s call this Level 1 of sustainability.  Be sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on more tips as we flirt with a zero waste lifestyle.

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