We hear about sustainability all the time (to the point where it can feel overwhelming and a bit intimidating, in my opinion). There are so many competing opinions and so much green-washing in the sustainability space that it can feel hard to know what is really making a positive impact as we change our consumption habits.
But before we start, let me be the first to share that I really pick and choose my battles when it comes to being sustainable at home. I certainly don’t do things perfectly, but I genuinely believe that little actions add up. I would never judge anyone for being in a different place in life, as there were plenty of times in my life when I simply didn’t have the bandwidth or budget to implement these ideas.
That’s why I want to share the things I have implemented that have made us more sustainable at home, *and* that have brought me real joy and gratification in the process!
Much of the time eco-friendly options can feel like a sacrifice, but this blog will cover some ideas that have worked for us. It’s no secret that I believe one of the best ways to practice sustainability is to become more plugged into your local food chain. So with that in mind, here are five easy ways to be more sustainable at home while connecting more deeply to your food and where it comes from.
We know that food waste is a serious problem. (I just learned that if the 21.5 million tons of food waste we create each year was composted instead of being sent to the landfill it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking more than 2 million cars off the road.) But here’s the thing left out of many composting discussions: composting is FUN!
In a nutshell, composting takes organic waste material (like food scraps) and naturally recycles them to create a nutrient rich soil, which can then be used in gardens as a chemical-free fertilizer. The best part? You don’t need a backyard to get started.
Here’s a video that shows how to set up a robust indoor composting system, even if you’re short on space: How To Easily Compost In A Tiny Apartment
Once you start, you will get addicted to saving all your food scraps and watching as they turn into beautiful soil over time.
If you’d prefer to outsource your composting, there are companies popping up all over to meet that need. Here in the greater Bozeman, Montana area we have Happy Trash Can (IG: @happytrashcan, they have the cutest page), who provide curbside composting pickup for commercial and residential properties! https://www.happytrashcan.net/
And if you’ve got room for them, chickens are the ultimate composters! I don't maintain a traditional compost pile (though we do compost the sheep's manure and bedding after the winter time), mainly I just chuck the fowl flock all our leftovers. They do most of the work for me. I just make sure not to give them any meat as that draws in predators. (The dogs get that!)
2. Visit your local farmer's market
Photo: Anne Preble
Here in Townsend we have a small but growing farmer’s market that has recently brought me a lot of food inspiration! Last week I cooked kohlrabi for the first time just because it was recommended to me, and I really enjoyed it. There are so many ways farmer's markets benefit us and the community, with their low carbon footprint at the forefront.
Another gift of shopping at a farmer’s market is that I’ve reduced my food waste because I am *excited* about the food! Vegetables taste fresher, better, and I value them more, so I make sure to cook almost all of what I bring home.
Plus, what better way to learn about where your food comes from than by meeting and shopping directly from the people who produce it? Farmers markets are the place to find all things fresh and in season while supporting your local community and economy. A win-win!
You guys know I am having major garden FOMO right now, so the farmer’s market is filling that void for me, and I am enjoying every last bit I can get before they close for the season.
You can find a farmers market near you via this directory from the USDA: https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets
3. Source a staple straight from a farmer or rancher
Being sustainable doesn’t mean you have to overhaul your whole routine. I think baby steps are much more powerful because they create change you can actually stick to.
I always advise friends and family who want to eat more locally to start out by picking one staple product (like ground beef, for example) and purchasing it directly from a rancher. It’s another great way to support small businesses while getting to know EXACTLY where your food comes from.
While we raise our own eggs, beef, and lamb, there are plenty of staples we will never produce ourselves. Little by little I have been sourcing food from more and more farmers and ranchers, especially since so many are willing to ship these days!
This handy directory from Five Marys Farms allows you to find farmers and ranchers nationwide who specialize in beef, chicken, pork, lamb and more: https://m5friends.com/.
I also hear good things about Imperfect Foods, a company that ships “flawed” produce and other items right to you: https://www.imperfectfoods.com/
Note: I often get asked for my thoughts on companies like Butcher Box in the meat world. Those companies fill a need, and I think they can be great, but sometimes they do source meat internationally/from the commodity market which isn’t much different from what you’d get at the grocery store. Ultimately buying directly from a farmer or rancher - especially in regards to meat - is the best way to consume it sustainably while also keeping your dollars local or in the hands of small business.
4. Start a garden - even if it's on your windowsill!
Photo: Shannon West
How does your garden grow? Well, pretty much anywhere, including right in your windowsill. Herbs are a great place to start: They don’t take up a ton of space, are generally pretty low maintenance, and are so much fun to pick and cook with. Bonus points if you reuse old pots or containers for planting!
When I first moved to Montana, I helped maintain a small garden and got a lot of joy from it. But as we built the beef and lamb side of the business, the garden fell to the wayside. I am planning to plant my first batch of garlic this fall, and prioritizing a garden once again in the spring of 2022 - I hope you can help hold me to that!
5. Opt for reusable food storage, laundry, and self care solutions
Photo: Bee’s Wrap
It’s no secret that disposable plastic products account for a large portion of the waste that ends up in landfills and often times the ocean. Luckily, there are lots of eco-friendly reusable food storage options to choose from!
Below is a link to my Amazon storefront, where I've linked some of my favorite reusable/low waste products from food storage to dryer balls. These are affiliate links; if you end up purchasing any of these items and use this link I will get a small commission.
Other ways we've gone a little greener in the last few years include bulk shopping to reduce plastic (items like flour, sugar, olive oil, rice, and laundry detergent we get at Costco and stock up once or twice a year) and prioritizing thrifted and used items. We get a lot of our work clothes used and even got all our plates and glassware at thrift stores several years ago. We still love them!
Sustainability can seem like a daunting concept to consider, but I hope that you can find inspiration in this post to start small at home in an effort to lead to big, accumulated change!