I love participating in the Gardeners’ Sustainable Living Project, because it’s a project I wholeheartedly believe in. So Jan of Thanks for Today — and all folks working on living sustainably — thank you for all you have been doing to encourage thoughtful, earth-friendly actions. I’m posting down to the wire this year — the deadline is tomorrow, April 15 — but I have good reason. My whole life seems to be one big sustainable living project, and I’ve been rather busy doing Earth things lately!
As many know, native plants and wildlife gardening are my passion. But I do more than garden — I lead multiple environmental projects, I volunteer often, and I speak about wildlife habitats and native flora to groups of all ages. I do this because I believe that we can make things better for Earth and protect its threatened species. Education is the first step, and actions are the next. That’s why I share what I can, because believe it or not, it’s easy to live sustainably and protect the environment — it just takes awareness and a desire.
I’m excited today because this morning I found our first Purple Martins setting up house in the new gourds at school. My school-habitat ally informed me as well that our 5,000-gallon rain tank is full and actually overflowing a bit — it turns out it’s been collecting dew off the metal roof at school, which thrills me as we’ve really only had one good rainstorm since fall. Dew! Back at home, I discovered that our native Buffalo Grass has spread greatly across the back of our property, and it means that nature is working WITH me to get rid of the remaining Bermuda. Happy wildlife, conservation of resources, beautiful gardens, kids learning about nature, all so good.
I live in a place where drought is a matter of fact, not an occasional occurrence. And as such, I try to take care about what I plant and the effect it will have on water resources and on wildlife. This is always on my mind, always. And along those lines, I protect the soil by following nature’s example — letting organic matter become a part of the soil again to let the cycle of nutrients and life flow the way it should.
At our home, we reduce first, then reuse, and only then do we recycle — because reduction is far better than recycling in terms of impact on the planet, with the worst of course being sending things to the landfill. We sometimes actually collect items from others to prevent them from adding to a landfill — our wonderful pond was once someone else’s broken hot tub, we have a flower planter that was once someone’s rusty wheelbarrow — creative projects like these are fun, rewarding, and immensely satisfying.
Inside the house, we’re trying to reduce “stuff” — living more simply without useless things that collect dust. But it takes time to sort items and get them to those who could use them. So it’s a work in progress. A worthy goal.
You know what would make me happy? Besides more people gardening and living sustainably, I mean? I’d love for junk mail to go away. I cannot stand being forced to have to recycle/sort/shred/toss things I didn’t ask to receive. It’s not like I can give junk mail to anyone. But if I can’t have that, then I’d love for all those wildlife and nature organizations that my very heart wants to support to stop sending me address labels, animal stickers, plastic fake membership cards, note cards, magnets, calendars, subscription requests, membership requests, stuffed animals, and so forth. Because doesn’t it say the wrong thing for those truly wanting to help the environment to continue to put so much waste into it? I donate when I can, but I’ve had to become selective. Because waste hurts my heart and the environment. Yes, I support what these organizations are doing, but I want them to stop wasting such precious resources and money on junk and instead maximize the help they can give the environment.
Next week on April 22, we celebrate Earth Day. At school, we’re making it a week-long celebration, and every class is choosing projects related to environmental stewardship and green practices. But it’s not our goal to only encourage environmental stewardship once a year or one week a year, but as a lifetime habit. Our kids are learning all about protecting and valuing nature, and, with hope, as adults they will continue practicing and sharing these values.
But it’s not just up to them. It takes all of us, and it’s okay to start with baby steps. Do what you can. One change makes a difference. But the more you work toward, the better. It doesn’t take much to live sustainably, just awareness and a desire.