This theme runs through many areas that interest me. The term 'conservation' means to preserve and protect. It seems so many aspects of life we should take this approach, this includes cultural practices, wisdom from our elders and maintaining the land that has supported us from the start.
Conservation and Sustainability can run parallel to one another. In my eyes, living a more sustainable life, one that does not need to take more than necessary and one that gives back, is a great step towards conservation. If you can lower your footprint or impact, then by consuming less, less might need to be produced. I say 'might' because it would take a lot of people to change their habits in order to make a bigger impact.
Regardless, the way I see it is that change all starts with yourself and your choices. There is a quote from Ram Dass that says, "I can do nothing for you but work on myself. You can do nothing for me but work on yourself." This seems to be a good starting point. That is what this article is about, the inward questioning of habits and choices and how they relate to conservation and sustainability.
Taking full control of your immediate environment and being mindful is the start. Look around you, all your furniture, books, belongings, clothing, food and daily care products. When was the last time, if ever that you questioned why you own them, use them or if there is a better way.
The low hanging fruit is tackling what and how you eat. A big step here is to first start eating more whole foods. Second is to shop in a sustainable fashion. One big issue with eating non-whole-foods, meaning pre-packaged foods, is the containers they come in. There is not really any practical uses for empty potato chip bags, at least not that I am aware of. The way around this is to either stop consuming that product or find an alternate option.
A habit that I have yet to enforce is procuring my fruits, vegetables and other things from farmers markets. Supporting local has many branching benefits. By supporting local you are putting money directly back into your community, you are getting the freshest option possible (besides growing it yourself), you are also gaining the benefit of acquiring the local microbes from the soil that you get from eating local foods. You also are not contributing to the mass transportation of fruits and vegetables that is necessary when it is grown far away.
What about other foods? There are good foods that do come in containers, but question the use of the containers. I try to stick to glass containers if possible and I do my best to repurpose them. Foods like almond butter, honey, maple syrup and kombucha can all be found in glass containers. Others foods like Greek yogurt come in plastic containers, the individual ones have no lid, but if you buy the larger size, it comes with a reusable lid, which gives you a chance to use it for something else. Another example being plastic containers for nuts.
The inspiration for this article came from spending time cooking and eating with my Uncle Fred and his wife Pam. "Waste not want not" is a common saying we pass back and forth. That statement truly can be a way to live your life. I have been crafting my own habits and taking bits and pieces that I like from different areas. As per usual, trying to keep things simple, in my own way.
So what do we do with these empty containers? Instead of Tupperware sets, we use the Greek yogurt and sour cream containers. I do have some glass containers as well, which I lean towards those when something will be getting reheated in them. But these containers go beyond food, especially for an artisan. These containers get used for storing different supplies, tools or even to pour paint into while still allowing the container to seal.
No, reusing the containers does not solve the issue. You will still be buying more foods that use those containers. That is a difficult aspect to get around. Perhaps trying to buy these things in more bulk styles or mostly cutting them out of your diet. There is no real perfect solution to this, but extending the life of a container is a worth while endeavor.
It is still a huge step in the right direction to take your diet from 80% processed foods, which means more packaging, and only 20% whole foods, to eating 80% whole foods and only 20% processed.
I have had this question floating around for a few years now, "What if we just stopped producing clothing for a few years?" I am sure there is enough clothing out there, especially in thrift stores and such. However, yes I know that would put people out of jobs. No easy solution, but there must be a better way. It is trendy to be wasteful. Fashion is such a joke to me. There always has to be the next best product. It is all a game and a trick for the rats in the rat race.
Why not buy something, take care of it properly and be proud when you have had it for ten plus years? Instead we are in the constant craving of more. If we conserve the clothing we have, then there won't need to be as much production. Yes, yet again, people will lose jobs if there is this shift, but there is always plenty of other new work.
Imagine if some of the people who no longer worked in the clothing factory then went and made their own business repairing clothes, or repurposing old garments. What if you could buy clothing that was made in your own town? That ties in nicely with sustainable shopping through farmers markets and supporting the local economy.
Going back to times of self reliance, there was no avoiding this. If you did not know how to conserve and work with your resources, you would die. I am not saying that everyone should live like our ancient ancestors, but there is a lot to learn from them and to be applied to our lives. Hunter Gatherer tribes are sustainable, that is why there are tribes who have been living similarly for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Buying for longevity. A great example of this is a cast iron skillet. If taken care of properly, it can last your whole life and then some. There are several benefits to this; not having to spend more money and it is a simple product that will not have to be replaced. Coated cookware may be easier to wash, but not only does the coating not last, so you will have to buy more, but it also is ending up in your body when you consume the food it was cooked in.
As for health care products, this is still an area I am figuring out. Using bar soaps over liquid is a good step in the right direction. The cool part about this is that there are always local soap makers. You can even find local businesses that make laundry soap and dish soaps too. A bar of soap does not have wasteful packaging, usually at least. Once the bar is used up, no muss no fuss.
Furniture is another interesting category. It seems that most would rather buy cheaper new furniture every few years rather than having saved up to buy something of quality, or having taken the time to find something used. There is plenty of furniture out there that is several decades if not a hundred years old. A lot of the time they just need some tender love & care and they will be back to good.
Our need for materialism is what is causing the destruction of the planet. There are ways to live without producing a big negative impact, what if we strove for a positive impact? It is ironic that we are supposed to work so much in order to even sustain our lives, but in reality if we were more responsible for our own food, we would be active and decreasing cost of the foods we buy. Gardening has so many benefits for you and your environment.
Circling this all back. We need to value our elders more, and what they have to teach us. Recently I came across a quote that goes, "When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground." Since I can remember, what has always interested me was learning about old traditions. Learning how our ancestors lived is so fascinating to me because we have drifted so far from how humanity historically thrives.
Throughout the world there is the practice of student and teacher, apprentice and master. When knowledge and tradition is passed down, it allows us to learn from the past and keep alive what has been clearly beneficial. If something has been practiced for several hundreds of years, that tells me it is important, and probably a timeless tradition.
What happens if you let these skills disappear? We have seen this play out before. Especially in the health industry, we are finding that holistic practices really do work. How we eat is the way we can heal ourselves. Food is medicine and how amazing would it be if that was common knowledge? We can be healthier by knowing plants, herbs and how to use them.
I can without a doubt say that when you craft something with your own hands, the end result is far more satisfying. This applies to cooking, art, clothing, furniture, gardening and more. This is the way we are supposed to be, Self-reliant. Know how to cook and how what you are cooking benefits you. Being creative keeps your mind sharp and helps you learn to solve problems. Imagine having the ability to fix your ripped jeans or the hole in your shirt. If you need an end table or cutting board, what if you made it with your hands instead of buying it?
Having a connections with the whole of your environment brings peace. It allows you a deeper connections with God, Mother Nature and Earth. Everything we need is here, we just need to know how to utilize what is at our disposal. That is where learning from our elders and maintaining traditions comes in.
Thank you for reading this ramble. There will be more articles to come that tie into this one nicely. If there are any big takeaways I would like the readers to have is this; shop local, learn from your elders and become self-reliant.
Hunt, Fish, Fitness
Peace and Love