The Sustainable Home

Time to crack down.

In light of recent events – like the weather for instance – and our climate for sure – the concept of The Sustainable Home has been rolling around my head.

The whole thing from architecture right through to waste disposal. I think we can take back a lot of the control. Living in the suburbs out here in California has taught me how dependent a family can be. How temporarily we are thinking. And I don’t like it.

I am not particularly interested in high tech, or long life batteries, generators, gizmos, or banks of freezers for buying in bulk or any of that stuff. Or solar power unless it is drying my clothes on a clothesline. I am not a dooms-day prepper. Though if the power does go out it is a good idea to have one solar bank to charge the phone. (and yes I know that is pathetic but chicken steps!!).

Think sustainable. The things we do every day.

I want to design a lifestyle and environment that I follow that is hung on the premise that we need to make permanent sustainable changes to joyfully live in a changing world. Simple routines and methods that allow us to take back some of the power in our home environment.

We are so dependent on power being pumped into our houses. Wi-Fi for everything. Endless runs to the store to stock up. Rolls and rolls and rolls of paper towels and toilet paper. Refrigeration. Air conditioning. Bottled water. Milk in plastic lined disposable cartons. Fabrics made from plastic. Artificial materials cladding our houses. Wine bottles make me nervous. ( Are they really being recycled?). Wet wipes. The subject is almost too big !

These thin walled little cracker box houses we live in are not going to withstand long term heavy weather. The weather here in Visalia is so hot, over 100F almost every day for months, no rain since before Christmas and there are (and should be) pretty major water restrictions, so the vege garden in this bereft city soil (all the top soil has gone here in the suburbs) has dried right up and died. I can grow desert herbs like oregano and rosemary but they are small and speechless from heat exhaustion.

And so many people live in these inhospitable climates. Enabled by cheap housing and cheap electricity for air conditioning. Is it going to stay cheap?

Is there a machine for turning all these cardboard boxes, that our deliveries come in, into something useful. Like pellets for the garden. Or toilet paper. Or writing paper even. Do you know of such a machine for the household?

By the time I left the mill, cardboard boxes were becoming harder to procure so that machine might be outdated fairly fast.

Buying pallets of bottled water is getting harder now. The plastic bottles themselves are caught up in a faltering supply chain (which is a good thing in my opinion – most of our water is fine to drink after it has gone through a filter). But there are a number of regions in the USA and across the world that have polluted water – so what of them?

Yes! It is a convoluted subject. So I am going to bring my spiraling thoughts back into control and begin to design my Sustainable Home – room by room.

I need to focus on the day to day. I need to focus on small things that save money, water and energy. Room to Room.

Where shall we start? I want to start in the bathroom. Keeping in mind that I am doing all this as I travel my gypsy life. So my Sustainable Homes are in a number of countries of the world. I am not fussy. Because this is important.

And yes! The sustainable farm is smaller now but still fills plenty of bellies. Two weeks and I rotate back to the farm.

Cecilia! Focus! The Bathroom! What are your thoughts on washable wet wipes. How shall we set those up in our bathrooms. Maybe the first thing to do is start that old fashioned rag bag again!? What about flushing?

What are your thoughts on the bathroom in our Sustainable Home.


66 Comments on “The Sustainable Home

  1. We’ve gotten away from cloth diapers, but we’ll have to get back to them to be sustainable. And that’s just one step away from washable wipes. It is doable and much more sustainable than all the paper. The Fellowship should be able to come up with some wonderful ideas on sustainability.

    • Oh yes! Disposable nappies make a huge mess in the environment. Are there any that even decompose? This cloth nappies mean more frequent changes and the battle with nappy rash.

      Aunty Google said: Disposable diapers account for around 2% of landfill waste in the United States. Because they are made of plastics, they decompose very slowly. In fact, it can take up to 500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose.

      • On the diaper question; unfortunately you swap one problem for another 😒. Using cloth diapers will inevitably need more water to wash them. My daughter has been able to use a company that delivers then picks up ‘compostable diapers’ for 5 years here in the SF Bay Area.

  2. I always used cloth diapers, but that also means using more water for the washing. It’s a head-banger of a problem! We try very hard to recycle all that we can, but it breaks my heart that everything comes in so much packaging.

    We have a septic system and a well, so we do not flush as often as most do. Of course, there are only the two of us here, but it’s an important thing to train kids to think about as well!

    • I think bringing our kids up to speed is paramount. They need to know that the bottom wipes in a plastic bag on top of the toilet is actually not sustainable. Using so much toilet paper they block the toilet ( happens here all the time) is not sustainable.
      Packaging is awful. Totally agree. And it is generally not recyclable plastic. Very little of our plastic is actually recyclable.

  3. I think that for many people sustainable means to keep things going as they are going right now. It seems obvious to me that this is simply not a possible scenario. People have to change their goals, mindsets, and general approach to life. That’s going to take a lot of education of the populace and very real effort from all of us. In addition to that I think we have to be sustainable and regenerative whenever and wherever possible. Not just maintaining the present but doing things that make the situation better in what ever way we as individuals can.

  4. A store near me has recently opened that offers everything in bulk, so I can refill ONE plastic bottle over and over with ;
    Shampoo- many styles
    Conditioner- 3-4 types
    Laundry Detergent- several
    Dishwashing liquid
    Auto. Dishwasher stuff,
    Spray surface cleaners

    So I’m able to reduce the amt of plastic I ‘try’ to recycle; because I’m not confident the City trash company DOES recycle.

    • Kerry! This is the way of the future! I hope. And I am also not at all confident in the city recycling. Not at all. For a start not all plastic is recyclable anyway.
      What is the name of this store? There might be one close by. Bathroom: bulk : shampoo, conditioner, toilet cleaner. Are any of their products biodegradable?

      • This is a single private enterprise. Her company is called Byrd’s Filling Station. In San Mateo, Ca. I’m sure she would be more than happy to share her knowledge about to get it going- just need to find an enthusiastic individual 😁
        Her material is all biodegradable and organic- I didn’t mention the skin lotion, sunscreen, toilet paper from bamboo; silicone bags instead of plastic bags; SO much stuff!!

  5. Here in Portland we subscribe to an awesome service called Ridwell. It takes a lot of the stuff that your regular curbside recycling doesn’t, such as plastic film (toilet paper wrappers, Amazon packaging, etc.), clamshells, styrofoam, batteries, lightbulbs, and “threads”–which are clothing, rags, etc. The great thing is that they actually go through it and donate usable items. They also have featured categories for each pick-up, which includes things like corks, plastic bottle tops, bread tags, etc. This company started in Seattle and I know for sure they are also in Denver and maybe Austin. Worth looking up. For a small fee (mine is usually around $10) every two weeks it is so worth it! I love it.

    • Charlotte that sounds fantastic! I wonder where it all goes. Things like styrofoam – how do they recycle that?
      What can we send to them from the bathroom? Toilet rolls? Soap wrappers?

      • I recycle toilet paper rolls in my regular recycling. But all that plastic film that goes around TP at the store and yes, soap wrappers, can go. Also worn out towels, washcloths, etc. I’m not sure what they do with styrofoam but something. They send reports out regularly about how much customers have kept out of the landfill, where some of the usable stuff goes, etc. It’s not perfect, but it is a huge start!

      • Our neighborhood is just starting with Ridwell. As I understand it, they find a company that will recycle ‘something’; they’ve already done eyeglasses for us, then the announce what the special item is, you sign up with your address and they pick up on a specific day.

  6. Sadly in the last 40 years I’ve seen glass, recycled milk, water and beer bottles disappear …and at the time I knew that was wrong. The biggest problem for the world is too many people, but nobody wants to stop having babies. I’m sure that’s not a popular comment and politicians won’t even broach the subject.
    I believe there are composting toilets and friend of mine has a sink above her ordinary loo, which fills up the systern with hand wash water, so the flush has been recycled.

    • I like that sink idea! I really like it. Hmm. We need to make a list!

      I believe the birth rate is in deep decline already. Ironically many of the chemicals in modern foods are thought to exacerbate infertility- I read that somewhere so I cannot quote that or substantiate it with proven data.

      • I think it’s in declne in the western world, but India will outstrip China as the most populous country next year, 4 years ahead of a UN forecast. I’m not pointing fingers though, the problem is global. On top of that, people live a lot longer. Life expecancy was about 30 years, 150 years ago.

        • 30 years. That sounds so short now. My sons keep saying if I look after myself I can live to over a hundred in these modern times. Frankly the idea fills me with horror!

    • I assume you are already familiar with this, but just in case you haven’t heard of it, I would recommend looking at Keyhole Gardening. It was developed in Africa, where rain and water were extremely limited. You can recycle materials to build your Keyhole Garden and because of the built- in compost, it becomes almost self-watering. They are also popular down here in parts of Texas where it gets very hot and dry. Maybe something to consider so you can garden in the dry conditions.

  7. I haven’t bought toilet paper in 2 years, except for one double roll pack we keep for visitors. We use a hand spray to clean ourselves (a bum gun) and dry off with washable flannel wipes I make from the Husband’s work rag supply. That itself is recycled pyjamas. I cut large squares, serge the edges and keep a basket of folded wipes in the bathroom. I don’t flush anything at all except water and human waste. I don’t buy paper towel either, I’ve crocheted cotton kitchen cloths which I can use once, rinse out and fling in the laundry. I use wax wraps for food instead of cling wrap. I wash and reuse my aluminium foil until it’s too torn and shrivelled, and then recycle it. All my food scrap is either composted or goes to the chickens. All the packaging I use is put through various recycling operations.

    • What is this bum gun you speak of? Is it like a bidet? I am a great believer in bidets! I love Crocheted kitchen cloths. I will certainly do that. But do you that when you are drain fat into the cloth – does the fat clog up the drains?

      • A handheld bidet spray (they sell them on Amazon, about US$40). You add it onto the water intake for the cistern, it has a long flexible hose and a wall clip. Stainless steel, easy to clean. For general fat I keep a bowl of dried coffee grounds and pour it into that and then into the bin, or in the winter, oatmeal, which I then put out for the wild birds. Bacon grease and anything with flavour has another bowl and I keep it for future cooking! I think my drains are cleaner than most due to the lack of stuff being put down them. I don’t have a garbage disposal either, because most of our food scraps go to the chooks.

  8. Recycle grey water from dish washing, showers/baths, clothes washing, etc. to flush toilets and water plants.

    • Absolutely. Chicken steps. We can all do as much as we can – sometimes outside our comfort zone. And I am going to start working really consciously – to create a sustainable home.

      • So much that has happened in the last few decades that we really didn’t think twice about in regard to global impact Even 20 years ago, we weren’t buying bottled water at every turn! Our country has spent billions of dollars creating safe drinking water for most, and here we are buying water from the folks who are buying up water rights all over the planet.

  9. I agree with you small steps. – Bathroom we have stopped flushing when yellow (have to warn folks that visit or run and do a quick flush). A water tank storage unit is being ordered to save all water from shower and sink that will be used for my vegetable garden. Eco soaps that can go on the garden are in use.

  10. I’ve had a good time reading this conversation. The poem/song goes “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down”. I live alone so that’s easy unless I have guests. I live in an old seniors building of 720 sq ft. We look after each other here and I like that. I’m on the recycle list. Body is being donated to science.

    My first husband & I believed in zero population in the late 60’s so we only had 2 children. Done. My children have no children so that takes care of that.

    Water in the last 3 places (CA, OR, AZ) has all had a different bad smell and taste so had to be filtered with lemon added to be consumable. We are high desert here and no real dirt to speak of. If the stuff hits the fan, I’ll be delighted that I’ve already had my number punched. Of course, I’ve already exceeded my sell by date by 6 months.

    My son put attachable bidets to both of his toilets and I love them. They will certainly wake you up. Cold water on a warm bum is not fun at 3-4 a.m. I use too much TP and really work hard at cutting back. I get very few choices where I’m at so no add on bidet, but I save the water while I wait for it to get hot in the shower or sink and put it on the poor parched trees outside. So I drip a little. Some I use to flush the toilet since I can still lift the bucket. When I had my own place, I planted trees. Lots of them in all three of the last states. I love how you always kept planting them. We need so much more and more thoughtfulness about what’s happening on our planet. Solutions are hard to come by as so many just trade one problem for another, ie gas cars vs electric. We haven’t a sustainable way to power the electric cars. I think about this all the time. Keep this conversation going. You are doing good work. Visalia is way too warm for me. I don’t know how people live there. I’m at 6300 ft and that can get hot but nothing like what California and now Oregon and Washington are now enduring.

    • A cold water bidet is cruel and unusual punishment but I LOVE that your kids have them – tell them to plumb them into the warm water!!
      You are right that there is no sustainable way to power electric cars – especially with the frequent power cuts we have due to over use of AC units in this extreme heat. But I am not sure where we go with that.
      The poor parched trees here – huge oaks slowly dying.
      I was think ing about you this morning – you are a bit of a gyspy like I am!

  11. Both my mother and I prefer baths to showers: we leave the water in the tub and use a bucket to flush toilets with it — our water usage has gone way down. We sometimes bathe in the same water, one after another, but not always. When I lived in San Leandro I maintained a garden of vegetables, fruit trees and berries on bathwater alone (never used a hose or fresh water).

  12. You probably know by now that I love turning to Google whenever you set us a challenge! I had to look up some of the things I have heard of, that I thought you would be interested in. This is a company in NZ which is recycling soft plastics into fence posts. My mother takes all her soft plastics to a pickup point at her local supermarket, and this company collects it and recycles it. Mum says she hardly has any rubbish at all now! There used to be a lot more of these stores around NZ, but there are still a few. I remember going with my Mum when we were kids, with our recycled bottles, to fill up from bulk supplies of vinegar, laundry liquid, flour, etc. It was my Mum’s way of saving money. I just liked watching the machine which made peanut butter right there at the store! There should be more of these bulk stores around. I found this article on how to build your own DIY grease trap. I used to work for a company that sold a very simple septic tank system, which you filled with water when it was installed in the ground, then worked on the basis of the amount of liquid in, pushed the same amount of liquid out the other side, to water trees etc. Just like the old-fashioned septics used to be, no motors or other moving parts to break down. Of course it had a filter to stop solids which biodegrade in the tank. If the septic bug is working properly, you should never need to clean it out, the bug breaks down the solids. You can buy bottles of septic bug to put into the tank, but I have also heard of people putting roadkill into the tank to get it restarted! We also had people who diverted all their greywater (shower, sinks etc) around the septic and straight into the overflow, to water the trees.

  13. This is my favourite kind of conversation. I love finding a bunch of people who want to talk about this stuff. Is why I’ve spent the year volunteering with OzGREEN resilient communities program, facilitating local groups who get together in real life to discuss issues, actions we can do, and to create visons. Sometimes connect and share info, ideas via FB. We plan to continue to do so in various ways even after the program ends. We live different lives and for the most are not neighbours but our commonality is we’re passionate about resilience which is term we prefer because sustainability is a big word that feels impossible, and has been grabbed by big business marketing. How long until that happens with resilience, I don’t know, it’s already been said the term is overused after recent weather/climate disasters but like sustainability it’s essential the true meaning and practices aren’t lost or thrown entirely into the too hard basket.

  14. Pingback: The Sustainable Home — thekitchensgarden – A Better Man

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