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Our local television station has declared this a “Summer of Sustainability.” They asked for contributions on what people do that is sustainable. I haven’t heard back from them, so here is what I sent.

Our sustainable living is not especially creative, it is just old-fashioned simple common sense that anyone can do, not trendy or radical, and inexpensive.  We have lived this way all our married life – 30 years and two children, and we both worked full-time all that time.

Some of what we do:
No paper towels – reusable sponges
No paper napkins – cotton napkins that don’t need ironing, and last for decades (I still have our first set, although they’re getting worn and we use them for picnics)
No paper or plastic plates, cups, silverware
Wash and reuse sandwich and freezer bags
Canvas grocery bags – our first set is 15+ years old and just starting to wear out – the clerks are finally getting used to it and we’re glad
Use very few small electric appliances
Compost kitchen waste and weeds, gather larger yard trash for the Clarksburg compost pickup
Recycle paper, plastics, glass, metal cans
Give away rather than throwing out usable things we no longer need
Keep the thermostat down in the winter – 63 in the daytime and 50 at night – snuggling under a down comforter is cheaper, sustainable, and more fun than heating the whole house all night
Air-sealed the house; working on insulating, replacing windows and doors
No air-conditioning – open the windows
Hang the laundry to dry – sun-dried sheets and clothes smell wonderful – no need for scented fabric softeners, and clothes last longer
Buy cars with good gas mileage, and keep them for 8-10 years
Buy good simple clothes that don’t go out of style
No pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, antibacterial soap, phosphate detergents, or other products that poison the environment
Iron skillets – they last forever and no worries about chemical leaching into food or the environment when non-stick coatings are manufactured (or thrown away)
Use the library, buy used books
Eat locally grown food, and eat what’s in season – every month, you get a different set of choices, and fruits and vegetables become a real treat when they are fresh and picked ripe instead of hard and green so they can be shipped
Eat meat only once or twice a week – cornbread and beans is a WV tradition
Don’t use mixes, processed foods, frozen dinners – it’s easier than you think
Don’t water the lawn – we didn’t even in Texas where it goes brown in the summer – it always came back
Hand-mow the lawn – it is no harder than a push-mower – if you can’t do it in an hour or two a week, you have too much lawn; plant ground covers or a wildflower patch
Buy used furniture, call it antique, or good quality new and keep it forever (some of ours is in the 4th generation in our family)
Have only one TV
Rent  instead of buy DVDs
Drink tapwater, and carry a reusable water bottle
Live near our jobs – we lived only 3 miles from our offices, rode our bicycles the last year we worked there, and now work from home
Gather wildflowers or flowers or branches from the yard instead of buying flowers flown in from South America, and grow houseplants for color in the winter
Pull up carpets and use a dust mop on wood floors instead of a vacuum – less work, less electricity, less manufacturing and landfilling of carpet
Buy old houses; you can’t get the same quality in a new one for the same price, and keeping an old house up uses fewer resources than building a new one
Borrow or rent things like extension ladders or power tools we don’t use often
Spend our money and time on trips, hiking, camping, classes, talking, cooking, making things, visiting friends instead of buying things, storing, and taking care of them

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. - Howard Thurman.

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