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Haleth's avatar

What are some ways to bring sustainable living into a typical suburban lifestyle?

Asked by Haleth (19513points) March 22nd, 2011

I’ve read that a vegetarian diet is better for the environment than a diet that includes meat. The reasoning is that it takes a lot of land to grow feed for animals for meat. It takes less land to grow an equivalent amount of vegetables for direct consumption by humans. That seems to make sense, but now I’m having trouble to find statistics to back it up. If anyone could point me in the right direction, that would be super awesome.

Eating more vegetables and less meat is easy, but other things are a bit harder. I live in a neighborhood with no access to public transit and, for much of the commute, no freaking sidewalks. I would love to bike around instead of driving, but have you tried biking on the road next to all the cars? It’s terrifying. It’s around five miles just to the nearest grocery store, again, with no sidewalks most of the way. I’m thinking of gardening. My available space is a 10×10 deck, so anything that grows well in a compact space would be awesome.

I’m just looking for a few ways to alter my habits and be more resourceful and less wasteful.

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16 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

The first thing you can do is shop at grocery stores that sell locally grown vegetables. They require less fuel to get them to you than if they come from South America or such.

Coloma's avatar

You can easily grow tomatoes in large pots, also cucumbers and pole beans climbing the deck rails with a trellis.

You can also keep 2–4 hens as backyard pets for eggs only if you eat eggs.

You could compost their manure with other organic matter and use this to fertilize your plants.

You can refuse to use pesticides and weed killers in or around your yard and house and recycle as much as you are able.

That’s a pretty good start and a nice contribution. :-)

nikipedia's avatar

Wikipedia has a nice summary of the environmental effects of eating meat.

I do bike on the road next to cars. It can be scary at first, but you get used to it. The scariest feeling part—having cars coming up behind you—is actually not very dangerous, since cars can clearly see you in front of them (unless it’s dark or foggy). The dangerous things are cars backing out of driveways, turning and not paying attention, etc.

Gardening is a great idea. What produce do you regularly buy and actually use?

I know this is pretty extreme, but you might also want to consider moving. Not necessarily into a city, but at least somewhere that your job and 1 grocery store are bike accessible.

Good luck. I think this is a great question and I’m looking forward to seeing the other answers.

SamIAm's avatar

Compost! If you’re going to grow a garden, make your own compost. And make sure you recycle. Then just do the basics: unplug things that aren’t being used, turn lights off, take shorter showers, turn the water off when you brush your teeth, carpool if you can…

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Haleth the part about growing vegetables to feed humans instead of feed for livestock would be true if all farmland was created equal. It is not, the last time the USA tried to plow up all the pastures to grow wheat and corn for human consumption we ended up with the Dust Bowl.

There is some land that is better suited for livestock grazing than plowing and planting. If you buy only meat from free range grass fed livestock you do more for the earth than not eating meat at all.

There are several box gardens that you can start on or next to your deck. Grow marigolds and chrysanthimums (sic) to keep mosquitoes in check. Put up starling houses and encourage swallows to nest, they also keep insects in check.

If they don’t freak you out too much, put up a couple bat houses. Collect the rain water from your roof to use to irrigate your garden.

SeaTurtle's avatar

True @MyNewtBoobs . Very controversial. Your link missed out the fact that land which is used to grow vegetables commercially requires Nitrogen fertilizers. A massive amount of energy goes into producing fertilizers (3% of Total US natural gas
production & 5% globally!)

Haleth's avatar

@hawaii_jake Good idea! We have a few options for locally grown items around here. There’s whole foods, a weekend farmer’s market, and then I live far enough into the country that the farms themselves are pretty close by. There’s actually a farm maybe twenty minutes away selling produce.

@nikipedia Thanks! That link is just what I was looking for. The fruits and vegetables I buy most often are apples, berries, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms. I probably can’t plant an apple tree here but I bet I could grow strawberries, tomatoes, and lettuce outside on my deck. I guess I’m going to have to woman up and get used to biking on the road with the cars. I see other bikers do it all the time. Your link also led me to a page about water-saving devices, so I might turn that into a home-improvement project in the near future.

@WestRiverrat Looking for grass-fed beef is a good point.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@WestRiverrat God, it’s so true. Getting one stinking basil plant to grow in Colorado is a freaking miracle. Come one, basil plants! Grow, dammit, grow!

BarnacleBill's avatar

You could subscribe to a family farm co-op and have a fresh locally grown produce subscription. It usually costs about $500 a year. Local Harvest

BarnacleBill's avatar

The other thing you could do is start a movement to get sidewalks put into your area. Learn about your local government structure, who your representatives are, and petition for sidewalks in certain areas. Join your county biking association and work to get bike lanes installed in parts of your county. Even if you can’t bike to work yourself, you can actively work to improve bike transportation for other area residents.

mattbrowne's avatar

Public transportation or car sharing.

rooeytoo's avatar

I ride a Yamaha 90cc motor scooter. It can do 100kph which is about 60mph so more than adequate to get you around a town and on lesser highways. I use about 4.5 liters every 2 weeks. I can’t tell you how many k I travel but I think about 150–200. I also grow a few things on my deck, assorted herbs, cherry tomatoes, chilis and capsicums, lettuce (in an old wok, I ground a few drainage holes in it with my angle grinder) but I also buy 99cent buckets and drill holes in the bottom of them. They make very inexpensive planters and last forever. I also compost in an old garbage can. No pesticides used, plain old weeding by hand, no leaf blowers, I use a rake, no gas powered mower, an old push mower is good exercise and works just fine, no snow blower hand shoveling is the go (hehehe or it would be if I didn’t live in the tropics) no air con, just fans and open windows. All sorts of things to do if you stop to think about it. And as @WestRiverrat said, free range beef, pork and chicken! The critters will thank you for it.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Square-foot gardening.
SFG is a great way to learn the fundamentals of gardening.
By using this technique on a 10×10 deck, by making just a 10 foot by 1 foot garden by 8-inches deep along a perimeter(one the gets a lot of sun), you can grow
1-pepper plant
1-broccoli
2-tomato plants
4-heads of lettuce
4-cucumber plants
6-green bean bushes
6-pea plants
16-carrots
16-onions
and a partridge in a pear tree

Herbs can be planted in pots and placed on the ledge of the deck.
My soil mix for all listed plants consists of a few different kinds of rich, organic soil, which needs nothing but a little added compost every other year and of course, water. Make sure what ever kind of bottom you use for the garden has holes for drainage and you should be good to go.

I would highly recommend checking out the website and/or the book or at least read on the web. I started four years ago with 2— 2 foot by 2 foot boxes and this year, Im planning for 6–8 4×4s.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

Godspromises's avatar

time dollars ~ “community exchange program ” ~ they exchange services for services. They are all around the world. It is a bank but without cash. Just services. real interesting :)

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