Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Secret Sustainable Living Movement

I've never heard anyone else talk about this phenomenon and it may be that I'm perfectly placed to see something that other journalists/newswriters/bloggers aren't: but if you want to learn about living sustainably in terms of larger families consuming fewer resources you should look no further than the Christian homeschooling movement.

That's right - the Christian homeschooling movement.

Liberal "greenies" like to pretend that they have it dialed out when it comes to living lightly on the earth, but often that's a sham. Sure they shell out big bucks for products that are organic or herbal or not tested on animals, but the truth is that they still consume way more than their fair share of the world's resources. The environment will not be saved by a Silicon Valley suburbanite living in a 5,000 sf house who chooses Aubrey organics shampoo over Pert.

When it comes to living "lightly" on the earth, a family of eight who survives on one parent's salary of $50,000 is going to have it beat six ways from Sunday over a dual income professional couple with a combined salary of $150,000. There's no way around that.

Christian homeschoolers rarely think of themselves as "green"; they think of themselves as "thrifty". They bake their own bread, grow gardens, don't use the car much (because they only have one and the dad takes it to work). They shop at thrift stores, hand down clothes over and over again, give homemade gifts at Christmas get the picture.

These people often can't afford organics and high-end cotton clothing. They may shop at WalMart and warehouse stores. But they buy in bulk and they don't have the money for frivolous gew-gaws. I contend that their footprint is therefore smaller.

"But...but...think of the population boom!" you'll say, and you're right; population is a concern. But I'm more concerned about the population of people who think a large house, two incomes, three tvs, five computers, and several cars are all necessary to achieving the "good life". I'm concerned about the populations of countries like China, India, and so on, who have taken our values on as their own and want those trappings, too. A family of eight in Iowa who lives in a 1600 sf house? Not worried about them at all.

Sustainable livng has to start with common sense. These women have plenty of it. I may not agree with their religious views or politics, but I can't argue with their frugality. The other day when I decided to look into switching from paper napkins to cloth ones, I didn't consult a fancy "green living" website; I posted on my old homeschoolers' forum. It didn't take long before I was overwhelmed with practical, knowledgeable answers from women who'd either made the switch years ago, or never used paper ones to begin with.

Look around - spot the families in the small houses, the ones with the bountiful gardens and cloth diapers on the clotheslines. Those are the people we need to listen to now.


Martha said...

as a mother of 9, I can tell you I use less just judging by the trash at the curb twice a week. Almost every house in the addition has more bags at the curb than we do. And for some odd reason my dh and I have noted for over year now that the only house with recyclable pick up seems to have WAY more trash bags at the curb. Not sure how that's happening, but there's my completely unscientific findings.

L Harris said...

I know we could certainly cut our curbside trash (average 6 lg bags a week) and we don't recycle. Not set up for it yet. But we live on significantly less than many around us. Is our "footprint" having less of an impact? I hope so. We certainly aren't adding to the consumption. I don't think I've bought more than $100 worth of new clothing in the last two years. We buy secondhand or get hand-me-downs (even for me and DH, at times).

Jennifer said...

Hmmm. I'm interested in the trash aspect - have you ever "looked into" your trash, LOL?

We found that as soon as I stopped buying bread and premade snacks we had considerably less trash. We're down from two trash cans to one or one and a half per week.

Recycling is a little dicey here, too. The problem is that the recycling that gets picked up is now being warehoused because there's nowhere for it to go. I'm trying to figure out how to have less recycling to begin with.

Ansandra said...

Very interesting topic. I hadn't thought of consumption in this way, but I can't disagree. Our oldest child is a big consumer, and when she is gone for a week the trash is only half as full, even though she is only one person. Definitely she is making a bigger foot print than the whole rest of our family, so I guess that is probably true on a bigger scale.

Martha said...

"I'm trying to figure out how to have less recycling to begin with."

yes. there's is a reason for the order of the three Rs:

recycling is actually the last ditch nothing else to be done option.

obviously I don't think human beings are supposed to be subject to that. :)

Martha said...

I don't make my own bread b/c it's cheaper to purchase it at the bread store. But I do rarely buy boxed stuff. It's just too expensive for our budget.

Jennifer said...

I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that I COULD make bread for less than store-bought and I used to buy pretty cheap bread.

I've switched to a slightly more tasty recipe and now my homemade bread is probably the same price as the cheap store bread. But it's way better. I would have never guessed if my son hadn't done the math for me.

David said...

Save money and the Earth and be clean at the same time...yes! Get serious and add Bathroom Bidet Sprayers to all your bathrooms. Available at with these you won't even need toilet paper any more, just a towel to dry off! It's cheap and can be installed without a plumber; and runs off the same water line to your toilet. You'll probably pay for it in a few months of toilet paper savings. And after using one of these you won't know how you lasted all those years with wadded up handfuls of toilet paper. Now we're talking green and helping the environment without any pain.

Jennifer said...


Do you represent the company?