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Sustainable Living Ideas for Families

DenaJune 28, 2019
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Today’s post comes from my dear friend, Nicole. Nicole and I met in high school but it wasn’t until 2006, when we unknowingly signed up for a study abroad program in Kenya together, that our friendship truly blossomed. On that trip, I learned that Nicole is an earth angel. I don’t use that term lightly. Nicole has the most beautiful, pure, loving soul that I have ever encountered. She is the living embodiment of kindness, love, and respect for animals, humans, and our planet earth. I have been so moved by Nicole’s journey through the years. She inspires me in everything that she does, from becoming a mother, to becoming a vegan, and to becoming an activist for sustainability. That is why I asked her to create this post about sustainability so that I could share it here. Thank you for this, Nicole, and thank you for everything that you do, every single day.

I’ve always been a lover of the natural world. Since I was young I’ve always felt at peace in the woods, at home among the trees. Animals are my friends and water my calm. In my eyes the earth and all of it’s an all of its inhabitants are not here for us to use or to profit from. We are a part of this planet. The mountains, lakes, and other species are our home and our kin. Born from my love of this beautiful place we call home grew the need to protect it. I owe it to my children. I owe it to the animals. I owe it to the earth.

It can be very overwhelming when you allow yourself to see, I mean actually see what it is that we have done. It’s scary and sad and maddening! Fortunately there are a lot of things that we as individuals can do to help start to heal the planet and change how we affect it. In this article I’d like to share some of the things that I’ve been doing and I believe anyone can do. Just remember to pick one thing, start doing it until it becomes habit, then start another. Before you know it you’ll be making a huge difference.

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I think the most important thing we all can do is to know where we are getting our services and products from. Whatever it is you are looking to purchase make sure it comes from a Certified B Corporation. If you are looking for work, try to work for a B Corp business. B Corps run their businesses differently. These businesses are not simply concerned with profit. They aim to use business as a force for good to work towards a healthy environment, less inequality, closer communities and higher public transparency. Please read all about what they do and how using them makes a huge impact at

Next I’d like to talk about everyday items we use and throw away that can very easily be switched out for reusable versions. Reusable grocery bags and produce bags. I calculated that I was using about 8 plastic produce bags every week when I went shopping. So in a year I’d use a little over 400 bags. Now think about all the people who shop and use probably somewhere around that amount too. It adds up to so many bags. So get sustainably sourced cotton washable reusable bags and that problem is solved. Consider these cotton grocery bags from Earthwise which are reusable, washable, and biodegradable.

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Reusable water bottles are another item we should all be using along with reusable straws. For the same reasons I stated above we can make a big difference just by making the switch. Get in the habit of filling your bottle every time you leave the house and stash some reusable straws in your car and bag. Some wonderful companies for these items are Klean Kanteen and Life Factory.

Bamboo toothbrushes and travel utensils are another small change that makes a big difference. Next time your toothbrushes need renewing opt for the bamboo version. Next time you’re eating on the go bust out your bamboo utensils and forgo throwing out the plastic ones you used to use. Check out these toothbrushes from Earth Lover Co and these utensils.

Now let’s talk about food. Now I know we all love our avocados, exotic spices and fruits but think about the journey it had to make to get to our supermarkets or where and how it’s grown/harvested. These processes are usually not very earth friendly. So my advice would be to do a much of your food shopping as possible from local farms. Local Hens is a wonderful site that allows you to type in your zip code and gives you all the farms near you to get your produce, eggs, dairy and meat. I realize for some this won’t work as well in the winter months but even if you only do this for 5 months out of the year it’s still making an amazing impact.

Another thing to try when food shopping is to buy as much as you can without packaging. I do this by going to Whole Foods for my beans, grains, dried fruit and peanut butter. I don’t have a Whole Foods in my town but there is one in the town I go to once a week for choir rehearsal. So I make sure to leave 45 minutes early and stop by Whole Foods for these items. I bring my cotton bags or mason jars and fill up! Call around to local stores or maybe a couple near work and see if you can work it into your schedule.

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While we are on the subject of food when eating out bring some of your own containers for left overs. I keep a few in my car along with my shopping bags and when I go out to eat I just grab one and bring it in with me. You’d be surprised how many people comment on what a good idea it is and say they are going to start doing it too. Every little bit helps!

The last thing I’d like to talk about is clothing. Most of us go into a store and buy clothes or shoes and don’t really think about where they come from or how they are made when we really should. It takes 2,257 gallons of water to make ONE pair of shoes. It takes 713 gallons of water to make ONE t-shirt. To me that is just wrong and horribly wasteful. Water isn’t the only problem. Unethical treatment of workers, chemicals released into the environment and unsustainable procurement of resources are next on the list.

How do we combat these evils? Again we look for certified B Corporations. Look for companies that are striving to make good products and a good impact. Allbirds is an amazing company for shoes using 75% less water than the average shoe maker. Patagonia uses recycled and ethically/sustainably sourced materials and just donated the 10 million dollars they saved from the tax cuts they received to climate change research. They also have something called Action Works. It’s a resource for grassroots climate activists that connects them to grantees to help them take action. Action more than ever is what needs to happen. H&M is another clothing store doing amazing things with sustainability with a full sustainability report on their website and when you bring old clothes to the store to be donated you save 15%!

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These are just a few to get you started. Some of these changes require effort. They do and I know that sometimes extra effort isn’t the first thing we want to do. But if we can’t put in the effort to save our only home then what the point in being alive. There’s a quote by a Canadian climate activist named David Suzuki that beautifully captures what I hold in my heart–

“The way we see the world shapes the way we treat it.

If a mountain is a deity, not a pile of ore; if a river is one of the veins of the land, not potential irrigation water; if a forest is a sacred grove, not timber; if other species are biological kin, not resources; or if the planet is our mother, not an opportunity – then we will treat each other with greater respect.

Thus is the challenge, to look at the world from a different perspective.”

–David Suzuki

I implore you to rise to the challenge.

Live well, in love and light,

Thank you for this beautiful post, Nicole and thank you for sharing your light. As a side note, I had the great honor of taking portraits of Nicole and her gorgeous family last summer and the photographs in this post were all taken during our time together. They are some of my favorites ever. The love and light in Nicole’s family is evident.

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