My paternal grandparents grew up in rural northeastern Arkansas, where their families raised chickens and cows and grew their own food—without antibiotics, herbicides or pesticides. They used very little electricity and heated their homes with a wood stove. They didn't drive much. Their carbon footprint was as tiny as that of the mice they shooed out of the barn.
It was a difficult life, and in many ways, not one to be romanticized. Yet we in the 21st century can learn a lot about living from two generations ago. Mostly, it's just common sense: Eat local. Go organic. Consume less. Don't waste. Get out of the car.
This inaugural edition of the Independent Weekly's Green Living Guide is intended to raise our awareness about how we impact the earth—and to offer resources and solutions for reducing it. Water conservation, wind energy, urban chickens, beekeeping: Think of these tips as a way of going back to a simpler time, but with the benefit of modern conveniences, like vaccinations.
Start with simple ways: Turn off lights when you're not in the room. Resist the desire to reach for the car keys and get on a bike instead. Don't fret about the dandelions growing in your lawn.
Slowly, what seemed to require effort ("Whaddya mean, turn the compost?!") will seem natural. In the 1970s, there was a governmental public relations campaign to persuade people to stop littering. The imagery was hokey (a Native American in stereotypical warrior garb with a tear dripping from his eye), but it worked. Now, plenty of litter still lines our roadsides and ravines (another reason to ban the omnipresent plastic bag), but I'd guess there is less trash than there would be had public consciousness not been raised. These days, if you see someone toss a cup from a car window, you gasp, "Do people still litter? How 1972!"
Another goal of the Green Living Guide is to promote green services, businesses and nonprofit groups in North Carolina. Their ingenuity could help the environment and add new dimensions to the economy. With a boost from the federal stimulus money and consumer demand, we hope green-collar jobs can gradually replace the losses sustained by North Carolina's manufacturing and textile industries. That's one of the best parts of progress: You don't have to live in Pocahontas, Ark., in the 1930s to live a sustainable, environmentally conscious life.
We hope you keep the Green Living Guide year-round; we'll redistribute it in August and next January.
Special thanks to Project Manager Sandy Smith-Nonini, who edited and coordinated the main stories in the Green Living Guide.