For the last four years, Whit and I have slowly molded our lifestyle into a more ecofriendly and sustainable existence. We learned how to cook together, as neither of us experimented much in the kitchen during our college years. You can’t do much in a dorm room with only a microwave unfortunately, or on a $5 a day food budget. I can attest that I am permanent scarred from eating ramen and PB & J every day for three years. Our first baby steps towards our current situation weren’t really baby steps. We just dove right in and decided to hit veganism head on. Neither of us had been vegetarians before, but we weren’t incredibly attached to meat either. After discussing the environmental and health impacts of the American diet with friends, reading various nonfiction books about food, and watching documentaries like Forks over Knives, we felt compelled to make the switch.
The change was made possible by a wonderful cookbook, Clean Food. We began shopping at Whole Foods and buying organic, as we thumbed our way through the expansive list of recipes. Miraculously, vegetables didn’t taste like garbage, as we learned how to properly prepare vegetables by roasting or steaming, rather than dumping a tin can of vegetable mush into a bowl and microwaving it. I learned names of produce I didn’t know existed. Don’t laugh.. but I hadn’t tried any vegetables before other than carrots, corn, potatoes and lettuce. My first whipped parsnip side dish was heavenly, and tasting my first fresh beet in a morning juice was divine. As we stained each page in the cookbook with grease, food particles, and oil, we eventually made our way through the seasons to the end of the recipes. We learned that we loved summer and winter squash, and aren’t big fans of fennel, loved leeks and Brussel sprouts, and detested mushrooms. And we picked up enough basic cooking skills to whip up new concoctions based on the leftover ingredients in our fridge. We discovered the flax seed egg substitute, realized that we absolutely love almond milk and coconut ice cream (who needs regular milk??), and didn’t have the slightest desire to cook with meat substitutes like tofu.
The next step came a few months ago, when we decided to minimize the amount of waste we create daily. I researched many different blogs (trashisfortossers is an amazing resource) about waste-free living and made minor adjustments to our everyday habits. We started experimenting with bath and body product recipes, making our own almond milk, and boiling our own vegetable stock. We stopped buying any condiments or pasta sauces, and opted to prepare our own instead. We committed to buying everything in bulk, storing flours, sugar, beans, and nuts in our own mason jars, rather than wasting plastic or paper containers. We transitioned from plastic kitchenware to wooden or metal, and ditched traditional cleaning materials for all natural vinegar and baking soda based alternatives. Our goal is to buy everything used if possible, when we absolutely must replace something, as we are minimalists anyways and rarely buy anything period. Although it’s more time consuming to make everything from scratch, we find joy in the process. I love knowing each and every ingredient in the foods I eat and the products I use on my skin. Going through the motions of soaking almonds, blending them with water, and straining the milk through cheesecloth requires more effort and time than grabbing a carton at the store, but the step-by-step task elicits more gratification and pure enjoyment. As an added benefit, I can rest assured knowing that I didn’t waste a needless carton.
Our future goals to living a more sustainable lifestyle include biking to work or walking as much as possible and eventually living in an off-the-grid home. We intended to live in a tiny house once we moved to Utah this year, and had architectural plans ready for build. Unfortunately, Salt Lake City hasn’t adopted or changed previous laws regarding building regulations or land use requirements, therefore preventing a person from “parking” their tiny home on their own land for more than 30 days. With this barrier still in place, the tiny home builder in the area recommended holding off on the tiny house plans until regulations changed or were modified. We are still committed to the tiny house mantra of simplistic living, devoid of materialistic burden. We paired down our belongings significantly before moving, as we were planning on moving into a 200 square foot dwelling, and continue to strive towards a home with only meaningful and useful items. It is a constant battle between materialism and consumerism that is shoved down our throats through media and signage, and satisfaction and fulfillment with what we are already blessed with or truly need. I am a strong believer in the idea of decluttering and simplifying your life in order to make space for creativity.
The road to sustainability is long and sometimes arduous, but all it takes is determination and discipline. This lifestyle is challenging and forces one to be innovative. We have fallen in love with this mission and can’t imagine shifting back into a wasteful sense of being.