Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sustainable Living or Going Green?

Have you ever had that daydream of a post apocalyptic Earth and you and your family are living off the land? Perhaps growing your own wheat and rice and corn in small squares of field outside your home with a big porch. Outside of the barn are chickens pecking freely and pigs rolling in the dirt. There is only 1 cow for milk and a few goats and horses munching the grass. All the animals are free, the sky is blue and the air is clear. Everyone is a little dirty, but no one cares. You can hear the sound of a lazy stream where you have harnessed the water in a small holding tank to irrigate the crops and livestock. Maybe a greenhouse to grow lettuce, fruits and other vegetables, safe from the pests since there will be no pesticides. Sounds like hard work, but probably very rewarding and healthy. You would have to trade locally for things like spices, nuts, olives and oils. There would be a cooperative agreement between the locals to provide basics, but it could work. It does work in many places in the world. There are also sustainable living communities that encourage people to live off the land, trading and honing certain skills and labors. Come to think of it, this is the way things used to be before big businesses took over the market and forced packaged goods into our lives. This is also the way things are in many of the Blue Zone destinations across the world, satisfying the ability to live longer than the rest of us. If you are not familiar with Blue Zones, per Wikipedia: Blue Zones is an anthropological concept that describes the characteristic lifestyles and the environments of the world's longest-lived people. The term first appeared as an international concept in the November 2005 National Geographic Magazine cover story "The Secrets of a Long Life" by Dan Buettner. Buettner identified five geographic areas where people live statistically longest: Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece) and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. He offers an explanation, based on empirical data and first hand observations, as to why these populations live healthier and longer lives.
The concept grew out of demographic work done by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain outlined in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology, who identified Sardinia's Nuoro province as the region with the highest concentration of male centenarians. As the two men zeroed in on the cluster of villages with the highest longevity, they drew concentric blue circles on the map and began referring to the area inside the circle as the Blue Zone. Together with demographers Pes and Poulain, Buettner broadened the term, applying it to validated longevity areas of Okinawa, Japan and among the Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda California.  Buettner and Poulain, under the aegis of National Geographic, then identified and validated longevity hotspots in Nicoya Costa Rica and Ikaria Greece.

The people on Earth who live the longest all have several things in common. 
  • They live off the land with a long work day, breaking for homemade meals, home baked sourdough breads, beans and legumes, whole wheat and rice, and meat only occasionally, as little as once per month. 
  • They eat nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal, mostly from their gardens.
  • They have a strong sense of community, faith and a tight social bond.
There are many other reasons people live long, healthy lives, but if you ask yourself the questions above, can you honestly answer, "I do that" to all of them? Do you eat meat at almost every meal? Probably. Do you eat enough legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables? Probably not. Do you live off the land? Definitely not. And what about your sense of social bond? Do you frequent the corner store and drink coffee with the locals and know them all by name? Do you attend church regularly? Do you have a true circle of life-long friends who you can count on until the end of time? All of the Blue Zone centenarians practice these standards and owe their long, disease free lives to these beliefs. I would consider this to be a quality of sustainable living. The definition is below:


Sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the earth's natural resources and personal resources. Practitioners of sustainable living often attempt to reduce their carbon footprint by altering methods of transportation, energy consumption, and diet. In laymen's terms, living green and sustainably means creating a lifestyle that works with Nature, instead of against it, and does no long-term or irreversible damage to any part of the environmental web.

To me this means people can live much more healthy, rewarding and long-lasting lives with much less, reducing their footprint. This way of living is symbiotic to sustainable living. Since we moved to Costa Rica, we have changed many things about our diet, lifestyle and consumption in general. These are habits we adopted slowly that you could adapt to over time toward a more sustainable life: 
  • Unnecessary Disposable Products - we stopped buying paper towels, paper plates and disposable cutlery. When I need to fry something, I use a coffee filter, works great! 
  • Reusable Bags - Never use single-use plastic bags, keep cloth bags in your car, by your door or anywhere easy to grab on-the-go and easy to remember
  • Plastic Never - Bring aluminum water cans everywhere, don't leave home without water
  • Get Outside - Walk your kids to and from school, ride a bike to the store, less car time is less fuel used
  • Grow a Garden - Grow some fruits and vegetables in a small garden, it is relaxing, zen and a great hobby to start with the kids
  • Limit Meat Intake - Only eat meat on the weekends and celebrate it as a special Sunday dinner, or Family Night dinner, even though we eat dinner together every night, it is a way of giving thanks to the food and teaching our kids how to appreciate the animal more while we discuss what it is, where it comes from and how great the world can be if everyone ate less meat, the kids know our beef jerky is a treat and we give it to them after chores are complete at the end of the week 
  • Go Picking - twice per week, we grab our bags and long stick and go fruit picking around the house. Fruit trees are abundant here, so we grab what we need while it is in season, bringing home fresh mangos, lemons, limes, grapefruits, cas, guyabas and bananas, find a local garden or cooperative garden, start one and pitch in, pull weeds once a week, take your kids!
  • Cook, Can, Bottle - we make our own hot sauces from the tabasco bush we found on a recent trail hike and peppers are super easy to grow, even from a window! Try it!  
  • Trade - we trade home baked sourdough bread for fresh organic lettuce with our neighbor, or you can join a cooperative group for real social networks filled with real food 
  • Go Solar - our hot water is solar heated, our goal is to convert 100% 
  • Green DIY - Natural recipes are terrific for household cleaners, hand sanitizer and shampoo! You can use baking soda, vinegar and essential oils for everything! 
  • Reduce Waste - we only have 1 bag of trash each week for a family of 5, and we probably could burn that, since I throw all my food scraps out for the dogs, skins go to the garden for compost and all the plastics, boxes and cans are recycled, very little of which we use anyway. I would definitely say that we have learned to live more sustainable lives since moving here, but you can go green or live sustainably from anywhere!

So is being Green the same as being Sustainable? Not really, but they definitely are in the same family. Green habits can make you more sustainable for the future. Especially when it comes to using what we already have in front of us. In the Tedtalks video above, he was using the empty spaces and empty lots in his city, re-purposing them to grow gardens. The same goes for rehabilitating a home or warehouse. The structure is existing, it just needs some love and imagination. Having many years experience in the real estate business, I love looking at older properties or abandoned facilities and dreaming what they could be. Just today I was walking a property in our small rural town and realized it would be the perfect place for a family or people to homestead, live off-grid or just live sustainably. Most of what is needed is already in place. There is a large structure with a roof, a skeleton for a green house, a water pump and irrigation holding tank and fruit trees. It is a large enough property to raise chickens, goats, turkeys, even horses. The main ranch house is actually live in ready, and to make it really awesome, 2 glass walls are needed to enclose the main area with some cosmetic repairs and fine tuning. This property has amazing views of the mountains of Atenas and, in my opinion, all the hard work has been completed. The concrete is in place, the bones are in place, it just needs someone with vision to make it perfect. Take a look: 

$215,000!! .88 acre,  Includes Land, Views and Buildings

One could easily make this an environmentally friendly home or ranch. The layout is already functioning with a bathroom and an enclosed room for living while the repairs are being made. It was originally a nursery for plants so it has some concrete holding tanks that need to be removed, but the concrete floors are in superb condition to build out the kitchen and family room. There is a long enclosure that can be walled in for the bedrooms and additional bathrooms, just needing doors and windows. There is a working bathroom on the property and plenty of plumbing in place. The roof is in great condition with skylights. The view is amazing and the weather here is perfect. The property is just over an acre, so there is plenty of room to garden and live off the land. The greenhouse just needs a cover. The owner is asking for land value of the property and I am amazed that it has not sold yet. I am in love with this propertyI love where I live and I share to influence and create imagination and adventure! Pura Vida!
Thanks to: 
Valle Verde Quintas - Cebadilla, Costa Rica for the great photos!
TED Talks - for inspiring!
Blue Zones - for reminding us why we are here and how we can stay longer!


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