5 Ways To Fall Into Sustainability This Season!
5 Ways To Fall Into Sustainability This Season!
Fall is the time for maturity, change, preservation, abundance, and reconnection – making it the perfect time to embrace sustainability. In this episode, we discuss 5 ways to fall into sustainability this season! From buying seasonal, local food to leaving your leaves on the ground (yes – I’m going to give you a reason not to rake!), you’ll feel rewarded by saving money, doing good for yourself, and helping the planet!
the start of fallFun fact, Meteorological autumn starts September 1. I can tell that many people are in the mood for all things fall as I’m already seeing an influx of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, sweater weather, and signs declaring the upcoming pumpkin festivals, corn mazes, and college homecomings. We have learned that the best way to make sustainable choices is to be prepared and mindful. When we are prepared and mindful, we tend to make more thoughtful purchases (or no purchases). And we usually experience less stress and guilt when we prepare to make sustainable choices as well.
individual + system changeBefore we got into this, I also wanted to note that we can understand that corporations and systems need to change to help alleviate the climate crisis while also pursuing eco-friendly or sustainable choices on the individual level. Efforts on the individual and system levels are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we need to be simultaneously working to change both our lifestyle habits and fighting for change on a larger scale. Systemic change is needed. All parts of our lives are interconnected and interdependent, and we must recognize that a shift on one end of the spectrum needs to be supported by change on the other end. If we start living a lifestyle that supports sustainability, we are moving the needle for more extensive change to occur and to be supported and embraced when it does. So with that being said, let’s get on to number one!
Eating Seasonally, local produce
The first way to be sustainable this fall is to eat seasonally from your local growers. It is beneficial that we try to eat seasonally, well, every season of the year! But fall is synonymous with the harvest, so it is the perfect time to start now if you haven’t already!
You can usually do this at a farmer’s market or co-op, or if you’re from the country – from the side of the road where you can find a pop-up stand with a friendly face selling what they’ve grown in their backyard!
A few fall fruits and vegetables to look out for are: apples, bell peppers, pumpkins, squash, turnips, swiss chard, green beans, and mushrooms.
Reasons to eat local, seasonal food
- It is cheaper to buy foods in season because if you purchase out-of-season food, it was likely grown further away, which factors into shipping costs, and demand is usually higher, driving the price.
- Moving and producing these foods around comes at a high cost to the environment too. And usually, trying to grow foods out of season makes you wonder what chemicals and pesticides were necessary to secure that food.
- When you eat seasonally, local food it means that the food was grown closer to you and has more of its nutrients still intact. It definitely will be fresher and tastier!
- It also helps you build a relationship with your community – supporting the local farmers and their families.
- And it draws you closer to nature, as our bodies crave changes in our diet that flow with the seasons.
Use the opportunity this fall to eat local, seasonal food! Bonus points if you decide to start your own fall garden! There are so many delicious recipes you can try out with fall fruits and veggies that will make your tastebuds sing!
Here are some fun recipes I am going to try!
Watch your pumpkin waste
And speaking of food, that brings me to my next sustainable fall tip – watching your pumpkin waste! We all love a good pumpkin grouping on the front door, going to pick the best ones for size, shape, and color, and especially carving pumpkins for Halloween. It’s festive and a tradition a lot of people look forward to.
But around 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins end up in landfills across the nation annually. Dumping these pumpkins releases a lot of methane gas into the environment when piled up in landfills, and although a small fraction of the big problem – it is something to keep in mind if we are trying to live more sustainably.
I think it’s interesting that many people don’t see pumpkins as food. Think about it we are essentially buying aesthetic groceries to sit out on our front door for the season and then throwing them out once we want to change up the decor or they start to go bad. Wasting food in general we know isn’t sustainable, and even more so to buy food, aka pumpkins, to sit there and rot.
But your old jack o lantern or cute door decorations don’t have to go to waste! Have a plan in place for what you’re going to do with your used pumpkins before you buy them this year. Many places will take whole pumpkins in donation centers to help feed animals, feed people, or use them as compost. If you want to compost your pumpkin – make sure to use the insides first! You can make toasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin soup, pumpkin butter, pumpkin dog treats, pumpkin cheesecake, or even a pumpkin spice latte!
Reusable cupsDid you know that your Pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks didn’t even have pumpkin in it from its release in 2003 until 2015? That kind of blew my mind! And in 2019, CNBC estimated that Starbucks had sold 424 million cups of the stuff! I don’t like many things about the Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks, BUT my point here is to get you thinking about how many spent Pumpkin spice lattes went to a landfill after its close-up on your Instagram. 424 million cups and counting. So another way you can be sustainable super easy this fall is by carrying a reusable mug for your coffee, hot cocoa, or even spiked apple cider! A research center that looks at the lifecycle of products shows that
“Over one year (using one cup a day), the reusable cups scored well in the climate change arena—that is, they were associated with fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than their single-use counterparts. Likewise, they scored better in the human-health category for things such as toxic emissions, smog, and ozone depletion. They also tended to use fewer minerals and fossil fuels than disposable cups did.”We start seeing the health benefits after only a handful of uses of a reusable cup, but to see environmental benefits, we need to use the reusable cups for years to come – as in over 1000 times. This task is easy for heavy coffee drinkers like me, but something to consider if you’re just buying a few drinks every year. So if you reuse your mugs for years to come and limit the amount of soap and hot water used to clean them, you’re doing better for yourself and the planet.
Leave your leaves
Now here comes the part where I tell you you don’t have to rake! This fall, as leaves begin to accumulate on your lawn, I want you to consider a few other alternatives to raking and burning or throwing away.
Just like food, leaves have vital nutrients in them that can give back to the land. Fallen leaves will compost and will work to fertilize your yard and gardens. Also, keeping your leaves from a landfill means less space used in that landfill and that there is less physical work and fossil fuels used to pick up and transport your leaves elsewhere!
Don’t throw them in a trash bag aimed at a landfill or burn them. Instead, try these few options.
The first option is to leave your leaves. Simple right? Go over them with your push mower or regular mower. Or the even easier method – just walk over them to get them into smaller pieces. Take a few laps in your yard and bring the dogs along, and those crispy leaves will break up into smaller pieces in no time. These broken-up leaves will act as a natural fertilizer to your lawn without any of the hassles.
The second option is for people who don’t like the look of leaves or want to rake them up. Rake them into piles that you can place around trees, in your garden, or on potted plants to protect them from winter frost. In spring, you can take the remainder of the leaves and compost them in a regular composter.
I even saw a cool third option that said you could get leaves only compost by putting all of your leaves in a bag, poke holes on the bottom and sides, and then sprinkle with water and close it. You can also do this with a leaf bin and avoid the bag altogether! Leave it in the same spot for a year, and you’ll have decomposed lawn mulch!
Having leaves on the ground also protects small creatures and insects like frogs, earthworms, beetles, snails, and more, allowing them to eat and thrive!
Save energy/make your home energy efficient
Finally, Fall is the perfect time to make your home more energy-efficient! We all want to be able to cozy up on the couch with our favorite book or tv show, and a draft or a high heating bill is not ideal.
As temperatures start to get cooler, it’s the best time to save energy and prepare your home for winter. We recently talked about our dependence on fossil fuels for energy, so it makes sense to do we do what we can to reduce that dependence, reducing air and water pollution, making it healthier for people everywhere, and saving ourselves money in the process!
One way you can do this is by watching your thermostat. The Energy Department says you can save “10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.” The lower your interior temperature is, the slower the heat loss will be. So while you’re away or while you’re sleeping, fall is the perfect time to let your system take a break and save some energy.
It also makes sense to open your curtains on south-facing windows and let the sun heat your home! When you get home, or it starts to get dark, make sure you close the curtains and trap in the heat!
Another way to save energy this fall is to use this time to check for cracks, leaks, or drafts in your home. These minor leaks could be causing you to overwork your heater. You can do these checks yourself by walking through and around your house, looking for gaps or cracks. To start, try checking around windows, electrical outlets, door frames, cable lines, and around vents and fans.
The energy Department says one test is to “Shut a door or window on a dollar bill. If you can pull the dollar bill out without it dragging, you’re losing energy.” You can also shut all windows, fans, and exhausts on a windy day and take a damp hand around your house, feeling when it gets cold as a sign of a potential leak. Replace, caulk, or repair areas that have leaks, and you’ll start to notice the difference in no time!
A few other ways to be more energy efficient in your home include:
- Maintain a clean HVAC filter
- Reduce the temperature of your water heater to 120°, and wrap an insulating blanket around it
- And run your ceiling fans clockwise and at low speeds while your heater is running to redistribute the heat throughout your home better.
By taking the time to implement a few of these 5 sustainability tips this fall, you’ll continue to grow on that mindful mindset which leads towards even more sustainable practices in the seasons to come!
Something to grow onFor this week’s something to grow on, I want to challenge you to get out into nature and reconnect this fall. One of the best ways to be sustainable is to remind ourselves what we are working to be in harmony with – nature. With extreme weather conditions and poor air quality in many parts of the country, many people have found it hard to get out and connect with nature. Now is the time to get back out there. That connection could look different for many people this autumn.
Put out a bird feeder
This will help you to stay connected while helping birds stay warm and full as summer berries run out.
Autumn is the perfect time to collect blackberries, mushrooms, or elderberries. Just be sure to take a book with you to help you identify what you’re seeing is safe.
learn how to preserve foods
Take the time to prepare food for winter and appreciate the bounty of the earth.
Create homes for wildlife
Create homes for creatures like hedgehogs, bees, or insects if you have the outdoor space to do so.
Go for a nature walk
The easiest way is to take nature walks and observe the changing seasons and how beautiful our natural world is. You’ll grow a more profound appreciation for the earth and everyone and everything in it.