Taking Action for Sustainabillity

Although it may seem that an individual can't take significant action to work toward the important issues that are impacting our world -- environmental problems, rampant consumerism, war and conflict -- you can empower yourself to work toward solving these problems.

Gardening and Landscaping

Americans spend more money on lawns and lawn care than on any other agricultural crop, including food crops! There is also a significant amount of pollution produced through traditional lawn care, from fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide runoff and from lawnmower fumes.

By minimizing the amount of lawn your maintain and moving to lower-input management, you can significantly reduce your personal contribution to this environmental problem. Replacing lawns with low-maintenance ornamental perennial plants and eliminating pesticide use can not only produce beautiful landscaping which adds value to your home, it can also attract butterflies and beneficial insects and serve as wildlife habitat. By choosing perennials that have multiple uses (edible plants, medicinal plants, etc.), you can "stack functions" and create a more valuable and useful planting.

Good choices for low-maintenance, multiple-use perennials for the Great Lakes Bioregion include

Integrating vegetables and other edible plants into your landscape is also a valuable practice. It does not take much space to produce healthy, local food for your own table. With container gardening, even those with limited yard space can produce their own salad garden.

Good choices for easy-to-grow vegetables for the Great Lakes Bioregion include

Energy Efficiency

America's broad reliance on petroleum for our energy needs has a number of negative consequences, including pollution, production of greenhouse gasses, and political ramifications. Even if our government is reluctant to cut ties to imported and domestic petroleum, individuals can take steps to empower themselves and reduce energy use while saving money.

One of the most important actions that a person can take currently is to work toward energy conservation and efficiency.

Even simple steps toward making your home more efficient can not only save you money in reduced heating and cooling costs, they can help reduce your resource use. Weatherstripping, cauking around windows, reducing the temperature setting on your thermostat, and other very simple steps can make an impact. For more information on energy saving measures see the Household Energy Tips page at Urban Options.

Passive solar heating uses renewable energy from the sun to help heat homes. By capturing heat from the sun and storing it in "thermal mass" (water, stone, etc.), the need for conventional heating can be reduced.

Adding passive solar features to a new home during construction can cost very little, but result in significant energy savings and cost savings for homeowners. Solar additions can also be done to existing homes.

The vehicle you drive can also have an impact on your personal energy use. Volkswagen currently sells two vehicles which get 49 miles per gallon highway, the turbodiesel Golf and the turbodiesel Beetle. Better still, diesel vehicles can be fueled with biodiesel fuel, made from renewable vegetable oil (including recycled cooking oil waste!). Biodiesel is starting to be available at gas stations in Michigan.

Hybrid engine vehicles are also becoming available. These operate on both gas and electric engines, for increased efficiency. The Toyota Prius is a highly rated hybrid vehicle which gets 45 miles per gallon on the highway.

Water Conservation

Fresh, uncontaminated water is a resource that is far too often taken for granted. Even in the Great Lakes Bioregion, blessed with an abundance of fresh water and rainfall, water conservation is an important choice to make.

Choosing low-maintenance, drought tolerant plants in your landscaping can result in reduced need to water and significant water use reduction. Mulching garden beds also reduces water loss from the soil and helps retain moisture in the soil.

Installing low-flow showerheads in your shower (2.0 gallons per minute) and showerheads with a "pause" feature to shut off the water while soaping up can reduce your water use greatly with minimal effort or expense. Avoiding running water continually while shaving and brushing teeth can also add up.