Once again, Henry David Thoreau’s desire to live simply has caught American popular consciousness. What’s surprising about the modern-day Walden is that it is not in some remote area, far from the world. It’s in cities and suburbs, and possibly in your own back yard. This new movement is called Urban Homesteading, and it offers many possibilities for the frugal environmentalist.
The backbone of Urban Homesteading is the attempt to live as much off the grid as possible. This includes growing your own fruits and vegetables, using rainwater and gray water, raising farm animals for food, using alternative energy, learning to do things for yourself, and reducing waste and consumption. While some of these activities are regulars in any frugal saver’s playbook, others seem really off the beaten path, and a little…well, weird.
Take it Slow at First
Even those who practice full-on Urban Homesteading — like the family behind urbanhomestead.org — don’t advocate going whole hog right away. This family has become dedicated to living off the grid through over 20 years of experimentation. That means they did not jump in right away with raising chickens, growing 50% of the food they eat, cutting their own hair, hand-washing their clothes and only driving on bio-diesel they created themselves. They suggest you start small with your urban homestead and learn and grow as you go.
Urban Homesteading Offers Something for Everyone
But even if you have no intention of giving up air conditioning, your car and your washer, there are many lessons to be learned from the Urban Homesteaders. Growing your own vegetables is an easy way to reduce your food budget and ensure that you know what you are eating. No matter how brown your thumb, you can learn how to grow tomatoes and sweet peppers in a sunny spot in your yard. For that garden, collect a little gray water to supplement what comes out of the hose. It doesn’t have to be fancier than scooping some of your bathwater up with a bucket, rather than letting it go down the drain. Every little bit will help reduce your water bill. While you’re at it, start a compost pile, and never pay for mulch again. Each of these suggestions cost nothing, and they will reap benefits for your wallet and your environment.
Becoming an Urban Homesteader is all about learning how to be self-sufficient. While most people do not want to completely unplug from the grid — I personally doubt I will ever have the ability to give myself a decent haircut — it is worthwhile to think about how individuals who take it to the extremes manage to do it. Because many of the things we take for granted as a given of modern life are simply habits. If you want to make an impact on your home, your community and your environment, challenge yourself to try an Urban Homesteading activity. You might be surprised to find that you, like Thoreau, feel freer once you’ve simplified your life.
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