In this post I wanted to share why sustainability is important to me. I hope it helps to link sustainability with your own life. It should also offer some valuable context for the rest of the blog posts.
I grew up in Estonia. I spent most of my school holidays in a rural area of Estonia with my grandparents. We were surrounded by fields, forest and you could see the sea from our kitchen window. We grew fruit and vegetables – enough root vegetables to sustain our extended family throughout the year. In the farm we also had sheep, chickens and often a pig. I was well into my twenties when I first had to buy eggs from a shop. Up to then all of the eggs had come from the happy chickens from our farm. Thus, I didn’t have to even think about the chickens living conditions.
Because we were in a rural area we didn’t have sewage. We got water from the well, we had a composting toilet and a sauna house. As a side note – saunas are very popular in Estonia and Finland and most families have access to one. We got running water in the farm when I was 15. But even then anything you pour down the drain goes to the septic tank behind the house, next to the raspberry bed. Thus, the circularity of water was rather obvious.
The circularity of it all
As we’re taught in geography class – everything is linked. Often the water cycle is used as an example. But there are other examples. In our case the manure generated by the animals went to fertilise the vegetables. Leftover food and food waste like potato peels was fed to the animals. What couldn’t be fed to the animals went to compost that ended up fertilising the vegetables.
All of this was natural, common sense if you will. Although we lived in the city for the rest of the year we had habits that continued the circularity. For example we collected and took back to the farm the egg shells and boxes, and all of the jars – from pickling the excess vegetables. Until I went to university I didn’t realise I could be classed as “environmentally aware”. More importantly, I realised that not everyone understands where things came from. There was an anecdote going around that kids are asked “Where does milk come from?” and they reply “From the shop”. Also, people didn’t seem to think much when putting things into the bin as it magically disappears.
Still space for improvements
I want to clarify that I certainly didn’t – and still don’t – have the full understanding of the circularity of it all. For example, I used to ignorantly think that those thin plastic bags I bought vegetables in can be recycled by my council. Not the case. Currently I try to buy as many vegetables as possible loose. I put them in a reusable thin bags that don’t weigh almost anything and are machine washable. I also grow fruit and vegetable in my tiny yard in the UK.
Before finishing this post I have one more interesting story to tell. When I moved to the UK one unusual thing blew me away – new potatoes. You see, in my family new potatoes are special thing. We grow potatoes and have enough for the whole year. However, you only get new potatoes in August, sometimes in late July if you’re lucky. And they’re available for a month or so. You have new potatoes when they’re in season and that’s it. You appreciate it and it also makes you aware of the seasons.
However, in the UK I seemed to be able to buy new potatoes any time of the year. It seemed ridiculous, and it still does. I’m first to admit that both in Estonia and in the UK I bought and buy some vegetables out of season. I do try to buy seasonally and also grow some of my own produce. What I wanted to highlight here was that I hadn’t consciously thought about seasonality much before moving to the UK. But new potatoes opened my eyes.
Why is sustainability important?
In summary, thanks to spending time in a small farm I’ve seen how everything is linked. The eggs taste nicer when you have happy chickens. You don’t want to pour mainstream washing up liquid down the drain as it ends up in your raspberries. Instead, I opt for one I wouldn’t be scared of “eating”. You ensure no food is wasted as it’s a valuable feed for animals or plants. Also, water is more precious as it’s hard work getting water from the well.
I think it’s important for everyone to try to live more sustainably. Even if you’ve never lived in a farm and never had to fetch water from the well. It’s the same water that circles the earth after all and we have a finite amount of it.
Do you have any sustainable habits that started in your childhood?
What’s the best way to help people become more environmentally aware?