What is Self-Sustainability and Why Is It So Important?
Self-sustainability is the ability to provide for all your needs independently for an extended period. People often use terms like “self-sustainability” and “self-sufficiency” interchangeably. These two concepts are similar, but they are not the same.
If you are self-sufficient, you can provide for yourself with no reliance on the outside world. However, if you are self-sustainable, you can provide for yourself without help from the outside world for your entire life. In other words, self-sustainability is long-term self-sufficiency. This requires establishing sustainable practices and systems that ensure that you will always be able to provide for yourself and take care of your needs independently.
More and more people are embracing the idea of self-sustainability. This philosophy can take many forms, with some people moving off the grid, growing their food, relying on solar and wind power, or learning to make their clothes and other tools.
You do not need to adopt all these practices at once. Instead, you can start taking small steps toward self-sustainability. In this article, we will explore some practical options for becoming more self-sustaining.
Living a Self-Sustainable Lifestyle
You need to account for many different aspects of life if you want to become fully self-sustaining. However, there are some core areas that you can explore as you begin your efforts.
- Produce your food: Cultivating your own food sources is practical because it makes you less prone to the ups and downs of commodity and agriculture markets. It also ensures that you maintain a nutritious diet free from processed foods. This type of subsistence-level food growth requires having dedicated spaces in and around your home. For example, you can consider building a barn to grow food or store a harvest. In a more urban setting, you can create a specialty building for indoor growing or storage. Another option is to construct a garage or other multi-purpose space for cultivation and vehicle storage. You might even consider making a separate carport if you wish to convert your garage into a grow house. Finally, you can erect a specialized storage building on your property so that all these efforts do not make your living areas too crowded.
- Produce your energy: You can also consider utilizing solar and wind power to produce your own electricity. If you want to take this step, you need to determine your energy needs and find a system that meets them.
- Improve your mental and physical health: Part of being self-sustaining is taking care of your own body and mind. You can consider constructing a building to hold your exercise equipment or serve as a place for your preferred spiritual practice, such as meditation. Such investments are essential because not maintaining your mental or physical health can make self-sustainability much more challenging.
- Be financially responsible: You can focus on investing your money in areas that will increase sustainability. You can reduce your consumption of non-sustainable goods, reuse items that are still functional, and try to repair those that aren’t.
These first steps can put you firmly on a self-sustainable path. They will give you a solid base to take additional steps.
Additional Self-Sustainability Living Techniques
When you are ready to take more steps toward full self-sustainability, you can consider the following.
Sustainable Home Design
One essential aspect of sustainable living is the way your home fits into its environment. Depending on the location, you should consider the temperature, solar orientation, wind direction, precipitation, topography, and vegetation when building or renovating your home. All these variables will affect the level of sustainability that you can achieve.
For example, if you live in the south, you should design your home to deal with a warm, humid climate. You can take steps such as ensuring proper airflow, shading, and insulation to regulate temperature. Southern homes also need effective insect control, which you can achieve by growing certain plants that attract beneficial insects and repel unwanted ones.
You will also want to select appliances and systems with limited energy needs, which will allow you to rely as much as possible on renewable solar or wind power sources.
Your home garden should blend into its natural environment. Rather than practicing agriculture, you should focus on permaculture.
Permaculture is related to agriculture, but there are some key distinctions. It involves running your gardens or farms in a way that not only produces food but also improves the land, sustains itself, and requires little maintenance work.
For example, if you plan to produce fruits, the traditional agricultural path would be to plant an orchard and then maintain it by irrigating and fertilizing to ensure a harvest. The permacultural approach involves planting multiple species of trees that are native to your area. For example, you might plant a local apple tree together with a cherry and plum tree and blackberries or gooseberries. You can also mix in native non-fruit plants. The variation and mimicking of the local natural environment ensure the minerals in the soil get replenished. The setup will also attract birds and insects that keep pests in check.
The advantage of permaculture is that it requires little work on your part since the garden will sustain itself year after year.
Energy expenses are among the highest costs homeowners have to pay. Solar and wind power present a significant investment initially, but they pay for themselves with the savings you get to enjoy on your energy bill.
If you pick solar power, you can install as many solar panels as required to meet your total energy needs. You can then decide whether to store excess energy with batteries or power cells or sell it back to the grid using a net metering system. With this setup, the utility company pays you to use your excess energy.
If you live in a place with a lot of wind, you can also consider installing a wind turbine. Like solar, wind turbines can produce a lot of extra energy, which you can sell back to the grid. You can earn credit that you can use to draw power from the grid when the winds aren’t blowing.
Cars are responsible for much of the greenhouse emissions the human population produces. They are also expensive to store, maintain, and insure. By opting for alternative rides, you will help preserve the environment and reduce your daily expenses. Some alternatives to cars include:
- Bicycles: Not only are bicycles practical for short trips, but they are also eco-friendly, require little maintenance, and help you stay fit.
- Walking: If your commute involves a very short distance, consider getting there on your feet. This will save money, increase your fitness, and limit pollution.
- Carpooling: Part of the problem with cars is that much of their potential gets wasted. Carpooling is a way of fully utilizing passenger capacity and reducing the total number of cars on the road. You can also share the cost of gas.
Depending on where you live, you can supplement these alternative rides with public transport. If you have buses or rail lines, you can use them for longer trips instead of driving.
Make Your Own Clothes and Other Items
If you can sew your clothes, you can take a significant step toward self-sufficiency. Sewing will help reduce how much you spend on clothes and allow you to repair clothes that are otherwise still functional. You can also learn other homesteading skills, such as plumbing, carpentry, or electrical work. These can allow you to handle repair jobs yourself rather than spending money on a service call. Meanwhile, learning pottery, glasswork, or metalwork can help you make your own dishes, glassware, utensils, and tools.
The Importance of Self-Sustainability
Self-sustainability comes with numerous benefits. The most obvious, perhaps, is that living a simple lifestyle is environmentally friendly.
This lifestyle also offers an alternative to a consumerist lifestyle which focuses on consumption and the constant pursuit of more materials and income. Self-sustainability is closely related to living a minimalist lifestyle, which focuses on obtaining things needed for a meaningful life (as opposed to what society says you need).
Self-sustainability requires that you focus on these things, and it requires that you remain in tune with nature and your surroundings.