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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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What Is The Hardest Part About Living Sustainably, Frugaly, or Green?

A long while back many of us shared the most difficult things to change in our lives – on our paths toward sustainability.  We have so many new people joining us, and life has changed quite a lot since then.  So let’s do it again!

Once we share them here, we can help one another to make those changes over time.  Shall we?

For me, the hardest things have been:

  1. Making the time to cook.  Particularly at lunch,  I eat (organic) frozen food.  Ack – it’s true!
  2. Making the time to help other people make lifestyle changes.  Particularly lately, I haven’t made time to help others by way of the blog (sorry guys!), speaking, and other ways.
  3. Being a real part of my new community.  I don’t spend enough time at local events, I don’t volunteer locally (there are lots of local organizations that could use my help), and I don’t feel like I participate in my new neighborhood.

What Change Is The Hardest For You?

Think a bit, and then please share!  What do you wish you were doing, but you just can’t make yourself do?  What do you feel guilty about doing?

I will tell you it feels good to write them down.  Now that they’re there, on paper, I see what I need to work on.

Try it!

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24 comments to What Is The Hardest Part About Living Sustainably, Frugally, or Green?

  • The hardest part is continually learning new tricks–once I learned to make my own bread, I realized I wanted to make my own sourdough, then I wanted to track down local flour, now I want to learn to grind my own . . .it’s an unending process.

    I find that getting other people in my life interested is pretty easy. Everyone in my family enjoys the wild rose hip jam I made this winter and the locavore raisin bread I made just this morning. My MIL has even begun to help me out with my mini-garden.

  • Oh with out a doubt it’s participating in my local community. Although I feel like the work I do (for pay) is community building, I feel like there is more I’d like or should do. But by the time I’m done with work and commuting by bus, I’m done. No energy for more than household and garden. Sometimes not even that. I keep reminding myself when I think about it, that there will be a stage in my life that I will be able to do more.

  • I think the hardest thing for me is breaking out of the commercial cycle. It’s hard to stop buying new clothes and shoes even though I already own a ridiculous amount of stuff. But I have made a vow to myself to shop at consignment stores from now on when I do “need” to shop for something.

    The bad non-eco-friendly habit that I just can’t bring myself to break is using tissues. I don’t use them to clean or anything, but my nose always seems to be running and I hate to medicate myself when it’s not absolutely necessary. At least I buy 100% recycled ones from Trader Joe’s…

    Oh – and one other *HUGE* thing. Last summer after my hubby and I got married, all sorts of bad stuff happened that caused us to say “You know what? Life is too short. Let’s get a pool.” which is something we have both wanted for our whole lives. So to reconcile my other “green” lifestyle choices with having a bazillion gallons of chemical water in my backyard is just ridiculous. But this means that we’ll have people over to socialize even more often – and when they’re over they can see our garden, our compost barrel, our rainwater recovery system, and how we cook nearly everything from scratch with ingredients purchased at the farmers’ market – and hopefully being exposed to that will inspire more people to do similar things!

    • Jen

      I use linen/cotton handkerchiefs which have mostly been bought at ‘antique’ type stores. I love using them and just always have one in my pocket.

  • Debra

    Time: Last year we made so many changes in our home. It was fantastic. I was cooking every meal, we were rarely going out to eat, I was shopping for ingredients not products, we had turned off the TV and the computer and were putting together puzzles and playing cards. And then I changed jobs. Now I’m home one day a week and don’t get in until late in the evening. By that time I’m exhausted with no desire to do anything but sit on the couch and stare at the television for an hour. I’ve watched everything I worked toward slip away because “there’s just no time.” I’m finding I value the changes my family had made (which made us more of a family) more than I value the job and the extra stress is just not worth it.

  • Rosa

    The hardest thing for me is the distance it puts between us and our family. I’m always struggling with my mom and my partner’s family about why we won’t fly somewhere, why I don’t like the plastic junk they buy for our kid, why when they want to give us things we try to say no.

    And for me, since I don’t want the kid to have too much junk, when they ignore our wishes and buy him a bunch of stuff anyway, it makes me feel like I can’t buy him the things *I* want to buy – we have a great eco-kid store with wooden trucks and things that he would love but he already has a heap of plastic trucks and other crap they buy him all the time. So then it makes me angry – like, they feel like their want to go buy kid crap is more important than mine?

    I feel like they won’t listen to or respect us, and they think we’re just killjoys (c’mon, everyone else is flying to Alaska! Don’t you want to see the glaciers before they’re gone?” “Oh shut up about the BPA, every child should have music-playing plastic train mugs. He likes it!”).

  • Dee

    The hardest thing for me right now is finding organic and local food. The supermarkets have very limited choices. I do buy local veg and certified humane and organic/non-GMO chicken, eggs, grains and meat when it is available. When I see it in the store I buy it out. If there is none available we do without and eat vegetarian/vegan for a week or a month until we find some. In fact it has been so hard finding real food here that we’ve decided to sell our house and get out of the suburbs. I’ve given myself 2 years to move to a small farm or rural land site, build or retrofit a house to all solar and be off the grid, plant a bigger garden and raise livestock, chickens and bees. Then I plan to retire in 5 years (at 45) and work for myself and my community raising and selling food. I quit buying “stuff” many years ago and only buy clothes from goodwill or salvation army stores. My husband is even making plans to make his own bio-fuel. Our back yard will be our own landfill, so whatever we throw away must stay on-site; thereby reducing our trash to zero. I will recycle all my plastic into seed starting trays, chicken feeders, etc.
    We are packing now to move, have found our small farm and are moving from 2800 sq ft 4 bdr, 3 ba house to a small 2 bdr, 1 bath farm house. It will be an adjustment, and with the move nothing is being thrown away.. it will all be recycled into something else or given away. We know this will be a challenge, but the rewards of working for ourselves and not contributing to corporate waste and abuse of the environment is our dream. The hard work of farming and learning home-steading skills will keep us active and engaged as we get older.

  • I’m bothered by — where we are, with an acre in the country, although we grow nearly all our own food and are able to do all kinds of alternative energy and reduce, reuse, recycle tricks we could not do when we were in town, we can’t really live without the <a href = gasoline consumption. Yes, I wait a week and combine everything I can into one trip. But a gallon of gasoline contains 38,000 kilocalories of energy, and when we burn all that up (six percent of which moves the car) the resulting gases will trap 100 times that many kilocalories of heat in the atmosphere over the next 1,000 years.

    That’s the particular albatross around my neck — knowing that. Knowing it with every tankful, and seeing, so far, no viable alternative — at my age, this far out in the sticks.

  • Katie

    A huge challenge is convincing my husband because he is stuck in ‘we’ve always done it that way’ or ‘i’ve been doing it this way since i was a kid’ etc. I’m having a tough time with the increased cost and inconvience of going to the farmers market. Right now the budget just is not available to pay $16 instead of $5 a week for milk etc and having to leave work in the middle of the day to go to the farmers market over 1/2 hour away. But I am doing what I can.

  • Hmm, the link broke even though I checked it twice.

    But I just went back and reread the article. The study I was thinking of, by scientist Ken Caldeira, doesn’t say the gases will trap 100 times the heat energy. My bad. He says it will trap 100,000 times the heat energy. I wish I were making this up.

  • Rosa

    Risa, that’s hard.

    We live in a city neighborhood in a place with great green options, especially for food (six indy food coops, I think? I really only pay attention ours. A farmer’s market every 10 blocks in summer).

    But it’s a cold place and we use a ridiculous amount of energy for heat.

    Everyone has these kinds of tradeoffs. It’s the limit of individual action inside such an unsustainable system.

  • kathy

    i have a school 5 minutes’ walk from my house, but it’s not great. so, i drive my children to a school 20km away. every day. that’s 400km a week. sigh. i just can’t subject them to ruler-wielding old women, no matter how convenient. it’s such a shame because the local school has a kitchen garden and plans for a teaching kitchen and strawbale shelters.

    i spend a lot of time on community events etc, so i do what i can to guide people to a simpler life – but there i am driving 400km a week. i struggle with my own hypocrisy.

  • Making almost all our food from scratch, which includes growing and preserving much of it. I like doing it, the hard part is having the time and energy since I work full time.

  • I think for me the hardest thing is consistency. Many of the green, frugal, sustainable things that I do or want to do take more time; and it is so easy to opt for the quicker, but less green options when I’m in a hurry.

  • Michael

    For me, I would say the ultimate problem I have with trying to live a sustainable lifestyle is time restraint. With school and work, it seems like I barely have time to take a shower some days, which in my opinion, contributes to conservation :P.

  • Like Rosa, I suffer with the dissonance in relationships with my son, my family. My best friend of 44 years just visited and said I was negative. She said I take her to a dark place because she feels hopeless. She doesn’t want to know about the injustices. When I suggest we have alternatives she is contemptuous of so many of the ideas or behaviors I share with her. She focuses on deprivation and denial. I make people uncomfortable and they wish me to STFU. Most people don’t affect me as much (it is the price we pay in confronting change), but my intimate family, friends are a heart ache.

    Also, I like this sentence of Rosa’s: It’s the limit of individual action inside such an unsustainable system.

  • Rob

    LOL WE all feel so guilty. For me, many of my issues are the same as yours. I feel guilty for not getting more involved with organizations and my community, I feel guilty about eating so much take out, even though I try and do make a lot of good choices there.
    Hell I’m a liberal… I feel guilty at the drop of a hat.

  • [...] One Green Generation on Facebook Recent Comments Rob on What Is The Hardest Part About Living Sustainably, Frugally, or Green?katecontinued on What Is The Hardest Part About Living Sustainably, Frugally, or Green?Michael on [...]

  • Rose

    For me, it’s having disability and therefore not as much energy to do the things I really want to do; I can’t work full time, so I had to learn to make do, and I feel I’m living better for’t. Still, energy levels are very important and each day I have to assess whether I have the energy to make a meal from scratch or whether I should pull something out of the freezer (usually something I prepared ahead of time for just that kind of day). I run a dryer – this is partly due to the fact my son’s skin is so sensitive he breaks out into a rash if I dry clothes on the line, and he hates the feel of airdryed clothes on his skin. It’s also due to the fact I hate musty clothes all over my house; England is perpetually damp and nothing ever gets fully dry. I have a dishwasher too – but now it seems washing dishes by dishwasher actually SAVES energy so I don’t feel badly about this.

    The hardest thing is hearing people always saying how they “can’t” do without all these incredibly necessary things like second cars, SKY tv, or shopping for bulk white bread with no nutritional value. But there’s a difference between “can’t” and “can’t-be-arsed”. I no longer bother with these people – there are always solutions; they may not be convenient, but they ARE there.

  • … All of it? No, really. It’s all hard. I’m almost ready to even give up following sustainability blogs. I’ll be able to follow you again when I have more control over my circumstances.

  • The hardest change for me has been realising I can’t take those I love along with me.

    My husband is on board 100% and does everything he can to support our more self-reliant lifestyle – but then it just gets harder to see him packed off for work for another 8 hours.

    I’m now homeschooling our daughter and baking our daily bread. All this is great and self-empowering, but while DH has to focus 95% of his time on his outside work life – it’s hard to play catch-up when he comes home again.

    He can see it and I can see it – but in the land of making money; he has to do his time in the mines (so to speak). He actually works in the hospitality industry, so sees the worst of human waste and consumption. It gets harder for him to do.

    This double-act we have to play in order to pay our mortgage, is probably the most challenging for both of us. Especially when we’re already doing everything we can to chisel back our expenses.

    I hope I haven’t painted a dark picture of our life choices. Life is great in so many other ways, and we really excel when the chance for catch-up does come along – but it’s just a challenge to have one foot in the other world, so to speak.

  • Xan

    The hardest part is knowing that my kids and husband will go along with this at home, with me– oh another thing from Mom the Hippie! she’s so crazy!– but that they won’t sustain it on their own. I also don’t have face to face contact with ANYONE who is trying to do this– all my support is online, which is great, but just not the same.

  • [...] I asked you all recently what was the most difficult part of sustainable living, many of you said “not having enough time.” I will admit this is my number one issue as [...]

  • Tami

    I would say trying to decide which is the worse of two evils. Not always knowing if what I read is propaganda, truth or partial truth( I tend to lean toward the last, for a lot of stuff). I ride a bike when whether is good, public transportation when not. Limit visit to family that live far away. Do e-magazines, e-banking, and bill paying. I hardly ever have much in my garbage can, and not sure how proud to be in my full recyle bin. Need to work on reducing that. Made some great green salsa today,(that I will can most for a later date), and when I was done making I looked around and realized with out trying everything, the tomatillos, bell and jalapeno, herbs, all but two things where homegrown ( garlic and walla walla sweet onion) but they were locally grown. So, I am making progress but when I look back, I realize I have been working on this for a long time and should have made more progress. I need to set reevalueate date, like monthly, to see “have I done any good in the world today” and work on my progression

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