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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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We Do The Best We Can With What We Have.

Petting Goats At The Harvest Fair This Weekend

I am off to see my grandfather this morning, but I wanted to say a quick few words before I go.

We all live in different places in the world, we have different incomes, we’ve attained different levels of sustainability, we’re at different points on the path toward sustainability, some of us have large families others have small, some of us have cats that stand on the keyboard so that w3e can’qt typpppe, others have children that do the same. We come from different backgrounds and we live under different governments. But one thing we all have in common is our desire to live the most sustainable life we can.

And how we live that sustainable life depends on all these factors and more.

I live in a small apartment that is easy to cool in the summer and heat in the winter. Our spatial impact on the planet is small. In our densely populated area, I can walk nearly everywhere, and when I can’t walk, I can take the bus. And if I can’t take the bus, generally everything is a short drive or bike ride away. We drive just 15-20 miles/week on average.

But we can’t have a solar cooker, because we have no outdoor space and we have a northern exposure. We can’t put solar panels on the house, nor use passive solar on the water heater. Because even if we could afford those things, we live in a cloudy northern climate and we share our water heater with several of our neighbors.

While we have a fire escape garden and a family allotment, we can’t produce most of our food as we did in the country, so we buy much of our food at the farmer’s market. Fortunately when we do that, we’re supporting our local economy and the local organic farmers that could use all the support they can get right now.

I rely on petroleum-powered pharmaceuticals to survive my chronic asthma. But I don’t eat meat nor processed foods, I don’t use plastic or paper, I’m making my own shampoo, I live as locally as I can, and I’m working on a whole lot of other changes like attending my neighborhood sustainability meeting for the first time the other night. Slowly but steadily, in a continuous process, my lifestyle is becoming more sustainable.

I’m sure your life and your life circumstances are different than mine. What works for me in my circumstances may not always work for you in yours, and the same is true in the reverse. But what is great is that we have these different perspectives, we are all at different levels in this process, and we are all good at some things but not so good at others. So together we meet here and give one another input, suggestions, encouragement, and light an extra fire under our behind when we need it.

As we meander our way through this process, please let’s each of us remember that we are all here for the same reason, though we come from different directions. Let’s support one another as much as we can at One Green Generation, around the blogosphere, and in our cities and towns – we are all in this quest and on this planet together.

One final note: those who are not as far along on this path need our nurturing and encouragement. This week, if you see someone who is not as far along the path – here, on another blog, or in your neighborhood – and they seem like they need some encouragement or support, offer it to them. They may not understand something about gardening or local food systems or body products or public transportation. I challenge you to put aside your judgments and help them, support them, show them your kindness and knowledge without confrontation. Because that is one of the ways we are going to save this planet: one on one, person to person, supporting one another.

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14 comments to We Do The Best We Can With What We Have.

  • We do the best we can. Exactly.

    I was thinking recently how in the past, universities and colleges were the center of movements such as this, but now they don’t have to be because people can create a community over the Internet. Part of thinking this stemmed from thinking of the climate crisis organization on campus, and how it doesn’t talk about as much sustainability so much as it does political action, whereas the blog community here combines the two more. I like the combined approach a lot better, which is probably why I’m not involved in that group.

    And yet, I wonder if I should encourage thinking about sustainability in that group. Perhaps I should start the conversation.

    In any case I want to go to the farmer’s market over the weekend before it closes in October. I can’t wait to try some local-to-Minnesota food!

    EDIT: This comment was NOT supposed to be so long. I can’t seem to comment quickly and quietly on environmental blogs. It’s weird because I can hardly figure out what to say on most blogs! So weird.

  • You do a good job of walking the walk, melinda. It’s easy to see what you are talking about- at the picnic we all just started about out lack luster tomatoes and all of a sudden we had a full blown garden talk session going!It just takes a little acorn to become a mighty oak!

  • Oh, I needed that post right about now. My sister (the alien) and I got into a discussion over eggs and I just about ripped her lips off for her flippant comments. She swears her Kroger brand, $4 organic eggs are just as good ‘if not better’ (can’t you just hear the neeener, neener, neeeeeenr in her voice?) as my locally raised, ethically farmed eggs that I get for…. wait for it…. $4 freakin’ dollars! I offered to get her some from my food club and she gagged. Literally. So, yes, we are all at different paths in our journey and we need to be patient and remember this. However, is there a special rule for siblings? JK! That’s for the reality check! :o)

  • Well, I was all sappy reading your post but now I’m laughing at EBM’s comment above with the alien sister. Too funny. Thanks to both of you. I’ll keep an eye out for aliens to encourage.

  • Passive solar on the hot water heater is not as expensive as you might think, and may also work better than you think.

    A do-it-yourselfer can probably find most of the parts for free from old plumbing and scrap wood. Even if you buy these new, you are probably only looking at about $100. You’ll need to buy a bit of paint, maybe a pane of glass as well as other misc fittings regardless.

    Since it sits in front of whatever heats you water now, you don’t have anything to lose. If you are lucky enough to get some hot water out of it, then that’s less work your water heater has to do.

    If temps fall significantly below freezing, you will need to drain it in the winter, and this is the main reason I don’t have one (I’m also not really a do-it-yourselfer). This can be kind of fiddly, and forgetting means a burst water pipe. If your climate isn’t that cold, this is a non-issue, and once it’s installed you can forget about it.

    I think the reason most people don’t do this is it’s not the kind of thing a company can easily advertise and sell, because you can really do it yourself almost for free. This means many people don’t know about it.

    Of course I can also understand your landlord not wanting you to install something like this on his or her building…

  • Very well said, Melinda. Each of us has to figure out what we can do in our personal situation. I read other blogs to get ideas, not to find something to criticize about the path someone else has decided to take. I post about my journey for the same reason – to give ideas, plant a seed, show how I go about making changes and decisions.

    You make a wonderful contribution to the world, girl!

  • Great post! We all are trying to do what we can – we have different levels of abilities, focuses, and limitations (we, like you live in an apartment, while this is good on many levels, it limits our abilities to use alternative energy and also limits how much of our own food we can grow).

    But what is inspiring is that so many people, from all sorts of backgrounds, are stepping up and doing what they can, in their own ways, to live more sustainably. The “blogosphere” gives us the ability to network, share tips, and as you so importantly note, give each other kicks in the pants every once in awhile.

  • [...] to start making a list of really inspiring posts I’ve read in the sidebar, starting with We Do The Best We Can With What We Have. I’m not entirely sure why but it really struck a chord with me. Then today Melinda posted [...]

  • Stephanie, Mmmm, good comment. I think it’s time you do something on your campus to combine sustainability with political activism! I don’t think we can solve the climate’s problems solely with legislation, though that is a big part of the puzzle. Legislation, though, doesn’t fly unless we all at the grassroots/home level normalize these ideas and make them more widespread. The two go hand-in-hand in my book.

    No need to apologize for a long comment. I LOVE long comments and take it as a compliment. Conversation is an important part of this website, so converse away!

    Rob, Thank you. Makes me feel very good. Together, we are all lil’ acorns, planting a forest of mighty oaks. : )

    EBM, Hilarious. You’re welcome! Good luck with your sis. I think there is a special rule for siblings: we have to work harder cuz they’re family. ; )

    Katrina, You’re welcome! Thanks for making me smile with your comment.

    Patrick, Thanks so much for your great instructions. I will have to wait until we’re in a different building. The water heater is a gigantic monstrosity in the basement, and shared by several tenants. And we have less than environmentally-conscious and open-minded landlords: I’m still working on getting them to put in a recycling bin. Ugh. We illegally dump our recycling next door.

    Chile, Thank you! Planting seeds… I like that.

    Jennifer, Thank you for your lovely comment. It’s good to hear the perspective of another apartment dweller.

  • “We do the best we can.”

    So true…and isn’t it amazing how, when we do…and we engage others to do the same…what a difference it makes in our own personal lives, and in surprising ways?

  • P.Price, Indeed!

    I’ve been reading “Small is Possible: Life in a Local Economy.” He writes about his experience with thinking in terms of open source. A little strange to think of the world in terms of software, but it’s interesting: you create something, then put it into the world, and someone else improves on it, and then another person does, and maybe it comes back to you as an idea that is 10x better than when you first thought it, and you improve it again and then it goes out into the world for someone else to make it grow, and the cycle continues… It is the power of working together.

  • [...] know it sounds difficult to some of you, but just remember to do the best you can and keep working at it. It is important. We are changing the world, whether we like it or not. So [...]

  • Wendy

    Thanks for the encouragement I’m a newbie!!!!

  • Mary Beth Schlagheck

    I would like to see a photograph of the Peace Action New York State (PANYS) LED digital display (cost-of-war) counter, if you have one.

    Thank you,


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