Dressing sustainably can be simple, when you know what you’re doing.

But just what kind of knowledge do you need to make informed choices about the clothes you buy?

In my recent interview with Chet Van Wert of the website “A Greener Daily Life,” we discussed how our individual purchase choices can impact humans and the planet in a powerful way.

That fact was the impetus behind the founding of “A Greener Daily Life,” as a site for folks looking to learn about everyday products created in an ethical and sustainable manner.

I imagine the popularity of the podcast was a direct reflection of how difficult it can be to discover brands that are dedicated to doing good.

The fashion industry can be particularly harmful.  In fact, according to a recent Forbes Magazine article, “The apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil.”

So I was thrilled when Chet offered our audience a free download PDF on “5 Steps to Dressing More Sustainably.”

This PDF covers such topics as:

  • paring down your own wardrobe
  • mending
  • clothing swaps
  • vintage & thrifting
  • finding clothes made with sustainable fabrics
  • and more

It really is a treasure-trove of great advice packed into a handy, easy access guide.

Just click, 5 Steps to Dressing Sustainably to download the PDF.

I hope you’ll take advantage of this generous gift, offered completely free of charge by our friend Chet Van Wert.

I also hope you’ll visit Chet’s website, “A Greener Daily Life” when you need reliable information for making your purchasing decisions.

You may also wish to sign up for the “A Greener Daily Life” newsletter to get weekly inspiration for your own sustainable living path. I did and I look forward to great tips I get weekly in my inbox as a result.

For more information on sustainable living, you might also check out the following past episodes of The Sustainable Living Podcast:

Moving to a Tiny House

The Rise of Organic, Fair Trade Clothing

Rob Greenfield on Sustainable Living

Guest blog by Colleen Valles

We’ve all found ourselves in this situation: life is so hectic; we’re running from place to place trying to catch our breath, and feeling like we need to do everything for everyone all the time.

When we do finally take a minute to stop and breathe, we recognize the feelings of stress and overwhelm that have been plaguing us, and then the feeling of guilt that washes over us for not being busy at that moment.

A few years ago, I was at exactly this point. Each day on my excessive commute, I would wonder how everyone did it all — took their kids to activities, spent time with family and friends, read books. I would feel guilty for not doing as much as others; and I would be sad that I wasn’t getting to do enough of what I love: spending time with my daughter and writing.Colleen Valles

It was frustrating and unsustainable, and I knew that something had to change. That’s when I decided to simplify our lives and to slow down. As a single mother working outside the home, I had certain schedule constraints that would take longer to change than others, so I decided to make what changes I could and start working toward the bigger ones. It has been an exercise in patience, but the recognition that sustainable living lessens our footprint upon the earth, as well as the stress, overwhelm and guilt that come with leading overly busy lives have helped keep us on track toward a goal of an all-encompassing definition of sustainability.

That goal was helped along by a tour of a trash facility for work and seeing that nothing ever really gets thrown “away.” I had already taken steps to lessen the amount of trash my daughter and I produced, including reducing our use of plastic and disposables, but I knew there was much more we could do. So while I worked to streamline our schedules, I also worked to decrease our carbon footprint. What I found is they are not mutually exclusive, and in fact are very compatible. This effort led to major changes that have helped me slow down and simplify, and by doing so, I’ve actually found time to do more of what I love and less of the stuff that just doesn’t matter.

Here are 7 steps I took and realizations I had that helped make major changes in our lives.

Keep your eyes on the prize

You have to know: what’s your ultimate goal? For me it was more time with my daughter and more time to write, as I’m trying to build up a freelance writing business. Keeping focused on that goal helped me determine what would count as a priority. I would ask myself “could I be writing now?” or “What would be fun for my daughter right now?” and “Can this wait?” These questions helped me see that maybe I didn’t need to run to the store to buy some organizing contraption I saw in a magazine.

These questions also helped me decide which changes we should make. In order for me to spend time writing and with my daughter, our changes couldn’t be too time consuming. So, for instance, I could make yogurt and bread Homemade bread(http://slowsimplelife.com/2013/03/bread/), which are largely hands-off activities, but I wouldn’t be making butter or raising chickens for eggs. I buy my butter wrapped in wax paper and cardboard and my eggs come from the farmer’s market, where I return the carton each week so the farmer can reuse it. You have to decide what is right for you, and a lot of it has to do with your schedule. Which leads to the next step I took:

Be ruthless in decluttering your schedule

Simplicity and sustainable living aren’t just about decluttering your closet and not filling it back up again. They also are about making a schedule that’s right for you and that fulfills your values and aligns with your priorities. It took a long time, but I’ve been able to arrange that. It has meant leaving a job I really believed in, but where I was on-call 24/7 every other week and where my commute was eating up two hours of my day. I work close enough to home now that I can bike to work and my total commute is still just over half an hour. (That one was a two-fer: I got time back and decreased my carbon footprint!) But it took me three years of applying to jobs and interviewing to do it.

It has also meant saying no to friends when they want to hang out. I’ve had to be choosier about which invitations we can accept, but talking to my friends and partner (http://www.slowsimplelife.com/2016/07/slow-steps/) ahead of time have really helped. They know from all the complaining I did before just how much it has bothered me that I haven’t been able to do all the things that I’ve wanted. And because they love me and want me to be happy, they’ve been understanding when I can’t do something. Do I feel like I’m missing out sometimes? Yes, of course. But I’m also grateful for the opportunity to do what I truly value. 

Make things from scratch

food itemsThis might seem like it goes against the time-consuming rule, but it really doesn’t. I find it’s easier, cheaper and faster to do a big batch of shopping and cooking once a week. You can make dishes ahead of time and freeze them for later in the week. And it’s less time-consuming and less expensive than running to the store every time you’re out of certain ingredients. This helps you save money and cut down on things that come in plastic, plus it saves trips to the store. Luckily we can walk, but many people have to get in the car and drive. 

 It’s also healthier to eat fresh foods. We use our dinner leftovers for lunch the next day, and if we have a lot, my daughter, who loves to experiment in the kitchen, will sometimes try to get creative with what we have the next night.

Kill your TV

Well, not really. But downsize your cable plan or get rid of it altogether. We just use Netflix and Amazon Prime, and while that took some getting used to on my daughter’s part, it has freed up way more time for us to talk and be outside and do things together. If you don’t think you watch much TV but aren’t sure, do a little experiment. Track your TV watching habits for a week. Just write down the start and finish time every time you sit down to watch TV. Include those times you keep the TV on in the background just for the noise. I find the TV is really distracting, and even if I have it on just for the noise, I’ll wind up stopping what I’m doing to watch. I find during those times, TV can easily be replaced by turning on the radio or streaming some music or listening to a podcast.

I bet at the end of the week you’ll be surprised by how much TV you watch. The average American watches just over four hours of TV a day. Four hours! You don’t have to cut TV out entirely, but there are probably some times where you can cut down on your watching significantly. I think you’ll find yourself more active and more alert and able to focus in other areas better. That’s what happened to me.

Consider downsizing

We’re moving into a tiny house. My fiancé lives in another town and because we each have kids, neither of us can leave our respective towns to live together just yet. He’s not much of a tiny house dweller, but ever since I was a kid I’ve loved the idea of having a house that travels with you, and now I get the chance to live in one. Until my fiancé and I can be together in the same house, my daughter and I and the baby on the way are moving into a tiny house on wheels.

Items to be moved to the Tiny House

Colleen’s daughter is helping with deciding what will move to the Tiny House

We’ll put it in my parents’ back yard, which will be mutually beneficial — they help me out with my daughter, and I can help them out around the house more easily. It will also provide us a measure of stability in the crazy Silicon Valley housing market, as well as significantly decrease our carbon footprint — we’ll use less water and energy, plus we won’t buy unnecessary things simply because there’s no place to put them. We’ll be living with what we know we need, and not hanging onto things we’ve accumulated with no thought or intention behind them.

While it’s a lot of work to get to that stage, I’m excited to live in a carefully curated space. Everything will serve a purpose or be something we love. 

With a baby on the way, that can be difficult. Well-meaning loved ones want to help us out and get us what we need. The truth is, we’ll need more items with a baby, but this is where I’ve discovered the beauty of registries (http://www.slowsimplelife.com/2016/07/baby-stuff/). Baby registries can help you let others know exactly what to get you, and let you control the influx of items to your home. People really do want to get you useful items — no one wants to buy you something that will just sit in a corner gathering dust, 

Go with the flow

My partner and I are expecting, and the baby is due Nov. 4. The tiny house is due at the end of the year, but that hasn’t derailed plans to go tiny. We’ll just get rid of more of our stuff to make room for the baby and its stuff. It’s all about rolling with it. Stressing out over things doesn’t solve the problem, but taking a deep breath, stepping back and thinking about the best way to manage a situation can help you get past something that might otherwise seem to be a problem. In fact, it could really be a blessing.

Keep your eyes on the next prize

Living intentionally and sustainably isn’t a destination that you arrive at, it’s an ongoing journey that takes little tweaks every day and sometimes a few big tweaks here and there. I’m still working toward having even more time by trying to work as a freelance writer, which would give me more flexibility. With a new baby, that’s the kind of change I need to make next, and living more sustainably and smaller will help because it cuts expenses. 

There’s always another goal to be focused on, but it’s important to enjoy the steps along the path, or else you’ll never feel like what you’ve achieved is worthwhile. The changes we have made already and are in the process of making have taken a long time — years in some cases. So they’ve required some patience, but they’ve been worth it and have given us the encouragement we need to keep going. 

Listen to the podcast with Colleen

Moving to a Tiny House

We have chi roosterckens. Many, many chickens. And among them wander quite a few roosters. Some are magnificent and really are looking out for their girls – others are loud little punks and rather annoying.

For one, they are loud. Like four a clock in the morning loud. That is when the competition starts: Who can “cock-a-doodle-doo” the best. By the way, German roosters “kikeriki”, but they are just as loud as their American brothers.

For two, as they get older, some of those boys decide that the humans, big and small, are an obvious threat and must be dealt with. Roosters are dirty fighters. Often, they run up from behind, jump and grab a leg (or any other body part they can reach) and pound both of their legs really hard. That hurts. If the bird is big enough to have grown spurs, it not only hurts, but blood becomes part of that equation.

Spurs of a rooster

A rooster who has become aggressive is quickly retired to freezer camp in our house. Or he goes directly to the soup pot. We have little people, also know as grandsons, visiting on a regular basis and roosters can be dangerous and inflict real damage. Think little eyes at pecking level – not a good thing.

Big rooster

So, yes, getting a rooster from running in the yard to swimming in the soup pot requires what we, in our genteel city farmer’s way, call “harvesting”. That doesn’t make me feel like a killer at all. It makes me feel like a responsible chicken owner who has allowed a grown lady chicken to fulfill her natural instinct of sitting on a nest and hatching out adorable little chicks. Usually, half of all eggs being incubated, be it by mommy hen or a brooder of sorts, end up being boys. The egg and chicken industrial complex deals with those little boys swiftly and in a not very human way (I don’t want to get into right now). Let it be sufficient to say that they are not getting to be 2 days old.

baby chick

One day old chick

In our urban farm, we allow mommy to raise those chicks. We help of course, but for the first 6 weeks, mama hen does most of the heavy lifting of baby care. At the 6 week point, things change rapidly, but that is another story. Did I mention that we allow mommy to brood and raise her chicks? What I really meant is that in the past, a couple of hens decided to hide from us to reappear after 3 weeks with their babies in tow.

One of those hens is Rocky. She is either amazing or crazy, or, like so many, a little bit of both. In Spring of 2016, she had disappeared for the first time and I finally found her with 17 baby chicks. When a hen is broody, she barely eats and drinks. She sits on that nest to keep those eggs warm. Usually, the hen will get off the nest only once a day for a short time to seek some water and food and to eliminate. As you can imagine, that 3 week fast is hard on the hen’s body.

Broody hen

Broody hen sitting on nest inside a geranium bush

Rocky is one of our chickens we can’t keep in the enclosed chicken area, no matter what we do. And some of her babies took on that trait. Now, we have the majority of the flock living in a fairly big enclosure, with trees, deep mulching,and compost piles to play in; and we have a few which roam the yard. Some go back and forth. To our dismay, they usually come out of their chicken yard to seek a hidden spot to lay their eggs. Yup, we have egg hunts on a regular basis. Usually, we find their nests, pick up the eggs and leave one behind to encourage them to come back to the same spot – easier for us.

That works well for the most part, but in July, Rocky hid out again and showed up with 8 little chicks. This time, she was much more willing to let me help and the 8 turned out quite tame and are now the first flock of a friend of mine. In the meantime, the gang of 17 has grown up and some of the girls stepped into their moms bad habit of laying their eggs in the yard instead of their nice nesting boxes. I have been finding clutches of sometimes up to 20 cute little eggs.

Hen with 8 chicks

Rocky and her second family of 8

Lately, we have had regular visits of two kind of hawks which made everybody scatter and hide under bushes and trees. So, I didn’t think much about not seeing that many chickens running around. Until I noticed Rocky showing up in the afternoon displaying all the broody hen behaviors. Did I mention that she must be crazy? This is the third time this year! When I see her, I run to give her some extra special treats like meal worms or a cooked egg. I also make sure that fresh water is available and other food for her to fill up on. She is sneaky and I am busy, so I couldn’t watch her to find her nest.

chicken being fed an egg

Special treats for broody Rocky

A couple of days ago, my husband was home and we went on nest hunt together. Rocky was out eating and we found a clutch of 25, yes, 25 eggs under a particularly nasty black berry bush. We were sure we had found her nest and were very surprised when we saw Rocky wander off into a different direction. Anyways, I was happy that she had led us to her nest so I can stop by and offer her at least water on the very hot days we are having.

Back to the 25 eggs. We apparently just stumbled upon one of the laying places of those renegade hens. The egg picker came in handy to retrieve them without getting ripped up by horrible Blackberry thorns. It is really a trash removing tool, but works very well to retrieve eggs from hard to get to areas – which, of course, are the favorite egg laying spaces.


A clutch of eggs in hiding

When I find random eggs, I always put them in the fridge and then crack them one at a time – preferably outside. The term “rotten egg” in our lingo to describe something/body highly undesirable is not a coincidence. If you ever have smelled a rotten egg, you know why I am cracking them outside.

One egg was marked and left in the nest to entice the hen(s) to come back to a nest we know the location off. Sure enough, my husband saw one of the gang of 17 go back in that spot that evening.

In the middle of the night, I woke up with a start and suddenly felt almost sure that that little girl my husband saw had also been broody and we had just robbed her of all her babies. First thing in the morning, I broke open one of the eggs. Sure enough, there was a little chicken embryo. I had just ended 25 potential little chicken lives. And that did make me feel like a killer.

If you like to find out more about the going ons at Marianne and Jenise’s homesteads, you might enjoy listening to the fall update podcast


Yes, the course is free! You read that right. Not only free, but created by a renowned Permaculture Teacher, Andrew Millison and with the resources and support of Oregon State University. What does that mean? And why is that important? Let’s first talk about the concept of free. Sounds good, right? But we are living in a day and age where I feel that we, as a society, are deeply divided in our approach to life. Continue reading

Sweet Potato Chips

Yam cookies and chips are the end result of our friend and listener Stephanie McCoy’s mission to make something delicious with yams. Stephanie’s husband is on a somewhat restricted diet right now, and it is not easy to find food that is filling and also tastes good. Yams/Sweet potatoes are on the A-okay list and her husband was so happy to find chips made from sweet potatoes at the store. Continue reading

Marianne has been raising chickens for a few years now and has picked up quite a few great tips for reducing chicken feed costs.  She shares them in Episode 42 of the podcast.  But for brevity and accessibility, here is her list:

  • Mix your own grains for feed.
  • Tips for Reducing Chicken Feed Costs

    Rocky and some of her freshly hatched chicks

    Order from a co-op like Azure Standard.

  • Take advantage of grain sales.
  • Soak feed grain to improve digestibility and nutrition.
  • Plant things in the chicken run with cages over them – let them eat what they can get through the cage and/or take the cages off when plants get big.
  • Include a compost pile in your chicken run (Be careful not to include anything toxic to chickens such as avocado.)
  • Deep mulch the coop and the run.
  • Add manure to the compost area.
  • Water the compost and the deep mulch in the run to attract insects.
  • Plant things just outside of the run so that when plant branches grow through the fence, chickens can eat it but the plant can still recover.
  • Collect food waste from grocery stores, restaurants and more to supplement your chicken feed.









We at the Sustainable Living Podcast are thrilled to welcome Darcy Matheson, author of Greening Your Pet Care, as a guest blogger. Please listen to our interview/podcast by clicking here.

Easy ways to create a greener life for your pet

 by Darcy Matheson, author of Greening Your Pet Care

Darcy and her 2 dogs Murphy and Seymour

No matter what type of pet you choose to share your life with, all companion animals have one thing in common: they have a carbon footprint. They pollute.

For dogs, that impact is easier to quantify, because of their large bags of meaty kibble and the tonnes of poop they leave behind. For other popular pets, like reptiles and fish, that environmental damage isn’t quite as obvious. But make no mistake, it’s there. The process of replicating an ideal living habitat for a tropical fish or desert-dwelling lizard requires intensive lighting and heating setups, that in turn consume a lot of electricity.

Whether you share your life with a dog, cat, rat, horse or mini pig, we can all lower our pet’s carbon emissions. The process of becoming a more eco-friendly pet owner is, in a lot of ways, very similar to the steps we take to minimize our own impact on the environment.

While my new book, Greening Your Pet Care, elaborates much more on these topics, use these guidelines when thinking about your own pet. You’ll find there are very easy everyday ways to reduce “pet pollution” that benefit the health of our companions — and the planet.

Reduce consumption

In 2015, pet owners spent almost $60-billion on pet products. And while a percentage of these expenditures are necessary items like food and enclosures, we know that billions of dollars are spent on toys and — largely unnecessary — enrichment items.  Think about what your pet actually needs to make it happy.  Does your dog really need a seventh stuffed animal?  Probably not.  Would it love to take a hike on the weekend to your favourite river?  Absolutely.  Think about ways that you can enrich your pet’s life without purchasing a product.  Ninety-nine-per-cent of the time it comes down to spending more quality time with them, which most owners would agree is a contributing factor in why they wanted a pet in the first place.

Do no harm

Call them free-range killers. A study by Nature Communications in 2013 found that domestic cats were responsible for the death of up to four-billion birds in the United States each year. That’s a staggering number, and one that can directly attributed to cats being allowed outside to roam and hunt.  As a cat owner, you can reduce their environmental damage by taking the simple step of keeping them inside. If you insist on letting them be outside, bring them in during the prime hunting times: Dusk and dawn. Indoor cats also live much longer because they’re not subject to becoming prey themselves to larger predators, or getting into fights with other felines.  

The most obvious pollution for dogs is their poop. Literally tonnes and tonnes of it. In my hometown of Vancouver, Canada, more than 97,000 tonnes of dog feces is left annually in local parks. And that’s just what actually ends up in the trash bins. Much more inevitably ends up left on the ground, which can leach into groundwater and pollute drinking water sources, local waterways and harm the wildlife that use it. It’s a very serious issue: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies dog waste in the same pollution category as faulty septic systems, chemical spills and oil.

The solution is easy: scoop that poop!  And while you’re at it, use a compostable or biodegradable bag — that will break down exponentially faster in a landfill than a traditional plastic grocery store bag. These are available at most pet and big box stores, and Amazon.

Search for sustainable

Ever seen a dog rip apart a plastic toy or stuffed animal?  It can happen quickly, and the items usually suffer the same fate: being chucked in the garbage.  My challenge to pet owners is to put their animal on a “plastic diet”: See how many plastic items you can get rid of in your pet’s life, and replace them with durable and sustainable alternatives. The beauty of our democratic consumerism is that there are plenty of great eco-friendly options that are built to last, made from natural materials that aren’t produced using herbicides and pesticides.

An easy place to start is your dog’s chew toys. Instead of plastic, try a Kong toy, which is made from natural rubber and can be stuffed with their favourite treats, or peanut butter.  For birds, look for enrichment items made from wicker that can actually be collected along with your yard trimmings. Feeding bowls for cats made from bamboo resin are dishwasher-safe, but also 100-per-cent biodegradable and don’t emit toxic fumes as they break down.

Reduce reliance on factory farms

Producing animal protein for pet food is a hugely polluting venture, consuming vast amounts of land, water and other resources. And of all proteins, livestock is the worst offender, belching huge amounts of harmful methane gas.  To lower your pet’s eco-footprint, try to source pet foods made from proteins with a lower carbon footprint, such as chicken, turkey — even sustainably-harvested or wild fish.  

When it comes to treats, try avoiding meat-based treats altogether. For dogs and cats, look for wheat, fruit and veggie-based treats. Dehydrated sweet potato makes an excellent treat for larger dogs.

Buy local

Buying local

Shopping locally doesn’t have to just mean food, toys or other enrichment items — it can actually mean where you buy the pet itself.  Instead of getting a fish, reptile, bird, puppy, kitten or turtle from a big box pet store, seek out local breeders, hobbyist clubs and shelters.  Pets that end up for sale in pet stores often originate at large-scale pet mills, which have horrible environmental practices, not to mention downright disgusting disregard for animal welfare. For dogs, cats, rodents, reptiles and birds, speak to your local SPCA or Humane Society or breed-specific rescue group. The U.S. Humane Society estimates that a full 25 per cent of pets in shelter are purebred pets that end up there by no fault of their own.

In terms of diet, it’s easy to shop local for all types of pet foods. Rabbits are a great example of this. These herbivores thrive on produce, and farmer’s markets are a fantastic way to source healthy and fresh veggies for your bunny. Vendors often chop off and throw away carrot tops and beet greens — both great sources of vitamins for your animal — so it’s worth making friends with sellers to see if you can get these items. Bonus: Because they’re not normally sold to consumers, you’ll likely get them at a heavy discount and, if you’re lucky, maybe even for free.

Be an advocate for change

Maybe your favourite pet or big box store doesn’t carry products made from local companies, food harvested locally, or organic/non-toxic items. That doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.  In today’s consumer marketplace we vote with our dollar. If we choose not to buy cheap plastic goods from China, in time there will be less of them produced and put into the store.  And by telling management that you’d like to see more sustainable items in the store, you may just see them there next time you’re shopping for pet items.

If you’re interested in learning how you can lower your pet’s carbon “paw print,” be sure to check out my new book. It’s available at major book and pet stores, an Amazon. You can even download a copy for your Kindle, and save the paper.

This is Marianne. If you buy from Amazon, we would love for you to use our link . A small amount of your purchase would benefit us and help to finance the blog and podcast. Thank you if you choose to go that route.

To buy from the publisher, please use the link below. Always best to purchase that way. More of the purchase price will go to the author and publisher.