Go online and do a search for organic and sustainable lifestyle tips and you’ll find plenty of results. Sometimes too many! But most results cite traditional steps towards energy saving and recycling, sound and responsible actions that have been growing in popularity over the last three decades.
But there are some new themes. What follows is a list of the hottest changes/choices/lifestyles movements that really showcase the sustainable living movement.
Top ten most popular sustainable lifestyle choices for 2013, and going forward
1. Growth of farmer’s markets. Farmer’s markets have been a staple on the American food scene for centuries. In the 2003 comedy hit Something’s Gotta Give, with stars Diane Keaton/Jack Nicholson, shopping at the farmer’s market was an important background moment. Now farmers’ markets are mainstream. According to the USDA, there were about 2400 markets in 1994; in 2013, there are 8100 markets and the number is growing.
2. Buy local/know your farmer. See the growth in farmers’ markets noted above, but also consider that the USDA didn’t acknowledge local food as a definition until 2010! Now, “eat local” is a standard buzzword.
3. Farm to table restaurants. This is another trend that has taken off. Every major city in the US has a restaurant that promotes farm to table menus. This is not a new trend–just one that has returned. In the first heyday of the organic movement, restaurants that promoted local food became extremely popular, such as Ithaca, New York’s Moosewood Restaurant. Moosewood became a national sensation because of its the best-selling Moosewood Cookbook, written by founding member Mollie Katzen. Amazingly, Moosewood opened forty years ago, in 1973. Katzen’s cookbook came five years later. Popular in its own right and some might argue, just as important as any cookbook published by Julia Child in terms of its influence on food and its focus on homegrown and organic, the Moosewood Cookbook became a staple in many American kitchens. Katzen recently published a new cookbook, The Heart of the Plate.”
4. Gardening at home/growing your own food. During World War II, the US government became concerned about food resources at home and promoted “Victory Gardens.” They were a hit and gardening for food took off—as witnessed in the unprecedented number of pressure cookers sold in 1943—315,000, over 250,000 more than in the year before. Today, gardening for food is highlighted in popular mainstream magazines such as Better Homes and Garden and in Martha Stewart Living. Seed companies, especially organic seed companies, have seen record growth, and the trend shows no indication of slowing down.
5. Choosing non- GMO foods. Last year, a “Battle Royale” raged in California, with the success of a citizen-based initiative to put GMO food labeling on the ballet. Large food companies poured millions into California to battle the initiative, and despite the loss of the citizen initiative, the pressure to label GM food continues, with a similar battle brewing in Washington State. The anti GMO and the GMO labeling fights will continue on both state and national fronts despite the strong corporate interests which predominate American agriculture and which saturate industrialized agriculture with patented growth hormones, herbicides and GM seed.
6. Growth in illegal raw milk sales. In mid-September, Wisconsin, one of the largest diary states in the US, debated allowing limited sales of raw milk. Raw milk is believed to be extremely beneficial for those suffering from food allergies. But due to historic problems with contaminated milk, almost all states prohibit the sale of raw milk. Consumers continue to seek it out, despite the legal hazards, with estimated sales up about 20% over the last half decade.
7. Affordable solar energy. The cost of solar panels has dropped and solar energy has become both affordable and accessible, especially in DIY projects. To put this in perspective, IKEA, the world’s home superstore, has just started selling solar panels in its UK stores.
8. Tiny house movement. Can we live in houses of 100 square feet? Jay Schafer started his Tiny House Company over five years ago and recently sold it to other interests but the movement he participated in is growing. There’s now a Tiny House Magazine and Blog, and a global architecture movement that supports affordable living in small spaces, especially off the grid.
9. Permaculture gardening and wild edibles. The newest fad in gardening? Permaculture. This is a way of gardening that minimizes soil disturbance and relies on the plant reseeding and perennial gardening. Permaculture gardening books abound on book retail giant Amazon.
10. Owning chickens! Perhaps the most amazing change of all, the number of backyard chicken enthusiasts has grown exponentially in the last decade. Books about backyard chicken coops, sales of one day old chicks and a belief in the health and taste benefits of free-range and pastured eggs have driven interest in having backyard chickens. Unlike the Great Depression, where Roosevelt’s campaign slogan was a “Chicken in Every Pot,” today’s saying would be “A Chicken in Every Backyard!” That being said, eggs are a practical and sustainable food source, and chickens are extremely affordable and, frankly, practical and achievable sustainable food sources.
Three and a half decades ago, when Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook became a hit, the organic movement was in its early stages and organic choices were considered alternative lifestyles.
Today, with the popularity of locally grown food, downsized housing, in conjunction with consumer concerns over a potentially dangerous industrialized food chain, the sustainable lifestyle movement is nowhere near the fringe, and may even began to be mainstream. That would be a good thing.