Sustainability in Action

Posted by Renee Magyar on March 1, 2013

Four things you can do at home this season.


Sustainable living has become a buzz phrase that means many things to many people. It's easy to think of the popular environmental aspects such as recycling, waste, and climate change, etc. But living "sustainably" also means supporting small businesses, investing in companies that give back to communities, or simply working less and spending more time with your family.

We'd like to suggest a few tips for applying sustainability to your own life. Spring is approaching but here are a few simple things you can do while the weather is still brisk and wet in the Pacific Northwest. 

Use alternative fuel to heat your home

If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, consider using clean-burning sources of fuel, such as bear bricks. These are compressed, dehydrated logs of wood that offer high heat, burn much longer, emit less smoke, and produce less ash than conventional firewood. For long-term reduced carbon impact, consider investing in a pellet stove, which uses small pieces of dry, compressed wood that burn very cleanly and efficiently. Bear bricks, pellets, and pellet stoves are available at most hardware stores and chains like Home Depot and Lowe's.  

The materials that comprise these products often come from forest restoration and fire risk mitigation projects in rural areas. Local mills then take the wood shavings, sawdust, small limbs and branches left over from these projects and transform them into a clean fuel source. Buying bear bricks and pellets helps to support both land restoration and local jobs needed to manufacture these products.  Sustainable Northwest works with many partners throughout Oregon to combine restoration with community economic development.

Get a free home energy audit

The Energy Trust of Oregon offers free home energy audits to customers of PGE, NW Natural Gas, and Pacific Power. They also offer cash incentives on home improvement projects and provide assistance in finding contractors. Chock full of information, their website offers other tools for evaluating energy in your home.

Buy seasonal food

Eating fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown regionally benefits environment, the economy, and your health. In the Northwest, this means more squashes and root vegetables, and less tomatoes, cherries, and berries (unless you've canned, frozen, or otherwise preserved them). Eat fewer foods that are imported from afar and rely on fossil fuels to store and transport them over long distances. 

Build community

Host game nights, movie nights, or dinner parties with your friends and acquaintances. This is especially important in rainy winter and spring in the Northwest! Stave off the winter blues by strengthening your personal connections amongst your inner and outer circles. Happiness in our leisure time trickles down to positively impact all aspects of our lives.

This is the first in a series. Check back later for tips on gardening, landscaping, and other sustainable things you can do this spring!