Good Matters™ Blog

Posted on January 14th, 2011

Julie’s Thoughts on Sustainable Living

Posted by Julie, Senior Scientist Oral Care Development

With all of the busyness surrounding the start to a new year it can be hard sometimes to stay focused on the things that are really important. That’s why we thought you might all enjoy this post from Julie, a Senior Scientist of Oral Care Development who has been with Tom’s for over 9 years.

My husband and I knew when we graduated from college that we wanted to buy a large wooded lot and build our own house. We both grew up in the Chicago suburbs but always vacationed in northern Wisconsin which is similarly rural, wooded, and dotted with lakes as is much of Maine. New England has the added attraction of the mountains and the ocean so we looked for land in New England.

After buying 22 acres in Maine we started clearing for the house and built each stage as we could afford building materials. That meant we never had a mortgage. But it also meant that we lived in the basement for 4 months, and used an outhouse and outdoor shower for 20 months while we saved for a well, septic field, and indoor plumbing. We did all the building ourselves (mostly my husband while I worked earning a paycheck) from laying cinder blocks, framing, plumbing, electricity, insulating, dry walling, and shingling. For our first house we concentrated on keeping the house small (20 by 24 ft) and simple with passive solar heat and a wood stove. After over 30 years in Maine we are in our 3rd self-built house, built partially from reclaimed building materials, timbers and boards from old barns, and wood from our own land. It was hard work but each house is unique and designed for our changing needs as our family grew.

Our decision to live in Maine in this way has led to many other decisions to try to live more sustainably. We have always had a big vegetable garden and raised our own farm animals. We heat our house with a wood boiler, and use wood from our own sustainably managed wood lot. Every year we pick up at least 2 bushels of drops at a local apple orchard, which I use to make enough apple sauce to last all year. We also pick wild blackberries and blue berries every year to make jam for gifts and for our own consumption. With ample basil and garlic from the garden we are able to make loads of pesto. Each time we make something ourselves, even bread, cookies, pie crusts, salad dressing, etc, we cut out several processing/transportations steps that would be necessary when buying a packaged product. And for over 20 years we’ve been making our own beer – reusing the bottles year after year.

The decisions we’ve made might seem like a lot of work. And sometimes they are! But looking back I realize that how we live our life was a journey made up of several little steps. Can’t start your own vegetable garden? Maybe you could make 1 or 2 meals a week from food purchased from your local farmer’s market. Can’t build a house in the Maine woods? Maybe you could spend some time volunteering at a local park. One thing I can promise you – a commitment to  sustainable living might be hard work, but it can also bring great rewards. Our lifestyle requires us to be active on a daily basis, we eat healthy food, and are able to minimize stress by relaxing in the quiet of the Maine woods and lakes. Our kids have grown, but after living in cities and traveling to other countries, they totally appreciate their simple upbringing and welcome the opportunity to come back to visit whenever possible. For us, the most rewarding aspect of living simply is the daily connections we make… to the woods, the lakes, the wildlife, and each other. We hope you find the same rewards!

That’s Julie’s story, what’s yours? How do you stay grounded and connected to what’s truly important to you?

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