By Judy Christrup, Director of Development at Group for the East End
Part of Group for the East End’s mission is to inspire people to embrace a conservation ethic. But a conservation ethic means different things to different people. To some, it means installing solar panels on the roofs of their homes. To others, it means bringing reusable shopping bags to the supermarket and a commuter cup to Starbucks.
There is another group of people who embrace a conservation ethic by taking on more complicated projects. I have friends who have built wooden coops in their yards and are raising chickens for eggs, others who grow all their own vegetables, one whose parents recently started raising bees, and another who heats her home for part of the winter with a wood cook stove, fueled with fallen trees from her own property. They are part of the growing American self-sufficiency movement.
Author Sharon Astyk talks about her family’s own journey to self-sufficiency in her new book, Making Home: Adapting Our Homes and Our Lives to Settle in Place (New Society Publishers, 2012). She and her husband bought land in the Schoharie Valley of New York because they wanted a place where they could care for grandparents and children under one roof, grow a garden, and pursue careers in teaching and writing. As time went by, they relied more and more on their own ingenuity – rather than simply buying things they needed. After ten years had passed, they had stopped using heating oil altogether and were growing all of their own meat, milk, eggs and vegetables. In the process, they found themselves leading much happier lives. Astyk shares their successes and failures. She encourages readers to do what they can to lessen their own impact on the planet while reconnecting with home and community.
Astyk’s book reminds me how we have come full circle. My mother used to tell stories about growing up on a farm and being responsible for livestock. As soon as she turned 18, she moved – no, she ran – to the city to take a 9 to 5 office job. The nice thing about living in the 21st century is that we have more choices. It’s not all or nothing. We can live in the city and take part in a community garden, keep chickens in the suburbs, or telecommute from a laptop computer on a farm in the country. Astyk reminds us that a simple desire for a better life and a better planet can set something into motion that can profoundly change both for the better.
Judy Christrup graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Ohio Wesleyan University and began her career in Environmental Communications as the Associate Editor of Greenpeace magazine in Washington, D.C. (1986 to 1991). After moving to the East End, she became Director of Communications for Group for the East End in 1995, Director of Development and Communications in 2002, and Director of Development in 2010. Her interests include grassroots environmental movements, conservation ethics, outdoor recreation, nature photography, American history, and military history. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Military History from Norwich University.