Columbia College hosts sustainable living fair

Saturday, October 17, 2009 | 4:10 p.m. CDT; updated 7:15 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 17, 2009

COLUMBIA — Nancy Boon doesn’t use electricity to heat and cool her passive solar home.

But she's in the extreme minority.

Living sustainably

Here are some quick tips on how to live a more sustainable life. For more information, read the story.

  • Walk or bike when possible, or carpool when you drive
  • Buy locally grown products, or try growing your own food
  • Trade unwanted clothing or purchase secondhand items
  • Turn off lights and other electrics when they're not in use

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At the Sustainable Living Fair on Saturday at Columbia College, Boon gathered with environmentalists of all ages to explore sustainable living practices. The booths and workshops stationed in the Student Commons spread environmental awareness one recycled can or passive solar home at a time.

Some of the sustainable practices included both longterm large investments such as Boon’s house and everyday, affordable ways for adults and children to decrease their ecological footprints.

Mark Haim and Kim Dill of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks hosted a workshop designed to share low-cost and money-saving steps to helping the environment. Throughout the discussion, the pair sought to fight the myth that sustainable living is unattainable for low-income households.

“Many methods save you more money than they cost, and that’s something we want to emphasize,” Haim said. “A clothes line is the cheapest solar appliance you can get, and it dries very effectively.”

Haim and Dill explained simple, affordable methods of living a sustainable lifestyle. They said that not all families can afford expensive energy-saving cars, but most households can limit their driving time.

“It’s cheaper to walk or bike,” he said. “It’s eco-friendly, and it’s better for your health.”

In the long run, they said, it's more energy efficient to live near the places you visit most often. But if that's not possible, carpooling will take some of the strain off the environment.

Buying locally grown produce eliminates energy normally used to ship foods from other parts of the country. Growing your own vegetables is even more efficient. Dill said a home garden is something that can be achieved even when land is scarce and that vegetables and herbs can thrive just as well on an apartment windowsill. 

Producing meat and dairy requires more energy than growing fruits, grains and vegetables. Dill recommended making meat a complement to meals instead of the main course or attempting to cut it out of your diet a couple days a week.

Another tip given at the fair was that trading unwanted clothing or purchasing secondhand items is a smart way to save money and save energy.

“There’s plenty of up-to-date stuff at thrift stores,” Dill said. “Which puts a wrench in the fashion industry where things are made in Third World countries and people are underpaid.”

Dill modeled her outfit for the group and said the entire thing had been purchased secondhand.

“Get out of the habit of buying new things when it’s going to go out of style in three months anyway,” Dill said.

The simplest way to conserve energy in the home is to avoid using power when it isn’t needed. Haim said it’s important to only use energy in the rooms you actually live in. Consequently, the spare, unused bedroom shouldn’t be heated on a regular basis.

Both agreed the changes that can be implemented in the home are the most comfortable to make.

“These types of changes aren’t all or nothing,” Haim said. “Everyone can do something.”

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Ben Huynh October 18, 2009 | 3:40 p.m.
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