Living Off the Land

Tips on living a greener life


With Earth Day around the corner, April 22, one can’t help but wonder, what does sustainability really mean to the individual person? How can one incorporate these values into their everyday life? After speaking with Kira Stillwell of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, whom I have dubbed the green queen for her passionate commitment to sustainable living, I am closer to understanding ways to be more eco-friendly in my everyday life.

“It takes more time, and I have more time than money. It’s also a core value thing, as a mom, part of me gave intentional thought and part of it was grown into. Another part of it is that it permeates every aspect of my life,” the Narragansett resident Kira explains. “We don’t eat fast food, we make basically everything from scratch, I don’t even really crave going out – I’d only eat at places where I couldn’t make the food they were serving. There are baby steps people can take to live a more thoughtful lifestyle. I really think that the biggest (perceived) barrier is time,” she says.

And it is with her time that she diligently splits her own firewood to use for her wood stove. “There’s something very primal and spiritual about working with wood and bringing it into the house. It’s a nice kind of heat than other fossil fuels and for us, it creates a nice living space,” she says. It’s her fourth full winter she’s burned. And although there is a carbon footprint with burning wood, at least it’s not a fossil fuel and she sources it from less than 20 miles away.

Another way she incorporates sustainability into her life is with her chicken coops. Although she has mixed feelings whether backyard chickens are truly sustainable, she has gotten most of them for free (or hatched them herself) and the coops have all been built out of reclaimed materials – a scavenger’s dream and a scavenged lesson in ingenuity. She never has to buy eggs and, “everyday I go out, I get tickled every time I get an egg. Each egg is different depending on the hen and I thank them for the egg. It makes us closer to our food. It gives you an appreciation for where they come from.”

Now, these are some things that take a decent commitment to follow through with. Some smaller ways to incorporate greener ways of living are as simple as fully loading the dishwasher and only using half to three quarters of the recommended amount of soap. Use the light cycle, usually 45 minutes shorter than the regular cycle, and when the cycle is almost over and the dishes are really hot, open the door all the way and pull the drawers out. Voila! Evaporative cooling.

Another small thing is buying in bulk. “For example, I’ll buy sausage in bulk, lay them out on a cookie sheet, freeze it and then put it in a freezer bag. This way they freeze separately and you can easily pull out what you need when you need it.”

For Kira, it’s all about taking a step back and looking at what she’s doing and why. “It’s a lot about quality of life and the seeking of simplicity, looking at the ebb and flow of life.”