Family Embraces a Change in Lifestyle

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Tompkins Weekly     5-9-16

By Mark Silver

My twin seven-year old boys have probably been one of the biggest barriers to my wife and me living a more sustainable life.  

It’s not their fault, of course. They’re just kids, doing their thing. But, when it’s 6pm and we’re surrounded, again, by styrofoam restaurant take-out containers, my heart aches. I know, it’s just take-out food, no mortal sin.

Yet I also know the styrofoam is going to live on in a landfill.I know the food from the restaurant probably came from a global supply chain where the vegetables were grown with poison and the animals led unhappy, unhealthy lives, and all processed and shipped a long way.

On one hand, it’s just normal, how things are done. On the other hand, it’s kinda crazy, don’t you think?  We’re surrounded by cows here in Tompkins County, does the hamburger my son eats really need to come from who knows where?

When I’m tired and just trying to get through a rough day with my family, the easy choice is where we sometimes fall, even though that’s not how we would choose to live our lives when we’re rested. This very dynamic is why we’re excited to be moving into our new home at White Hawk Ecovillage this month.

White Hawk EcovillageLiving in community is not all rainbows and unicorns, of course. Yet I can see how this community of wonderful, good-hearted folks is going to support our desire to live more sustainably.

Although we’ll be living in the middle of 120 beautiful acres of woods and fields and ponds, our homes are in a village circle in the middle of the property, which means our neighbors are all near at hand. This proximity makes sustainable living SO much easier in at least four distinct ways that we’re already seeing happening even before we move in.

1) Sharing food. When we’re at White Hawk, which we are frequently since we’re quite involved with the home-building project, it’s not unusual to be invited to dinner, or to have snacks or other food shared. We all know that if you’re going to take the trouble to cook a meal, you can cook for eight almost as easily as four.  

Spontaneous shared meals are more fun, we don’t have to drive anywhere, and it saves us from at least some of those evenings of take-out. Once our home is built, we look forward to returning the favor many times over. And more often than not, at least some of the ingredients are grown or harvested on-site.

2) Less driving. Where we’re living now, we have to drive for almost any social contact. Although I have zero interest in being a White Hawk shut-in, there are many times when community gathers in the center circle to hang out, build a fire, go for a walk. “Going out” then changes from getting in the car and going to town into just walking out our front door.

3) Less buying. I don’t know about you, but there’s a sneaky way that buying more stuff can sneak into, and wreak havoc on, our family budget. If we’re not always going out and going into town, then we’re not always confronted with opportunities to buy things, whether it’s snacks or coffee or I don’t know what.

4) Less parenting. I started this whole story with how tiring parenting can be. Yet, at White Hawk, we’ve experienced quite frequently that our kids will just run out and play with the other kids in the community. We don’t have to drive them anywhere or arrange for play dates–they happen spontaneously.

Plus, the land at White Hawk has so much to keep them occupied. Streams, ponds, woods. A zip line. All of this right here.

The result is not only less driving and money spent on entertainment, but when our kids are engaged happily with other kids, when other parents are around sharing the parenting, then we’re less tired. It means it’s easier to get a meal made (and then shared!), a garden planted, food preserved, a repair project done (instead of buying something new.)

When I’m feeling rested, not overwhelmed by family life, then it’s so much easier to make the choices I really want to make, rather than the convenient, but unsatisfying and unsustainable choice.

Then sustainability is not a chore, but just the result of joyful living.

Mark Silver is a business owner, and he and his family are the newest residents of White Hawk Ecovillage. You can find out more about White Hawk at, or visit us on Facebook.


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