Meet April’s Sustainability Snapshot ESA Action council member Shannon Ruth.  Shannon moved overseas in 2004 with her husband and family.  France was where she started on her journey of living more sustainably and then, after moving to Evergreen in 2018, she found that she had more time and energy to put into making even more sustainable lifestyle choices.  Read more about her changed habits and her involvement in ESA.

What inspired you to adopt more sustainable practices in your life?

Growing up, my parents were frugal but as a family, we didn’t really think much about how our actions may impact our environment. For me, the idea of a sustainable living started in 2004 when my husband and I moved to France. Life slowed down for us and we fully embraced the French way of living by learning how to cook, spending more time outdoors, and shopping at open markets. We made healthy changes in our eating such as substituting seltzer water for soda, made our own soups and pizza and rarely ate out. With these changes came fewer purchases at the store for common items which meant less packaging to throw away. That same year, plastic grocery bags were eliminated from stores. I was 6 months pregnant with my second child so it was shocking to have to load and unload groceries into our car when I forgot my reusable bags (which was often :). But removing them from circulation made sense and I was happy to participate.

We moved to Austin, Tx in 2007, the year Austin put a ban on plastic bags. Over the next 10 years I wanted to live a more sustainable lifestyle but could never seem to make the changes needed working full time with two kids. In 2018, we moved to Evergreen and without realizing it, I suddenly found myself with the time and desire to make more sustainable lifestyle changes.

Can you give some examples of how you practice a sustainable lifestyle (either related to zero waste, renewable energy, conservation, involvement with the Evergreen Sustainability Alliance, etc.)?

For me, this means thinking about every purchase I want to make that comes in plastic. Can I make this at home? Can I purchase this item in glass or metal from a different brand? Do I really need this item?

I started using the compost program with ESA and love it! It’s convenient, I don’t feel guilty if some food goes bad and it feels great that the rotten food will go back to make soil.

I am a novice gardener and have a goal to grow enough vegetables in my garden to feed my family (not there yet 🙂 and to grow an herb garden during the winter in Evergreen.

Our house has a well and septic tank. It also only uses electric power and hope to install solar panels in the next couple of years so we can live completely off the grid.

What words of wisdom do you have for someone just getting started on their journey to ‘go green’?

I recently read a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear. This book is about making healthy lifestyle changes that last and there are two ideas that really stuck with me. The first is if you want to make a change, start small. For example if you want to stop using plastic then start by using reusable bags instead of plastic. If you attempt to eliminate plastic entirely from your everyday shopping, it would feel overwhelming, you would give up and forget about eliminating plastic. The second idea is that many small changes in your life can make a significant difference. For example, if you bought one less item in plastic once per week at the grocery store, ride your bike once per week instead of driving your car and find one item in your pantry you can make instead of purchasing. Each of these ideas alone may not have much impact but combined can really reduce the plastic waste and your carbon footprint.