Wiser Living
Finding a natural solution


Sustainable Switzerland

When one thinks of Switzerland, the vision of preserved dramatic landscape and pristine waters come to mind. Quaint alpine huts dot the mountain hills, and numerous villages still live by tradition. However, there are cities, but the country works to adapt green ideology to make things work efficiently through clean energy.

When we travel, it’s our duty to support areas that work to reduce their carbon footprint. Switzerland, as a whole, is a country with a multitude of eco-tourism opportunity—with age old culinary practices and endless outdoor escapes, it’s a vacation away from the typical, that supports locals and generations of authentic businesses.

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Photo By: Wikimedia Commons

Transport

More people use the rail service here than in any other country, because it reduces air pollution and frees up the roads—the views on many routes are pretty amazing, so this is probably a partial reason as well.

Currently, Switzerland is working to commission electric buses for public transportation. With some already in place, this efficient way to get arounds is emissions free and will preserve the envied air quality of the country.

With the winter sports industry dominating in the mountainous region, solar powered solutions are being implemented to further reduce the impact on the environment. Wildhaus is a great example of this, and it claims the title of the very first solar powered gondola in Switzerland. Carrying passengers to Alp Gamplüt, the panoramic views are overwhelmingly gorgeous. After disembarking, Kyklos, a revolving restaurant also fueled by the sun, awaits you.

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Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Food

“Genuine” is the best way to describe Swiss cuisine, because it’s simple and derived from the most basic, pure, traditional ingredients that have stood the test of time. German, French and Northern France have all impacted the food scene—there is a lot of focus on creative potato, bread and pasta creations. But the cheese and chocolate are where it’s at. While not vegan, these vegetarian creations made significant marks of the area’s past. Just to note, 18% of Swiss restaurants offer vegetarian food, and 11% offer vegan choices.

Locals shy far away from overproduced, poor quality ingredients that consume resources at an unnecessarily high rate. When sitting down to a meal, it’s comforting to know the country is strict about sustainable agricultural development and real, carefully cultivated food.

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Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

All Swiss cheese is made with intense care, but if you see fromage d’alpage/Alpkäse Cheese, this means the milk came from cows that were walked to mountain pastures for the summer, to graze on wildflowers and herbs while basking in the sun. Flavor in these cheeses are even more unique and delicious, which should teach us that treating animals with love makes a true difference.

Milk chocolate was inspired in the 1800s by homegrown ingredients. The creator wanted to add raw, wholesome Swiss ingredients to take chocolate to the next level, and to make the treat less expensive. Today you’ll find sustainable, fair trade cocoa to be the only acceptable form to many chocolatiers, and you can even take tours at many of the world-renowned facilities like Läderach.

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Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Stay

Aside from green initiatives in the cities, like Basel’s green roofs and Chavannees-pres-Renens’ tree and foliage covered skyscraper plan, there are an abundance of hotels making a difference.

Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, Park Hotel Weggis and Villa Honegg near Lake Lucern, as well as Beau Rivage and La Richmond near Lake Geneva use water from their lakes to cool and heat buildings, conserving almost 500,000 liters of oil every year.

But perhaps you want to steer completely clear of hotels—stay on a farm. With options to sleep in straw and care for animals, there is a varying range of experiences on real farms, displaying the Swiss way of simple, environmentally conscious living. MySwitzerland.com has a great search page to help find the perfect place to stay. Nothing beats dining on farm fresh food, and learning some pretty amazing things while visiting this beautifully preserved country.

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Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Green Travel Tips to Help You Be More Eco-Friendly on Your Next Trip

Traveling broadens your horizons, creates memories that last a lifetime, and even provides several health benefits. However, the potential negative environmental impacts of tourism continue to rise as travel becomes increasingly accessible and popular. For example, with nearly 1 billion tourists crisscrossing the globe every year, carbon dioxide emissions from planes are a growing contributor to global warming. Tourism can also result in increased waste, development, and pollution.

As a result, it’s more important than ever to be eco-conscious and do what you can to protect the natural and cultural landscape of the places you visit. The following green travel tips will help you to minimize your impact and protect the earth while you see the world, as well as preserve the environment for tourists that come after you and for the locals who will continue to live there long after you’ve gone home.

trip planning with map

Before You Go

The heavier the weight that vehicles such as cars, trains, and planes have to carry, the more fuel they have to use to get to their destination. Because they have to use more fuel, more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. Therefore, packing as light as possible when you go on a trip can help to combat global warming.

If no one is going to be in your home while you’re away, be sure to turn off all of the lights, as well as unplug any electronics and appliances that won’t be in use before you leave. You can also turn down your thermostat and water heater. That way, your house won’t be unnecessarily using energy as you travel.

passport and travel ticket

Getting There

The most environmental mode of transportation for your trip depends on how far you’re traveling. For shorter trips, consider taking a train or bus instead of driving your own car or flying. If taking a bus or a train isn’t possible, a non-stop coach flight is typically the next best option for solo travelers and couples.

If you’re taking a longer journey and traveling on a non-stop flight isn’t feasible, do your best to use the most direct route with the fewest flights as possible, as take-offs and landings burn the most fuel and emit higher levels of CO2. Flying coach rather than first class is better for the environment because the seats are smaller, which means the plane can be more efficient and transport a larger number of people at one time.

If you need to rent a car, choose the smallest vehicle available and select a hybrid if possible. Try to avoid traveling in an SUV, as those vehicles produce significantly more carbon dioxide per mile than a smaller car.

woman loves to travel

During Your Stay

If you can, stay with friends or family while on your trip. Or, if you don’t know anyone in the area, consider booking a local’s place through a site such as Airbnb or HomeAway.

If you’re set on staying at a hotel, try to choose a green hotel that is locally owned and operated; has a recycling program in place; and has taken steps to reduce consumption such as installing energy-efficient lighting, providing low-flow toilets and showers, and utilizing alternative energy sources such as wind or solar power.

While on your trip, take care to keep your showers short, turn off lights when you leave the room, and reuse towels and sheets over multiple days rather than having them washed and replaced every single day.

Instead of driving, use public transportation, bike, or walk when possible to get around on your trip.


A proponent of renewable energy and green living, Sarah Hancock enjoys writing about sustainability and manages the solar blog on BestCompany.com. You can also find her work on Twitter.

4 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself in Your Twenties

It’s often said that when you’re in your twenties, you’re always on the hunt for a job, an apartment, or a significant other—sometimes all three. Twenty-something women, thrust into the constant hustle and bustle of the modern workforce, have a lot cut out for us. With so much to juggle, it can be easy to let self-care fall by the wayside in the process.

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Photo by Unsplash

No matter how busy your schedule, you should always make some time for yourself. If you’re looking for ways to take better care of yourself now that you’re well into your twenties (and starting to feel it), look no further—we’ve learned these the hard way, just for you.

Eat Well

Living a healthy lifestyle is the first step towards taking proper care of yourself in your twenties. There are innumerable benefits to eating well other than weight loss.

Consider switching to a plant-based meal plan to ease you in the right direction. Studies have shown that a diet low in carbs and high in veggies can improve your sleep, energy levels, and cognitive functions. Not only is it the perfect way to jump-start your health, it’s also a fun way to try out some new recipes and explore different dishes and flavors.

Invest in Skin Care Now

Taking care of your skin will climb higher and higher on your priority list with age. But the decisions you make now will definitely affect you (and your skin) later. Do your future self a favor and be thoughtful about your skin-care routine now.

Luckily for you, it’s easier than you think to get started on crafting your own routine, even if you’re unsure of where to start.

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Photo by Unsplash

First, do your research and talk to your dermatologist about your skin type and needs. Then invest in a nourishing moisturizer with a sufficient level of SPF. Next, through a little experimentation, find your go-to detoxifying face mask so that you have it on hand when you need it most. Last but not least, get sufficient sleep. Believe it or not, sleep has a big effect on overall skin health, but more on that later.

The best thing about skin care is that there are no rules in the game—you are free to take what you like and leave what you don’t. We know the many stresses that come with this stage of adulthood. Finding your perfect skin-care routine doesn’t have to be one of them. Just know, if you don’t start now, it's likely to show later.

Get Adequate Sleep

Young adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Yet, sleep deprivation has been deemed a public health issue in the United States with 50 to 70 million Americans falling victim to sleep disorders.

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Photo by Unsplash

Sleep is vital to our overall health and wellness. In fact, lack of sleep has been tied to an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. If you are logging less than seven hours of sleep each night, take a look at your sleep health from a holistic point of view.

Take a look at your sleeping structure and position. Are environmental factors such as light, temperature, noise interrupting your sleep? If you struggle to fall asleep at night, create a wind down routine that begins about an hour before bed. Dim the lights, stash the screens, draw a bath, whatever it takes to help prep your mind and body for sleep.

Do What You Love

You’ve heard the saying before: “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” While that might not always be true, self-fulfillment far outweighs any amount of money you could make.

Finding what direction you want to take can be daunting. But it’s a good time to remind yourself that you’re only in your twenties and the possibilities of what you can offer to the world are endless.

Don’t be afraid to seek out career advice from those you admire. If you’re unsure of where to start, begin by identifying your passions and your strengths. Then find where they intersect. The answer won’t come overnight, but your calling will be revealed little by little.

There is no road map for navigating life in your twenties. However, one certainty is that reaching your potential starts with taking better care of yourself now. Take some time to focus on yourself today—thirty-something and beyond you will thank you.

Incorporating Minimalism into Your Wellness Plan

Minimalism is a growing trend, for all the right reasons. This latest lifestyle trend encourages people, in a world full of excess and new, new, new, to be more intentional about their surroundings, purchases, and overall livelihood. This can benefit your finances, declutter your life, and create a general better sense of wellness.

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Photo by Unsplash

Of course it’s difficult waking up one day and starting a brand new minimalist life.That being said, if you are considering this lifestyle change here are some ideas to get started on incorporating minimalism into your home and everyday life.

Make a List, Check It Twice

Organization is easily the first and most important step in any minimalist journey. Going through everything that is currently cluttering your home, office, and even mind can be a great way to cleanse yourself of unnecessary stress and disarray. Moreover, minimalist organization can lend itself to other unexpected areas of your life such as your social media, email inbox, and even decisions such as going paperless with your bills and magazines.

A great mantra to have while getting organized is if it doesn’t truly make you happy, let it go: pieces in your wardrobe, decorations in your house, old (toxic) friends on Facebook, you get the picture. Less is always more in a minimalist life but starting small and working your way up to a proper purge can help make the transition a lot smoother and less overwhelming. Create a list and a time frame and work towards achieving your minimalist goals. You can feel accomplished with your progress while also reaping those wellness benefits of minimalism.

Baby Steps!

Speaking of starting small, to begin your minimalist purge try starting with one room at a time in your house. The bedroom is a great place to begin as you likely spend the most time there—it’s also where you probably have a lot of clutter hidden. Furthermore, bedrooms tends to be our safe haven away from roommates, work, and the general stressors of life. Creating a minimalist bedroom can help eliminate distractions and make you more intentional with your surroundings.

Bringing in more elements of wellness into your bedroom (and removing the things that aren’t) can make those times when you need an escape even more beneficial to your well-being. Remember, while minimalism is about eliminating unnecessary items, it’s also about keeping things that bring value to your life. With that in mind, adding items to your bedroom that have a unique purpose and benefit can be just as useful as cleaning out the clutter.

For example, consider removing the TV in your room and adding a bookcase full of your favorite books, as well as new ones you’re looking forward to reading. What about the art in your bedroom? Does it have a genuine organization and purpose to it, or is it just a random collection you’ve acquired throughout the years? Furthermore, what elements are missing that can enrich your mental health: do you have curtains, a place for storage, comfortable bedding? Remember, minimalism is really about your well-being, while also reducing your impact on Mother Nature. Utilizing pieces that inspire wellness can create the perfect space for you without cluttering your home (and mind) up.  

Incorporating minimalism into your wellness plan can seem intimidating at first. However, you’ll soon realize the benefits this kind of life can have on your physical and mental well-being. Eliminating stress and clutter creates a place for you to exist more contently, without feeling suffocated by the materialistic desires constantly surrounding us. Good luck!

Fall Food Stockpiling

With the leaves changing colors and that crisp fall smell in the air, I only have one thing on my mind...getting ready for the winter that is just around the corner.

Here in South Dakota, winter is a long affair, lasting from at least November to April and the possibility of snow begins in September and ends in June. After we spend time enjoying our few glorious summer months, we begin preparing our minds and our homes for the long winter ahead.

For me, that also means preparing my pantry and filling it with all the healthy foods that I can get now so that we will have a wide variety of foods to enjoy all winter long. Canning and preserving are important of course. Filling the pantry shelves with delicious jars of everything from canned tomatoes to apple pie filling. And filling the freezer with fresh meats that we prefer to butcher before the weather gets too cold. But my favorite area to stockpile with delicious foods is my cold storage area. Our family enjoys eating as much “fresh” produce as we can possibly handle and to have squash, potatoes, carrots, and even apples that we don’t have to go to the store for is a real treat.

winter squash market
Photo by Johannes Hofmann on Unsplash

Creating a Fall Stockpile

Fall is the perfect time to fill your cold storage area. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still maintain a healthy cold storage pantry without having to clean out your bank account. Farmer’s Markets are a wonderful way to find produce that will be perfect for storage and don’t be afraid to ask for a deal if you are buying something in bulk, especially towards the end of the farmer’s market season.

A few vegetables that you will want to try and have in your cold storage stockpile:

  • Winter Squash, Potatoes, Root Vegetables (carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, etc), Onions, and Pumpkins.

Herbs can also be a wonderful addition to a fall stockpile if you dry them and hang them up in your cold storage area.

Fruits can also be stored in a cold storage area (such as apples, pears, etc) but they will need to be stored separately from your vegetables as they need a different humidity level and they will also put off gasses that will make your potatoes begin to sprout.

fresh potatoes
Photo by Lars Blankers on Unsplash

Preparing Your Cold Storage Area

Be sure that you have properly cured all items. This means letting onion stems completely dry, let potatoes cure/dry for at least a week, and let winter squash sit in a dry place for at least 2 weeks. Root vegetables do not need to cure but do need to have their leafy tops removed. If items are not able to properly cure before placing them in cold storage, they will have more of a tendency to rot and get mushy very quickly, potentially spoiling your stockpile.

You need to make sure that your cold storage area can maintain a cool and dry temperature throughout the winter. It should not be able to freeze.

Each item that you store may need to be kept at a slightly different humidity level and temperature. There is a good list of these differences. If you need to keep all of your vegetables together in the same space, try and stick with a lower humidity level and a cooler room based on the veggies that you are storing. Keep in mind that the items not kept at their optimal conditions will probably need to be used first.

Maintaining Your Fall Stockpile

Be sure and check on your produce at least once a week. It will be easy to do if you are consistently using food from this stockpile. Remove any items that appear to be getting soft or moldy.

A well-kept cold storage area can last right into the spring. We usually are still left with eating up our onions as we are planting a new batch in our garden and we almost always have potatoes that are beginning to sprout that can be then planted into our new spring garden.

Keeping a cold storage is a worthy task for any homesteader, country or urban, and your family will reap the rewards all winter long. It all begins in the fall when you create your stockpile and take advantage of the delicious summer harvest before the days get short and the nights get long.

 

Green Family Vacations You Can Take This Fall

Part of green living involves paying careful attention to your environmental impact, even while away from home. Plane trips and unsustainable mega resorts often place a strain on the environment, which can make your fun vacation feel like a drag before it even gets started.

Travel is a huge component of a healthy, happy life all year round. Taking periodic breaks away from work allows you to re-focus, and vacations bring families closer together. But if you're concerned about your family's eco-footprint, you might be tempted to abandon the idea of a vacation all together. Luckily, you don't have to choose between protecting the environment and enjoying a great vacation.

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Photo by Unsplash

As more people become aware of the impact travel and tourism can have on the environment, organizations and enterprising individuals have found ways to provide an environmentally friendly vacation. Through ecotourism, unconventional vacationing and wise travel planning, you can enjoy your getaway while keeping your environmental impact to a minimum.

You can be kind to the environment while vacationing pretty much anywhere by seeking hotels with sustainable policies and practicing good environmental stewardship — i.e., respecting the natural environment and cleaning up after yourself. But if you're interested in doing more, you can seek out nearby locations known for their outstanding commitment to a healthy earth.

No matter what kind of interests you and your family members have, taking a vacation together will strengthen the bonds you have and deepen your relationships. Why not choose a a green option while you’re at it and strengthen the Earth, too? Here are four green vacation destinations you can visit with your family this fall.

1) Asheville, North Carolina

This up-and-coming city in the Southeast United States combines the best parts of urban and natural life. Surrounded by some of the country's best preserved natural landscapes, Asheville draws visitors in with its ecotourism opportunities. Fall is the perfect time to visit if you want to experience the full beauty of the surrounding mountains as the tree leaves change.

While in Asheville, your family can experience a number of natural wonders. Chimney Rock State Park and Great Smokey Mountains National Park are both located within an hour's drive of the city, and various other forests and wild locations provide ample hiking opportunities.

If you need a break from the outdoors, the city itself also has a thriving artistic community and an array of green restaurants. Progressive young people are drawn to the city and its surrounding area, so be careful, or you and your family might end up moving in!

2) Breitenbush Hot Springs in Detroit, Oregon

Breitenbush Hot Springs is a resort run by the members of an intentional community and worker-owned co-op. The staff members are all community citizens dedicated to serving the environment while providing great experiences for their guests. With the exception of a few select dates that you can see on their website, they're open year-round.

At Breitenbush, you and your family can enjoy the beautiful forest surroundings, soak in the natural hot springs and take classes on topics of spirituality and healing. Children are welcome, though those under 12 should be supervised by an adult at all times.

While at Breitenbush, you can rest assured that you're not hurting the environment on your vacation. The community operates off the grid, generating the resort's electricity through hydropower and using the natural heat of the hot springs to provide heating. Its innovative sustainable practices make the resort a great choice for families looking to disconnect and embrace nature.

3) Great Wolf Lodge Resorts

Great Wolf Lodge has hotels across the United States. Though they're best known for their popular and kid-friendly water parks, they also stand out for their commitment to sustainability. As the first hotel chain to achieve Green Seal Certification for its lodging, Great Wolf Lodge is a leader in green tourism.

To limit their environmental impact, Great Wolf Lodge resorts continue to limit water, energy and fuel usage. Some individual lodges have even started battery recycling initiatives. As part of their commitment to sustainability, they also provide environmental education programs for visiting kids.

Though the water parks at the resorts are not Green Seal certified, the company is taking steps to make them greener as well, so a Great Wolf Lodge could be a good vacation spot if you're hoping for a more traditional family vacation.

4) Lake Placid, New York

Instead of New York City, try Lake Placid, New York for your next vacation. The town itself is working hard to reduce its carbon footprint, and with nearby eco-friendly resorts and plenty of natural spots to explore, it's a great place for a family retreat.

While in Lake Placid, take a trip to Adirondack Park and visit The Wild Center with your kids to learn about the Adirondack forest. You can walk on bridges above the treetops, experience the 54,000 square foot museum or go on a guided canoe tour. The center provides both indoor and outdoor hands-on learning opportunities to connect with nature.

Whether you choose one of these destinations or find another green spot near you, it's possible to make your next family vacation both fun and safe for the environment. Ecotourism and sustainable resorts give visitors a more conscientious way to enjoy nature, so get out there guilt-free!

A Quieter Life

Well that was the theory.

The gentle bubble of the river, the faint rustle of leaves in the breeze, the chirps, and calls of the abundant birdlife. And just the other side of the study door metal shrieks against wood as the plumber wrenches up yet another set of the floorboards. Do they come up easily? Of course not. The plumber’s mate moves into position with a cordless cutter, the multitool. I can only begin to describe the noise. Something between the high-pitched whizz of a dentist’s drill and a battalion of the most furious buzzing insects you could ever not wish to meet. Only a gazillion times louder than either of them.

The builder, not to be outdone, attaches plasterboard to the bathroom wall, power driving the screws into the supports. My head is pounding, my teeth are on edge, every muscle in my body taut rigid, willing it all to stop. And then, just as sanity itself teeters on the very edge of breaking point…would you believe it, the volume of dust thrown into the air has set the fire alarm off.

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Stripping back to solid walls. Photo by rusty duck

Hello. I’m Jessica, long suffering renovator from Devon, in the south west of England. A few years ago, my husband Mike and I decided to move to a ‘simpler’ life in the country. To purchase a cottage with a bit of land where I could create a garden.

As with Real Estate agents anywhere I guess, the ones in England do their best to make a property sound appealing. Whether any agent actually used the phrase is a moot point, but a property that would ‘suit a DIY enthusiast’ became the shorthand for any fixer-upper. Ours was definitely one of those. While habitable it was dated and in need of a complete makeover. But things are never quite that simple are they.

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Bathroom under renovation, temporarily open to the roof. Photo by rusty duck

The cottage could be quite old. Its thatched roof, blackened on the inner surface from smoky open hearths long before the advent of fireplaces and chimneys, with walls constructed from rubble, mud and straw suggest 500 years or even older. My decorating style is rustic contemporary and minimal, our aim to retain those historic features, which do still exist, balanced with the need for modern day practicality.

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The ‘Precipitous Bank’. Photo by rusty duck

The garden we inherited was no walk in the park either. Once upon a time it must have been gorgeous, but in the intervening years it had burgeoned into a jungle. I battle with nettles and thistles taller than me. And that’s only the half of it. The land is open to the countryside, mostly woodland, on a 45-degree slope made of clay. There will likely be posts in the future dedicated to gardening on poor soil, in shade, in an increasingly unpredictable climate and, given the amount of time, effort and frustration dedicated to this mission alone…outsmarting the critters.

A family of deer: Mom, Dad and Baby Deer wander across the lower level of the garden on an almost daily basis. We are blessed. Of course, we’d be even more blessed if that’s where they chose to stay. Who knew deer love to eat roses? Flopsy bunny isn’t going to turn her nose up either. Voles munch my bulbs. Pheasants decapitate the hellebores.

And as for the squirrels, well, we’ve tried everything. Nothing that would harm them of course. But the search for the ultimate deterrent continues. Chilli powder on the birds’ peanuts, industrial strength mesh on the bird feeder, ‘Twirl-a-Squirrel’ (it does what it says on the tin), a sniper with a water pistol. Even water by the bucket load. Which, incidentally, should be another story. Because on that occasion it wasn’t the squirrels getting drenched.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that if a person shares, willingly, of her space and provides such an obviously attractive place to live she would earn at least a modicum of respect?

squirrel visiting window
Photo by rusty duck

I am absolutely thrilled that Mother Earth Living has invited me to write about our experience. Will you join me, here in this space, and share in the journey?


Jessica has many years’ experience of house and garden renovation and is currently restoring an ancient thatched cottage in rural England. She also authors the rusty duck blog, a light hearted diary chronicling the ups and downs along the way. You have to laugh or else you’d cry. After all, as Murphy’s Law states: If It Can Go Wrong, It Will.







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