Homesteading naturally goes hand-in-hand with the desire to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
While most homesteading practices are kind to the planet, there is always room for improvement! The following are just a few of the things you can do to become a more eco-friendly homesteader:
1. Shipping Container Housing
Shipping container housing is most commonly associated with the tiny house movement.
However, there is no need to limit yourself to single or even double shipping containers. The modular nature of shipping containers allows you to create a home that suits your needs, whether that is a tiny cabin in the woods or a gargantuan two-story farmhouse.
Shipping containers are a great way to recycle and offset the environmental impact of your current homesteading practices, but you do need to consider the quality and condition of the containers that you decide to use for your building. Do your research and look for trusted companies that carry undamaged and lightly used items to ensure your home is going to last.
Also, take into account any legal restrictions that may be in place concerning alternative housing, as you can incur heavy fines for erecting a home that does not comply with your local or state housing laws.
2. Crop Rotation
Crop rotation has been used by farmers for centuries to boost crop production and prevent diseases. It is a systematic way of planting crops so that you do not have the same family of plants growing in the same place each year.
On a smaller scale, plants are simply moved to a different area of the garden each year to benefit from the nutrients that the previous yearâ€™s plants have left behind. This eco-friendly farming practice minimizes the need for additional fertilizers and can combat pests and fungal diseases when combined with companion planting.
To successfully implement crop rotation, consider what types of crops you will be planting and understand their nutritional needs and outputs. There are many helpful crop rotation guides available that can help you find the best method for your homestead garden.
3. Use Eco-Friendly Fuels
One of the biggest problems that homesteaders face are the emissions that result from their reliance on mechanical farming equipment and diesel engines. Biodiesel is an eco-friendly alternative to diesel fuel that can both reduce your environmental impact and the pressure on your wallet.
Biodiesel is a mixture of vegetable oil, methanol and a catalyst, such as potassium hydroxide. It can be used on its own or mixed with standard fuel to cut down on harmful emissions.
You can make biodiesel yourself on your homestead by collecting used frying oil from local restaurants and setting up a DIY processor.
4. Rotational Grazing
Rotational grazing is effective crop rotation with livestock. It involves systematically grazing your animals either in alternating fields or alternately grazing different types of livestock in the same pastures.
Alternating fields allows pastures the time necessary to renew after heavy grazing and alternating livestock ensures that there is enough food to go around.
For example, if your homestead has both sheep and cows, two types that require extensive grazing space, you can optimize your grazing while reducing the spread of your animals by grazing the sheep after the cows. Sheep eat the grass right down to the root and are less willing to supplement their diet with hay. Cows are less devastating to pastures and their diet can be supplemented if the amount of grass proves inadequate.
Rotational grazing also reduces the reliance on feed stores for other types of livestock, such as goats and geese, and it improves pasture health, as the animals provide the pastures with natural fertilizer in the form of manure.
Composting is a great way to become eco-friendlier. Whether you are a small urban homesteader or run a large rural farm, composting can help reduce your overall waste production, which in turn helps to increase the health and output of your garden.
Composting is one of the first systems you should set up on your homestead, as it takes very little time and effort to maintain. Simply set up two or three large compost bins (plastic drums and barrels are an excellent option) and add all of your yard, garden and home waste to one bin at a time.
Your compost heaps should be kept moist but not soggy, to facilitate decomposition, and they will need to be turned every couple of weeks. You can help move things along by introducing worms and other creepy crawlers to break up the larger pieces of organic matter.
6. Create a Gray Water System for Irrigation
A gray water system is a method of rerouting the wastewater from your kitchen, laundry and bathroom to be used as water for irrigating crops. It is a great way to recycle water and ensure that your homestead can keep producing food all year roundâ€”even during the driest seasons of the year.
A gray water system is simple and cost-effective to set up, and you can reduce costs even further by utilizing shipping drums for storing the gray water until you need it.
7. Use Alternative Energy Sources
Our energy consumption is one of the largest contributors to global warming and using green energy is by far one of the most environmentally conscious things you can do on your homestead to reduce your carbon footprint.
The types of alternative energy you choose for your homestead will depend on your location, your resources and your budget.
If you have ample southern exposure, then solar energy may be the right option for you. Solar energy is the most popular sustainable energy source, as solar panels are now more lightweight, accessible and affordable than ever.
The panels are installed in an area where they can collect large amounts of sunlight, such as a hilltop or the roof of your barn. Once the solar energy is collected, an inverter transforms it into usable energy and funnels it directly into a storage battery.
Wind power is another option; however, turbines only produce a substantial amount of energy if they are located in an area where they receive enough wind. Measure the wind speed in your area for at least six months before building a turbine, to ensure that it is a worthwhile endeavor. Additionally, consider installing a dual solar and wind-powered system to compensate for times when either resource is lacking.
If you live near running water, you may be able to create a hydroelectric system. There are often, however, various legal issues pertaining to the use of rivers and streams that can make it difficult to get the permission necessary to install a hydroelectric power system.
Whether you are a new or veteran homesteader, there are a number of ways that you can make your homesteading lifestyle eco-friendlier. Try some of these simple changes on your homestead and reap the rewards of your low-impact, environmentally conscious lifestyle.