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A Sustainable Shift

As Eagle grows by leaps and bounds, so does its impact on the environment. But reconnecting with our roots doesn’t have to mean leaving our creature comforts behind

By Kristen Lynch
Photography by Nena Earl

It’s not too difficult to imagine what life in Eagle might have been like 150 years ago. All we have to do is look to the foothills and reenact in our minds the sight of those canvas-covered wagons rolling over the dusty trails, cutting through the sea of sage and bitterbrush. If we take a moment to head down to the Boise River we might just be able to revisit those memories in time when our land was asphalt-free and the tallest peaks found along the skyline were Ponderosas pines and granite summits, as no steel structures or highway overpasses had yet to scratch the blue skies of Idaho.

Of course, we can’t pull back the hands of time to recapture these rustic memories of yesteryear, but we can adhere to a notion that was very common at that time: the idea of sustainability. We’ve probably all heard the stories of our grandparent’s more frugal ways: saving aluminum foil, making one dinner into many subsequent meals, raising chickens and collecting eggs, using the nutrient-rich manure for gardening, and of course their meat for sustenance, canning their abundant fruits and vegetables for the months of scarcity between harvests, and basically living in conjunction with what nature can afford us.

So what happened to our resourceful and pioneering spirit? The one that enabled us to live in harmony with our environment and work with what we had as opposed to always buying the latest and greatest things? It appears we’ve gotten a little too complacent and when food and accessibility became easy, we lost that notion about what it really means to be resourceful, to take care of ourselves, and how our actions affect the local environment. By pooling our natural resources and feeding back to our local economy we are able to utilize these gifts, culminating in the idea, of ‘sustainability’. Feature1 Sustain-11_web

The good news is this once common idea of sustainability, the very one that was instrumental in the success of generations past, is not out of reach. We can reclaim the notion of managing our lives with a sense of recycling, repurposing and renewing, and each and every one of us can help contribute to easing the burden on our natural resources and living with less of an environmental impact.

• The Hills are Alive Here in Eagle, many subdivisions already face water-restriction days and we know a giant lawn can suffer, especially in the dry, summer months. But there are ways to not only have the yard of your dreams, but to embrace plants that thrive in our arid climate, plants that bloom despite a lack of water.

This type of beautification is called xeriscaping and it has grown in popularity due to its incredibly easy-maintenance and the aesthetically pleasing bouquets of gold, periwinkle and deep russet blooms. At Old Valley Farm and Nursery, owner Kathy Ellensohn, knows the valley well. With over twenty years experience planting, growing and producing beautiful flora on her farm near the Boise River, she has an intimate knowledge of what grows well in our zone 5/6 climate and what doesn’t. IMG_2018_web

“We get people in who want to plant shade-loving plants like azaleas and rhododendrons, (and) they don’t understand that it will take a huge commitment and extra effort and energy to get a plant like that to grow here.”

This is where the idea of xeriscape can help come in and give that homeowner a beautiful look without sacrificing water, time and money. Blooming plants like daylilies, lupines, yarrows, salvias and sages can beautify the most discerning eye with their expansive blooms and vibrant coloring, but without the worry of watering and upkeep.

Be aware of where you place your plants, those that do well here in our high-desert climate love the full sun, and better yet, are as Ellensohn has coined the term, ‘water-wise’ plants. Ellensohn touts the praises of soaker and drip hoses over the use of sprinklers, “Sprinklers tend to land on the leaves and not really reach the roots where you want to concentrate the water levels, this helps compensate for evaporation, too.”

Think you missed out on planting your own garden of paradise? Think again, Ellensohn says that here in Idaho, the autumn months are actually the best times to plant. “With our sunny days and cooler nights you can really take advantage of this temperate season

Whether you want to plant a vegetable garden (tomatoes and peppers do very well here) or a themed-garden (butterfly gardens, hummingbirds, bee or scent gardens) involve yourself with the planning first and, as Ellensohn recommends, really do your homework or even take the extra effort to hire a local landscape architect to help your garden grow from paper and blueprint to one of fluttering butterflies and children who run in form the garden, arms full of their own produce.

• Backyard Chickens The sight of feathered fowls running amok in and around the yards of rural homesteads was not an uncommon sight some fifty years ago, but what about today? The truth is that many urban and suburban families have taken up the hobby of raising backyard chickens.

For those curious about what it takes to raise their own chickens, here are a few grains of thought to ingest; know your city’s laws, roosters tend to be allowed only with bigger acreages due to their crowing nuisances; research your local breeders and find out the color and size of eggs for the desired breed; talk to someone at a local feed store, they can recommend the type of food that will help your chickens produce the most bang for your buck as in protein percentages for you layer hens.

And added benefit of backyard chickens? Their nutrient-rich droppings are ideal to use in your composing. Yes, composting. Remember about improving your soil? Chicken manure, yard clippings and your own food waste can produce fine compost for that hungry garden of yours.

• The Three R’s You know what we’re talking about – the adage has already become a mantra of sustainable living. Reduce, reuse, recycle is more than a catch phrase when it comes to our modern life, however; it is the axiom for responsible living for nearly every generation alive today.

 

Boise River - Eagle, Idaho

Eagle River – Eagle, Idaho

Consciously working toward reducing the amount of overall consumption in our daily lives is truly the modern equivalent to Sisyphus’ rock for many American’s. At the opposite end of the spectrum, recycling has already become an almost rote part of our lives in the twenty-first century as well, thanks to the ease of no-sort, curbside recycling. This leaves just one R left, and it may be the most enjoyable R of them all.

Reusing, also known as repurposing or up-cycling, has become the end all be all buzzword of 2013. Thanks to Pinterest, we can now all enjoy feeling slightly less than our divinely inspired, anonymous cyber-neighbors as they craft their way through the junk heaps and flea markets of hoarders across the world. C’mon, don’t pretend you don’t know what we’re talking about here.

Yet many of these projects we pin and post to our social media circles really are that easy. Sure, our finished products might not look quite as cool as those we see on our screens, but we should all know by now that real life is never what we see on screen – it’s much, much better.

Taking the time to scrub the label off the mayo jar and turn it into whatever inspired use you’ve devised (pre-made party drinks, anyone? It’s easy to keep the bugs at bay when you can put a lid on your libation…) not only gives you a sense of accomplishment, but will instantly cast you in the glowing light of one of “those people” who are both crafty and clever, all the while keeping glass out of the landfill for at least a few rounds.

• Keep it local Here in Eagle, summer’s Saturday mornings are busy! This is due in part to the local farmer’s market; a place where local farmers, craftsmen and artisans can bring their home-grown wares and local citizen, can help to improve the local economy by supporting small, independent business owners.

But buying local shouldn’t be limited to Saturday’s. Eagle is brimming with local businesses and our local economy has the ability to support nearly any need you may have. From amazing foods grown within just a few miles of wherever you may live and sold at locally owned and operated grocers, to opting for locally owned restaurants and retailers over national chains and big box stores, the money you invest in your local economy is an investment in our friends and neighbors and the viability of our community’s future.

Ultimately, buying local results in a community becoming more sustainable. When your hard earned cash is spent locally, it can be re-spent locally. This, in turn, raises the overall local economic activity by way of paying more (local) salaries, and building the (local) tax base, which (hopefully) can lead to improved public infrastructure, schools and services. This recirculation of local money ultimately leads to increased local growth and prosperity.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, the environmental impact of locally sourcing your goods ultimately reduces the environmental impact of shipping and distribution, which, when all is said and done, increases the overall sustainability of our environmental impact and carbon footprint.

We all bear a certain amount of responsibility when it comes to our environment. Whether it is leaving the car at home a few days a week in favor of carpooling, opting for public transportation, or telecommuting to work to reexamining the way we live inside our homes and how we choose to landscape our yards, with a little effort we can look to the future through a greener lens.

Sustainability is a shift in focus, a way to look to our future as well as addressing our current needs. And like anything that is new, the transition to sustainability may seem a little rough, but it’s certainly not impossible. Humans can be a stubborn bunch, but part of our unique makeup is our inherent drive to survive and evolve as the world around us continues with its cycles of change.