Xpress' new home and garden section, Inside/Out, is now in its second month. So far, we've focused on a family that lives in a yurt, a couple that raises urban chickens and veggies, a greener garden tour and more.

Drip, drop: One way to reduce water usage is to install a drip hose, pictured here with local eco-friendly gardener, McRae Foote Phot by Cinthia Milner

Though it might not be the core focus of every story that we present to you in the Inside/Out pages, we’re looking to highlight sustainable methods of living. You likely won't see a profile of a gargantuan mansion with manicured lawns fed by eternally running sprinklers, for example.

Instead, we've tried to present a new side to home and garden, one that, we hope, you don't typically see. In the months to come, we'll look at Lilliputian urban gardens. We'll check out the concept behind xeriscaping, a gardening method that is intended to eliminate the need for extra irrigation. We'll even take a peek at a selection of trailer-park gardens in a piece.

This week, we'll hear from one of our freelance writers, Cinthia Milner, who decided to take a look at what the phrase "sustainable living" really means. As Milner points out, not everyone has the same notion of what it entails.

Which brings us to a question for our readers: What does sustainable living mean to you? In addition, what would you like to read about in these pages? Send your suggestions to, or weigh in online at
— Mackensy Lunsford, food and features coordinator

What is sustainable living? I have a secret: I actually didn’t know what the phrase meant when I first began this article. No, I haven’t been living in a cave (although I now know that would place me in the sustainable living category, big time). And, yes, I've heard the phrase, but as my friend Lark said, “It’s a catchall phrase. It doesn’t mean anything to me because it is so overused.”

As Lark and I talked, however, I discovered that her washing machine is energy-efficient; it can weigh the clothing in it to properly dispense water, scoring her huge sustainability points in the area of water-usage reduction.

I also found out that her new floors are bamboo, a highly renewable resource. Again, big points for a sustainable lifestyle. Lark may not be clear about what the phrase means, but she's making choices and doing her part anyway. 

Sustainable living, I’ve found, means making a conscious choice to use natural resources responsibly in all areas of life — think water, fuel, and electricity.

So, for the uninitiated or unclear, here are some suggestions for a more sustainable lifestyle:

Choose wisely

When looking for a place to live, take into account your commute to work, activities and stores. Living closer to your essential needs reduces your dependance on fuel. If being in the middle of nowhere is your thing, consider carpooling. All errands and necessary trips should be combined into one trip, if possible.

Think about it

Think through and do research before you make major changes to your home. Joyce Keatherly Brown, co-owner of Equinox Environmental Corporation, lives in a 1920’s West Asheville home that had little parking. To add parking, her husband laid brick pavers in sand, a permeable surface that reduces run-off — a good solution to the traditional asphalt. Time for new appliances or a new heating system? Check out energy saving products; many come with tax write-offs. 

Retire the lawn monster

Consider buying a reel mower, which, besides not needing gas, provides the benefit of a great workout. If you’re unable to push a reel lawn mower, try mowing every other week instead of every week. Running a lawn mower for one hour creates as much pollution as driving your car 100 miles. Armed with that knowledge, maybe your overgrown yard won’t look so shabby.

Go organic

Forget the pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. As home-gardeners, we can live with some pests. My apples don’t have to be perfect in appearance to be good to eat. I’d much rather leave behind a healthy, thriving soil for the next generations of gardeners. 

Raindrops keep fallin'

Consider adding a rain barrel to collect rainwater to water the garden and landscape. Also, try plants that are less thirsty, more drought resistant.
With the Xpress Inside/Out column, you’ll learn about lifestyles that will likely give you ideas to help you be more sustainable in your own home, and creative with the lifestyle that works for you. Here’s what you shouldn't do: Feel guilty about what you’re not doing.

Instead, incorporate what you can into the way you already live, and educate yourself on what more you can do. The majority of us live in conventional housing, but how we live in that conventional house is what counts.

So, how about you?  Let us know what you’re doing to live more sustainably — let’s learn from each other.

Send your home/garden news to

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5 thoughts on “Inside/Out

  1. Kathy Koenig

    I really enjoyed this informative article with helpful tips!

  2. Sue Wolter

    Very informative article, I plan to implement some of the suggestions. Looking forward to reading more from this writer!

  3. Mtnsmith

    Thank you for including practical tips for those of us who aren’t able to install thousands of dollars of solar panels anytime soon. (Gotta admit though, I looked forward to Ms. Milner’s gardening columns in the past, and I hope the new gardening format will include other topics as well as sustainability on a regular basis.)

  4. Donna T.

    Cinthia, are you sure you didn’t know what sustainability meant before writing this article? You gave a very concise explanation, followed by practical suggestions. I’m going to look into purchasing a reel mower. I was horrified to learn how much pollution my family contributes to the earth each week just by keeping our lawn manicured!

  5. Undercover

    Using a fake name for protection… so I can admit the terrible truth… I am tired of reading articles on ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’. Of course green living is a great idea, of course we need to protect our natural resources, but it just seems to have been overexposed to death here lately. I almost didn’t read this article when I saw the words ‘sustainable living’. I liked past columns on gardening, when the writers wrote about (gasp!) gardening, and flowers, and dogs, and life. I want to be a better person, and raise chickens in my yurt and stuff, but I also just like to read about gardening sometimes and not always have to be saving the planet. (There. I said it. And I will deny it if the Green Police come for me.)

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