Good News Nuggets

For me, the tough part of striving for an ultra-low-footprint life isn’t the physical part; that tends to be pretty trivial. (Summer without a/c in Florida is hot, big deal. Remembering to bring a cloth shopping bag and reusable cup with me on my errands — no biggie. Doing errands by bicycle on a cold windy day — yuck, but doable and I can even talk myself into enjoying it. And so on.)

What’s a bigger deal is this feeling of going up against a huge force of prevailing cultural norms. The mainstream current is strong! That’s why I find it helpful to tap into other, more eco-friendly currents that are gaining strength. Not only is it encouraging to me on my path; it also sometimes gives me new connections and communities to get involved in, and useful tips to share with my community.

I hope you find good news helpful to you on your low-footprint path too! Here are a couple of tidbits for you:

An RV park in Orlando has turned itself into a tiny-house community. The existing RV residents are still living there, and new RVers are welcome too. And in addition, gorgeous tiny houses are being built! The community has a total of 50 spaces, and there’s a waiting list for longterm residence. AirBnB short stays are an option also, not only for vacationers but also for people who are considering permanently moving there and want to try it out first. This is a hint for other cities: If you build a place like this, it’ll fill quickly. And if you market it properly as these guys have, you’ll attract the kind of residents who tend to be good citizens. What a win-win: 1) affordably priced housing for students, seniors, and others who might not otherwise be able to find a good place to live; 2) dense settlement reduces social isolation; 3) low-footprint living option: reduced automobile-dependency, increased opportunities for neighbors to share resources, etc.; 4) quality of life: easy access to nature and public transport; 5) brings together a mix of longterm residents and visitors, creating a socially vibrant community.

• Landscaping with native plants is gaining a foothold in a major retirement community! When I think of retirement communities, I usually think of excruciatingly manicured shrubbery, poisonously green lawns, and rigidly conformist HOA rules (that cause a lot of environmental damage). But I just learned that The Villages, a huge retirement community of 115,000 in Florida, has its own chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. The Villages chapter of FNPS states its Chapter Vision as, “The Villages becomes renowned for its extensive use of native plants and award winning native plant landscapes.” And from the photos I see on their site, they are making serious progress! They have been very successful at promoting native plants that attract pollinators and other beneficial wildlife, require little or no irrigation, and can be maintained chemical-free, while still allowing folks to maintain that manicured look that has become so entrenched in U.S. mainstream culture. (It’s easier sometimes to try to work with that aesthetic than try to change it). If there’s hope for a place as huge and official as The Villages, there’s hope for your HOA! Check out the Villages website and also the main Florida Native Plant Society website for inspiration, and consider joining or founding your own chapter of a native plant society, whichever state you call home.

• “Native Plant Landscaping in Managed Communities,” article in the print edition of Guide for Real Florida Gardeners. The print edition of this highly informative magazine, which contains many helpful ads for native-savvy landscapers and nurseries, is widely distributed in Florida. A free online subscription option is offered on the website.