welcome to my deep-green blog!

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by.

This blog is dedicated to low-footprint living. Can you imagine what would happen if millions of people voluntarily reduced their carbon footprint? by 90%, 50%, or even just 10%? The impact would be similar to that of the household austerity measures imposed during World War II, except that this time we’d be doing it voluntarily. And instead of channeling our time, money, and energy toward a war effort, we’d be working toward a shared global aim of restoring the earth’s ecosystems, and preserving our life and wellbeing on this beautiful planet. A grassroots green mobilization!

Does living at a fraction of the average U.S. footprint sound unrealistic or uncomfortable to you? The truth is, lots of us are already doing it, or are well on our way. And in the process of reducing our footprints, we’re putting money in our pockets, and freeing up our time and energy for the things that give life meaning (which of course differ from one person to the next).

And not only is it not uncomfortable (beyond a bit of manageable discomfort here and there), it’s fun!

At its root, a low-footprint lifestyle is a great way to improve your quality of life, even if planetary concerns were not a factor. In this blog I share a wealth of tips and resources to help you design your own version of a low-footprint lifestyle, or, if you’re already on this path, to go further than you’ve ever gone before.

Again, thank you for being here!

P.S. On this page (and on my Facebook page Deep Green Book by Jenny Nazak), I explore at leisurely length, and in no particular order, a variety of threads related to sustainable living. If you also want a handy, compact, ordered guide that contains in condensed form the basic principles for designing your own low-footprint lifestyle, get yourself a copy of my book Deep Green! It’s available on Amazon or direct through me.

Sustainability Action Plans of Local Government

Does your town, city, county or other local government have a sustainability action plan?

Turns out my home county does, though I didn’t know it til recently, when I was researching the sustainability offices and action plans of other cities and regions. The Sustainability Action Plan for Volusia County (Florida, USA) was published in 2012.

I’m only about a fifth of the way through the 84-page report, but I have read enough to know the goals sound good (reduce driving miles, promote local food, and that sort of thing). What I don’t know is how serious we are about making it happen.

Looking around me, I see a lot of car-dependent housing developments and car-centered commercial developments (the latest new project is a giant gas station that will have 120 pumps!) over what used to be forest and wetland.

And I see destructive landscaping practices which all too often seem to show no regard for native flora and fauna. (Personally, I think no one should be allowed to make a penny doing landscaping until they get at least basic knowledge of the native plants of the region where they are working.)

The destruction of our lush wetlands pains me. We could’ve had a vast nature park along I-95, and that would be visitors’ first glimpse of Daytona Beach. Campgrounds (including “glamping” parks), rustic rental cabins, canoe and kayak rentals, camera safari guide shops, fishing expedition outfits, Old Florida-themed boutique hotels. All of it built to complement and blend in with the natural surroundings rather than stick out garishly. Instead, what visitors driving on I95 see when they get to Daytona Beach is a string of giant car dealerships (brightly lit 24-7), and “factory outlet” type shops. And soon, a mega petroleum tabernacle with 120 gas pumps. It’s a harsh reality, what we humans have chosen.

But I believe in focusing on what can be done, not in crying over spilt milk. Otherwise I would not be able to get out of bed in the morning. So I will be looking into how I might be able to help my region meet its stated sustainability goals.

My next steps are to finish reading the report and to make contact with my county sustainability office. (I have tried calling a couple of times but got a voicemail recording and did not leave a message.)

Eye-opening statistics I’ve learned from the report, about our community’s carbon emissions: Transportation and electricity together account for almost 86 percent of the total! Transportation is 38.8% (of which on-road accounts for 34.6%); electricity 46.9%. Good to know; I tend to see large percentages like this as a sign of low-hanging fruit. The next-highest category, at a very distant third place, is wastewater at 10.5%.

Your homework assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to 1) find out if your local government has a sustainability action plan; 2) read it; and 3) connect with the people in charge of implementing it.

Enjoy, and let me know what you find out! I will keep you posted on my efforts.

How To Foster a 15-Minute Neighborhood

Recently I learned the term “15-minute neighborhood.” It’s a neighborhood where residents can get their everyday needs met within a 15-minute walk. Whether you live in a historic urban core areas that used to be this way (or maybe still is this way), or whether you live in a car-dependent suburb, there are things that residents and local governments can do to create “15-minute neighborhoods.”

This article by StrongTowns summarizes 7 things any community can do to create (or restore) the 15-minute neighborhood. These 7 things are: 1) bring back the neighborhood school; 2) make sure food & other basic necessities are available locally; 3) carve out small pockets of community gathering space; 4) re-introduce varied housing options; 5) allow a seamless mix of homes, businesses, & public spaces rather than segregating them into zones; 6) add shade by planting trees (trellis vines work too!); and 7) ease up excessively rigid restrictions on small local entrepreneurs. 

Some of these suggestions are at the level of local government action, but some (such as planting trees, and making community gathering spaces) can be done by individuals.

Here are some suggestions I just now thought of, for actions that can be done by individuals to create a neighborhood where more necessities are within walking distance:

1) Bring back the neighborhood school: Start a homeschool co-op or babysitting co-op in your neighborhood.

2) Make sure food & other basic necessities are available locally: Grow food in your yard and share it with neighbors. Share tools, plants, advice, and labor with your neighbors who want to grow food in their yards. For other necessities: When you’re going to the store, offer to pick up items for neighbors. This is a great way to build social cohesion (and reduce fossil-fuel consumption) in a car-dependent neighborhood.

3) Carve out small pockets of community gathering space: Make a habit of sitting on your front porch or patio. If you don’t have a porch or patio, put a picnic table in your front yard and create an inviting space for neighbors to hang out. (For inspiration, check out the Turquoise Table movement. #FrontYardPeople!)

4) Re-introduce varied housing options: Rent out your spare room to a student, elder, or someone else who would love to have a room in a house.

5) Allow a seamless mix of homes, businesses, & public spaces rather than segregating them into zones: Talk to your neighborhood group, HOA, etc., about the idea of bringing in mixed-use development to the neighborhood. If you get a positive response, work with local government to cultivate such development.

6) Add shade by planting trees: Anyone can plant a tree, trellised vine, or other bit of greenery. Every bit of green helps; even a small potted plant or two that doesn’t add shade, can still contribute to a more walkable environment by adding beauty and a sense of coziness.

7) Ease up excessively rigid restrictions on small local entrepreneurs: A lot of cities have strong restrictions against home-based businesses, food trucks, cottage industries, and other small enterprises, and micro-scale commercial activity in general. It’s tempting to blame government, but the truth is that this restrictive climate is largely the product of social norms which are created and reinforced by everyday people. What we as individuals can do is challenge our own limited thinking, and also help our neighbors see how they can benefit from allowing a healthy level of micro business activity in a neighborhood.

The StrongTowns article linked above is an informational motherlode, with each of the seven bullet-points offering further links to related articles. If you like StrongTowns as much as I do, you’ll be busy reading for a while! There are a variety of actions we can take to bring back the walkable neighborhood; many of these actions can at least be initiated by everyday people even if some participation by government leaders is needed.

Being a Beneficial Influence, Unobtrusively

In my last post, I gave examples of situations when you might want (or need) to ease up on your default eco practices. When you’re ill, traveling, or visiting someone else’s home, for example, it just might not be feasible or advisable to adhere rigidly to your everyday green habits.

Then again, I’ve found there are times when I can expand my “green influence” without other people’s participation. The best ways I know to do this are to serve on the food committee, cleanup committee, or other essential task groups of organizations I’m involved in. For me right now, that’s mainly my church and my neighborhood group. For other people, it might be school or workplace, scouting group, hobby group, or any other organization or gathering.

By helping out with food and cleanup, I’m in a better position to make sure food gets used up rather than being thrown away. I’m also better able to keep food scraps out of the trash, and instead compost them. Nobody else has to participate — though in fact, many people in my groups already cared about this stuff (in fact, the first compost bin was started by other members long before I joined), and many others have gotten on board. I emphasize the personal benefits we get from keeping goopy stuff out of the kitchen trash can: the can stays cleaner, lighter, doesn’t fill up as fast.

My neighborhood group meets in a place where there’s no compost bin. But I sometimes bring a bucket to our gatherings and take the food scraps home to my compost.

Another example of being a beneficial influence without requiring any extra effort from others: One neighbor brings reusable dishes to the meetings — not just for herself, but enough for everyone — and she takes them home and washes them. Now that is a selfless service. And since her house runs on solar, she might actually be reducing everyone’s footprint!

(People do notice and appreciate the pretty dishes and utensils. And they get the benefits whether or not they are green-minded!)

Have you found ways to expand your green influence without any extra effort on other people’s part? If so, I would love to hear about them, and (with your permission) share them on this blog.

When To Relax Your Standards

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you have at least one or two green habits you’re committed to. (And I know a lot of you are, like me, extremely deep into this lifestyle.) But are there times when can be OK, or even advisable, to ease up a bit on your practices or standards? I say yes, and here are some examples:

  • When you’re ill: Medicines often come in multi-layered non-reusable packaging. Doctor’s offices are filled with single-use stuff like plastic gloves. Illness can require many trips to doctors and hospitals and pharmacies. Try not to worry about this. Take care of your health as you deem necessary.
  • If your practice or standard has started to hinder you in some way (beyond just requiring a bit of extra effort or attention) or affect your wellbeing: For example, a friend who’s vegan found she needed to eat meat on occasion during her pregnancy. Or, if you generally do not accept people’s offer of car rides if it takes someone out of their way, but your bicycle has a flat and there’s some meeting or other event you really want to be at but would not be able to get there in time without said ride.
  • When you’re visiting the family home or traveling together: A family is a subculture. Your eco habits may end up causing tension or conflict in your precious family relationships, that outweigh the benefit of whatever eco thing you habitually do. If you’re food shopping together, don’t beat yourself up about the plastic bags. (Sometimes it might be feasible to bring your cloth bags and use those, but it might not work in your situation.) If the group wants to drive somewhere that’s a distance you would usually walk, focus on enjoying the togetherness and don’t sweat the petroleum. Think of it this way: Their lifestyle is a day-in, day-out thing, as yours is. Your presence is not adding to their footprint. Anyway, you might be surprised — you might find that the people you thought you knew are more eco-minded than you realized, and that they share some of your habits. This paragraph goes for close friends too, although some people might find it easier to maintain their usual daily practices around close friends than around family members. (Important note for people with kids: Child-rearing differences — cloth vs. disposable diapers, toys, approach to schooling, that kind of thing — can be tricky to navigate and cause inordinate levels of stress and conflict with non-like-minded family members. For tips and emotional support with this important area, I highly recommend you join the Journey to Zero Waste Facebook group. There is a search button on the page; type “diapers” or “kids,” “child-rearing,” etc. You will find a wealth of information. Same goes for dietary differences; you should not have to compromise your health or your ethical standards in order to keep the peace with family members. You will find the J2ZW group an invaluable resource.)
  • When you’re at someone else’s home: Most of the time, going with the flow is best. As with the family example, their lifestyle is a day-in, day-out thing, as yours is. Your presence is not adding to their footprint, at least not significantly. Don’t stress out about accepting a single-use plastic plate, for example. In some settings I have been able to avoid using a disposable napkin or disposable utensils because they weren’t necessary, but when I can’t avoid it I try not to stress out. Ditto for water-use practices. At home, maybe you don’t flush the toilet after a pee. At someone else’s place, naturally you will abide by their practice. And don’t agonize about the extra water use (speaking as someone who sometimes does agonize … do as I say, not as I do, right?)
  • When you have houseguests: Be up-front about your living environment and practices. For example, if you don’t use air conditioning, say so. (And encourage heat-sensitive friends to visit in the cooler months.) If you compost, you could (depending on the guest) invite them to participate by putting their food scraps into the compost bucket rather than the trash. Or you could simply have them leave any leftovers on their plates and you deal with that. You can also have a separate level of convenience for when guests or housemates are present. When it’s just me, I only use a mini fridge that is just cool enough to keep food cold, not cool enough to freeze anything. So no ice. When other people are staying with me, I plug in the giant fridge that holds massive amounts of perishables and has a proper freezer. Although I don’t use a water heater myself, I switch it on for guests.
  • When you’re on the road: Sometimes food and drink will only be available in plastic containers or other packaging that you would usually refuse. And you can’t always get fresh produce or your other usual foods while on the road. Do your best, but don’t go hungry or thirsty just to maintain your eco standards. Dehydration, particularly, is dangerous. (Do as I say, not as I do, says the woman who routinely refuses bottled water even in the dead of summer in Florida. I’ve gotten better about remembering to keep my bicycle water-bottle filled.)
  • During emergencies: Medical emergencies, natural disasters, and such may make it simply impossible to do your usual eco stuff. If you have to evac for a hurricane and you forget your reusable water bottle and utensils, or you have to use a flush toilet when you usually use a compost toilet, don’t beat yourself up.
  • To avoid causing undue disruption: If you’re in the supermarket checkout line, be considerate of those behind you. Are you super fast and organized with the cloth bags? If so, great. If not, keep practicing; you’ll get better. If in the meantime you end up accepting a plastic bag you didn’t want, reuse it.
  • To avoid hurting someone’s feelings: Did your nice neighbor bring you a homebaked treat? Be happy and try not to stress out about the plastic wrap or plastic fork that came with it. If it’s a food you don’t eat, you decide whether it’s worth letting your neighbor know for future reference. You could say, for example, “I so appreciate that you made me this treat. Unfortunately I have dietary restrictions.”
  • Sometimes you just plain need new stuff: A lot of us rarely or never buy anything new for ourselves, preferring to acquire clothing or other necessities via freeboxes, thrift stores, or other zero-waste channels. That’s all well and good, but there are times when you just plain need a pair of shoes or whatever, and can’t find them secondhand. Even us diehard RIOTers allow ourselves $1,000 worth of new goods a year. Enjoy what new stuff you choose to buy, and trust yourself to know the difference between a reasonable purchase and excess.
  • When you forget to specify “no straw please,” and the server brings you one: No, you are not supposed to atone for this heinous eco sin by committing seppuku on the spot. (After all, you wouldn’t want to ditch your friends, or leave a mess for that nice server to clean up, right?) Repurpose the straw if you can — I cut them into segments, which I use as protective guards for my fine-point paintbrushes or calligraphy pens — but if you can’t, just try to let it go.
  • For the greater good (lose the battle but win the war): pretty much any of the above examples. A voluntary extreme-low-footprint lifestyle is supposed to be about love and inspiration and caring, not guilt, scolding, shame, or undue hardship. Do your best, and set a joyful and flexible example.

These examples might sound trifling and a bit obsessive. But I know from experience that people who care about the environment feel these kinds of things keenly. And the positive actions such as eating a plant-centered and local diet, avoiding single-use plastics, and minimizing car trips do add up. We just can’t let it get us down too much when we find ourselves in situations where we can’t keep our habits as much as we’d like to.

And we can’t let our practices become a thing that trashes our human connections, or we lose the whole point. At different points in my life I have inadvertently hurt the feelings of people I loved, and I only found out about it years later. Separating glass and aluminum from trash just isn’t worth that much to me. Of course, there is always an invitation to become more graceful about how I approach a practice such as recycling or composting when in the presence of others.

I will say that, over time, with practice, I have become more skilled at sticking to my personal habits without causing undue disruption or alienating other people. And this wish to minimize disruption or alienation is not just about social comfort (except to the extent that I’m human and want to be loved and accepted just as most people do); it’s really about not wanting to do anything that would cause people undue emotional distress, or undermine the mission of inspiring people to live lighter on the earth.

Finally, to the extent that you believe we are in a state of planetary emergency, while most of the people around you do not, accept that you are probably always going to be in for some cognitive dissonance. Take care of your emotional and spiritual health.

How about you? When, if ever, do you allow yourself to compromise or relax your eco standards or practices?

Further Reading:

Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Difficult Choices, and the Urge to Help (book by Larissa MacFarquhar). “In Strangers Drowning, Larissa MacFarquhar seeks out people living lives of extreme ethical commitment and tells their deeply intimate stories; their stubborn integrity and their compromises; their bravery and their recklessness; their joys and defeats and wrenching dilemmas.A woman believes that if she spends money on herself, rather than donate it to buy life-saving medicine, then she’s responsible for the deaths that result. She lives on a fraction of her income, but wonders: when is compromise self-indulgence and when is it essential?” (from Amazon description). I bought this book and found the case studies helpful in finding my level of acceptable tradeoff about some aspects of my low-footprint lifestyle choices.

“What If We Stopped Pretending <that the climate apocalypse can be stopped>?” (New York Times article) “Our resources aren’t infinite. Even if we invest much of them in a longest-shot gamble, reducing carbon emissions in the hope that it will save us, it’s unwise to invest all of them. Every billion dollars spent on high-speed trains, which may or may not be suitable for North America, is a billion not banked for disaster preparedness, reparations to inundated countries, or future humanitarian relief. Every renewable-energy mega-project that destroys a living ecosystem … erodes the resilience of a natural world already fighting for its life. … Keep doing the right thing for the planet, yes, but also keep trying to save what you love specifically—a community, an institution, a wild place, a species that’s in trouble—and take heart in your small successes. Any good thing you do now is arguably a hedge against the hotter future, but the really meaningful thing is that it’s good today.”

Global Climate Strike

Marches and rallies can be powerful, not only as a signal to political leaders, but also as a way for everyday citizens to mobilize a “strength-in-numbers” energy which can be channeled into continued action.

During the week of September 20-27, people all over the world will participating in a Global Climate Strike, calling for an end to a fossil-fuel-dominated way of life.

As I say in my book DEEP GREEN, it’s really on us, everyday people, to make this shift by our daily choices. Consumers are really the ones with the power! (In my book, and in this blog, I go into detail about how your everyday choices can help make a better world, while also greatly boosting your own quality of life.) But governments can help by changing policies that act as artificial incentives for fossil-fuel dominance.

Visit this link to find the Global Climate Strike for your city or a nearby city, or to organize one if there is none nearby.

Becoming a Local Investor

In my book Deep Green, I touch on financial footprint as one category of a person’s eco-footprint. I divide financial footprint into three subcategories: debt, overhead, and investment. Getting out of debt, and minimizing one’s financial overhead, are both good ways to lead a more peaceful, low-footprint life, and I offer tips in my book and in this blog about how to reduce debt and overhead.

As for the third category, investing, I didn’t have much in my book to say about that, other than to point out that where we park our money has deep consequences for the planet, and for fellow beings. I also raised the question of how much healthier our hometowns might be if more people were to invest locally rather than keeping big nest-eggs tied to Wall Street. “Main Street, Not Wall Street!” became one of my pet slogans.

But that slogan, however passionate, was only theoretical, since at that time I did not actually have any money to put where my mouth was! For some years, including the time period when I was writing Deep Green, I literally had no money. (No debt, and very low overhead, but no money to spare.)

But that situation changed, and I had to start thinking about where I could invest money in line with my beliefs. I aspire to put most of my money into direct local investments that benefit people and the planet, and I’m currently in a research-and-exploration phase. Below are some resources I’m finding helpful, and I hope you’ll like them too.

This financial post has been in the works for awhile, and I will be posting more about money and investment in the near future.

Further Exploration:

Of Two Minds: Labor Day Reflections on Retirement. Charles Hugh Smith explains how the conventional notion of “retirement” is flawed. Amass a giant nest-egg over the course of your working life, then retire and be able to live off that money for the rest of your life, never working again … This scenario is out of reach for most people, as it is dependent on 1) the kind of job that pays well enough to let you save that kind of money; and 2) a steady stream of high-return but stable vehicles for you to invest that money. Smith, one of my favorite sustainability bloggers, offers possibly the most sensible advice I’ve ever heard on this topic: “focus not on retiring comfortably, but on working comfortably. Line up work you enjoy that can be performed in old age.” (I myself came to a similar conclusion awhile back, as have many other people I know.)

“Investing for the World We Want,” by Marco Vangelisti (keynote address at the (U.S.) National Slow Money Conference 2014). In this 15-minute talk, Vangelisti sums up how our conventional approach to investment is trashing the environment and endangering human life on this planet. And he offers a wholesome alternative, rooted in biophilia and empathy rather than fear and greed. By the way, Mr. Vangelisti is offering a 10-week webinar starting September 9, and I hear there are still a few spots open. Although aimed at financial professionals, it is open to the general public. Vangelisti, a founding member of Slow Money, describes himself as a “100% impact investor with a longstanding commitment to direct local investing.” We need more of those! Even if you’re not ready to invest the $500 to take the webinar, do listen to the talk linked above; it’s a real gem. (Update: I just noticed he also offers a day-long in-person workshop, “Align Your Investments with Your Values.” Definitely want to look into bringing that to my city!)

An organization to check out: BALLE local economy framework. Be a localist! “Local business owners and community entrepreneurs struggle to access the funds they need to launch or expand their businesses. At the same time, most of our financial investments go to unfamiliar, opaque investments in far away places and have impacts from which we are disconnected. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can divest from Wall Street and invest in community businesses and social enterprise.

And last but not least, I encourage you to bookmark this blog: Triple Bottom Line Financial Independence, by Laura Oldanie. (She’s also permalinked in my sidebar.) A fellow Floridian and fellow permaculturist, Laura (who I’ve had the pleasure of talking with on occasion since I met her at the 2018 Florida Permaculture Convergence) delves deep into personal finance for green-minded, compassionate, everyday people. “You’ve arrived at the home of the 3pfi lifestyle where we focus on achieving financial independence, while simultaneously pursuing a triple bottom line, which equally values the 3Ps — people, planet, and profit,” she says on her welcome page. (Also on her site, Laura has a link to her Etsy shop of upcycled dumpster treasures!)

Location, Location, Location

Ah, the power of location! The cardinal three-word principle of real estate is also a core tenet of permaculture design. A well-designed home, landscape, or community has things placed in optimum relative location to one another.

Nature is the master at this. Trees and other living things that need a steady supply of water naturally grow near streams and springs. Drought-tolerant flora and fauna live on drier land.

When we humans try to override nature too much (such as by trying to grow plants that aren’t suited to the climate where we live), we end up using a lot of resources, spending too much money, and doing unnecessary work. A prime example is how far most of us have to travel each day just to get our basic needs met. (Here, I am particularly talking about the USA.) Outside the major cities (or even inside some of them), everything is car-distance apart. Schools, workplaces, homes, food, other daily household necessities.

When I traveled around Europe and lived in Japan as a young adult, I was struck by how easy (and enjoyable) it was to get the tasks of daily life done because people and things were located in such close proximity to one another.

Here’s a “relative location” tip: If you’re going to have a gym membership, pick a gym that’s located very close to either your home or your workplace, to increase the likelihood that you’ll use it.

And a “relative location” tip related to food: Since fresh produce is heavy and energy-intensive to transport (compared with dry bulk items), growing some of our own greens and other fresh food (or buying from locals) is a good way to do our bit to address the location inefficiencies built into our food system.

I’ve heard some people say you should put your compost pile as far as possible from the house so you don’t have to smell it. My approach, rather, is to put the compost pile (or bin) as close to the kitchen door as possible. For convenience, and also to ensure you’ll manage it properly (and therefore it won’t smell)!

Here’s a story about the power of relative location. A major computer company was asked why it had chosen to manufacture in China rather than the U.S. What do you think the answer was? Cheaper wages? Less regulation? Cheaper raw materials? Nope, none of the above. It was the close physical proximity of suppliers! A good case study for a seminar on entrepreneurial ecosystems … or for a permaculture design course.

Where in your living environment, and in the world around you, do you notice the principle of relative location working well? Where do you notice room for improvement?

What would your ideal community layout look like? Would you be willing to sacrifice some personal space if it meant being able to walk or bicycle to all your daily needs? How much time and distance is an acceptable commute or errand to you? Each of us will have different answers to those questions.

Further Reading:

Check out anything written about the history of your local area. Local books at your public library; scholarly papers available as PDFs online. You are likely to find evidence of a rich social ecosystem; a landscape of dwellings and numerous small businesses located in very close proximity to one another. (Depending on where you live, you may be able to see the lingering traces of this layout by walking around your neighborhood.) I read a book about a Rust Belt community which, back in the early 1900s, had something like 88 different little shops in walking distance of one neighborhood.

The Mobility Trap: Why We’ll Never Fix Congestion By Speeding Up Traffic (article from StrongTowns). “So what do we achieve by building new highways and speeding up travel? We don’t actually shorten people’s trips; we just enable them to live and work farther away from each other. … The best transportation policy there is isn’t HOV express lanes, diverging diamond interchanges, or a new or wider freeway on the rapidly-expanding edge of your city. The best transportation policy there is just might be a new corner grocery store in your own neighborhood.”

Vanilla Beans and Brodo: Real Life in the Hills of Tuscany, book by Isabella Dusi. This book is breathtakingly beautiful in its descriptions of everyday life in an Italian town called Montalcino, population just under 6,000, where the architecture and many customs have been preserved intact since medieval times, yet the citizens have selectively brought in modern elements to their social and economic benefit. The residents get around mainly by walking, and stay fit and energetic into their 80s and beyond. They produce almost all their food locally.