Over the last decade, many parents and caregivers have asked me for resources to live simply and sustainably with their families. The desire to live in harmony with Earth, humanity and our plant and animal relatives is a universal desire. Anyone can have this desire regardless of age, gender, marital or family status, race, religion, or any other factor of life.
At the same time as I have received these many genuine requests from parents and children for resources to help them on their journey, I have also received many thousands of comments claiming, “he can only do this because he doesn’t have children”. This is in reference to living sustainably, living simply, living with minimal possessions, living in a tiny house, traveling, living in a deep state of truth and integrity and many other facets of my life. I do not need to defend myself because reality shows otherwise. There are millions of families spread throughout every country on Earth who share many of the same practices with me.
The exact practices, the level of depth of the practice, and the struggle and consistency of practice varies from person to person and family to family. In some ways, I certainly take on simple and sustainable living to a much deeper level than many families do (and most single people, too). This is what I’ve dedicated my entire life to. However, the philosophy, the intention and the integrity behind my life design is not only accessible to families as well but is already being practiced by millions. The exact degree I carry out certain practices may not be attainable to all – but that has never been the point. I’ve designed my life as my life, not anyone else’s life. It is the responsibility of each of us to take responsibility for our own lives and design them according to our own needs and desires.
The very concept that families cannot live simply and sustainably is likely a concept that has been promoted by corporations that want us to remain dependent on them and buy their products. Choosing to believe this narrative is choosing to give up our power as individuals and as a collective humanity. We exist not in spite of having families, but because we have families. It is a natural state of being to exist in a family on this Earth. Humanity and family do not inherently destroy life, rather it is the way we live our lives that decides whether we nurture the Earth or destroy it.
Furthermore, the belief that just because one is part of a family it is not possible to share the same practices and aspirations as someone single, is an aspect of the great delusion of separation. We are all connected, and for the most part, we live similar lives, more so than we live different lives. We are all a product of our society. We have all been programmed, whether we have children or not. Freedom and peace can only be achieved – by individuals and families – if we deprogram our minds and liberate ourselves from societal structures that do not serve us. With that in mind, to begin this guide, I will share many of my practices that are resources for all, regardless of whether we are parents or not. I am sharing many resources written by families and specifically for families.
For those of you parents who are struggling to live the life you truly want, those of you feeling exhausted or overwhelmed, those of you who just don’t know if you have the time or energy to make the changes you want to … I hear you. I see you. Our dominator society is designed to bring us down, to keep us from living with freedom, peace and true happiness. Our society has lost much of the familial footing that we once had. It’s hard enough to just keep up with the bills, the basic responsibilities of life and the children’s activities. It’s hard enough to compete with all the unhealthy outside influences on our children. It’s hard enough to just find time for our own mental and physical health and get enough sleep. I understand. Even as a single person, who does not have a family to support, I often struggle to just get through the day, let alone live in the integrity and truth I’d like to and be of service to my community. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for many parents, especially single parents and parents who are living in communities that are most oppressed by the dominator society.
This is where I encourage you to embrace who you are. I encourage you to embrace your family. There are many examples ahead to learn from, but they are not you and they are not your family. I encourage you to refrain from judging yourself or feeling guilt or shame for what you are, or are not, doing. Know that the destination you have in mind will only be accomplished step by step. Know that no step is too small to begin walking on the path that will take you closer to fulfilling your desired life. Remember to celebrate and reflect upon each of your little successes and use these successes as motivation to continue. It is these small changes that together combine to create the life you deeply desire.
There is one last thing that I’d like to share with the many people who do not have children but are considering it. You don’t need to have children if you don’t want to. Societal standards may be telling you that you must. Family members may be telling you that you must reproduce. Your instincts and inner workings may be telling you that you should. It may seem that there is no other option but to have children. However, millions of people have made the conscious choice not to have children simply because that is not their path in life. Having children and creating a family can be one of the most beautiful ways in which we can live and celebrate life. But there are many other ways to live deeply purposeful and meaningful lives, without having children or creating a family through birth.
I have chosen not to have children and I solidified this intentional decision when I had a vasectomy at age 25. I very much support having children and for those of you who are considering it, I encourage you to choose with deep intentionality and conscious reflection. I encourage you to deeply consider your reasons for having children and to make sure these reasons align with your life path and with a healthy future for a child. There are many resources online for those who would like support in deciding whether to have children as well as resources for navigating the choice not to have children.
This guide includes tips and resources for:
Alternative living with children
Living in community
Alternative Schooling and Unschooling
Downsizing and simplifying
Sustainable and natural living
Reducing dependence on money and creating financial security
Raising children to care about Earth and humanity
How to live the life you desire within the struggles of being a parent/family
Compassionate Communication has been one of the most liberating practices I have found and it is equally applicable whether we have children or not. Millions of parents and teachers have found more peace and joy through practicing Nonviolent Communication with their children and students. See my Compassionate Communication page.
When we take responsibility as adults for our thoughts and our words and speak from a place of integrity and compassion, every relationship in the household changes, suffering decreases for all and happiness increases for all.
Many of us are overwhelmed with the amount of stuff we have. Some of our houses are overflowing with children’s toys and clothes that have been outgrown. We often say, “I didn’t buy any of this, it was all gifts” and shrug off all responsibility, believing we are the victim of this stuff. However, we are responsible for accepting the gifts. Many parents have realized this and changed their habits to live in balance. We are responsible for every item that is in our homes and our lives. It is our responsibility to decide how we are going to live our lives. My guide to downsizing is a resource that has been used by thousands of people, parents and adults without children alike. I have shared resources for downsizing and simplifying on this page.
The community where I spend much of my time in Barnardsville and Weaverville, North Carolina is a beautiful example of alternative living with children. The way that many families in this community live is unfathomable to many of the families living by mainstream societal standards in the US. They have their struggles, just like all families do, but I generally see a greater level of happiness and freedom within these families than I do in the families that follow mainstream societal standards. These families aren’t simply accidents. They weren’t just born this way. Most of them are people who lived in the dominator society and chose to do things differently. They chose not to design their families the way their parents designed theirs. Many of them have left behind corporate jobs and mortgages that they thought were inescapable to live more sustainably, simply and happily with their families. These families exist on a spectrum, from living largely independent of mainstream society in the forest to living on the outskirts of town to living right in the middle of the largest cities in the nation. There is no one model for alternative living with children. Rather, there are thousands of models to learn from. I have shared a few models in the resources on this page.
My First 100 Changes. In 2011, when I realized the “American Dream” I was living was actually the world’s nightmare, I immediately set out to transform my life. I made over 100 changes in the first two years to overcome the delusion and live in harmony with Earth, humanity and the plants and animals we share this home with. These 100 changes can serve as a guide for all on this journey. Some of them will be less applicable for parents and children, but most are applicable and adaptable to all. I have shared resources for downsizing and simplifying in the sections ahead.
Families, Parents and Educators Showing Another Way is Possible.
The following resources have all been recommended to me by parents and teachers.
Happen Films is one of my top recommendations for education on YouTube. Although their focus is not solely on families, they profile numerous families living in an alternative manner.
“Documentary films about sustainability, tiny houses, permaculture, natural building, and more. We hope that the films we make inspire, inform, and help us all navigate the transition from our current destructive industrial society to a new way of being.” Website – YouTube – Instagram – Facebook
Exploring Alternatives is one of my top recommendations for education on YouTube. Although their focus is not solely on families, they profile numerous families living in an alternative manner.
“We’re documenting the many ways that people are experimenting with alternative homes and lifestyles in their own creative, and inspiring ways. We cover a lot of topics, from living off-grid to micro-apartments in the city, from homesteading to self-built tiny houses, sustainable living, and everything in between. We also feature a wide variety of spaces with interesting and innovative designs as well as alternative building techniques and materials.” Website – YouTube – Instagram – Facebook
“Videos about simple living, self-sufficiency, small (and tiny) homes, backyard gardens (and livestock), alternative transport, DIY, craftsmanship, and philosophies of life.”
This channel is one of my top recommendations for education on YouTube. Although the focus of this channel is not solely on families, they profile numerous families living in an alternative manner. Website – YouTube – Instagram – Facebook
“Zion Lights is a British author and activist known for her environmental work and science communication.” Website – Instagram
“April is the founder of zerowastenatureschool.com, Zero Waste Duluth, and contributing author of Zero Waste Kids. She focuses on inspiring and supporting others to live more sustainably and to develop a deep love and connection to nature.” Website – Instagram – Facebook
The Zero Waste Family
“A family of five living zero waste, plant-based, and mindfully minimal so that both our kids and our planet can enjoy a beautiful, thriving future.” Website – YouTube – Instagram – Facebook
Lucy at Life Without School
“Giving the world a giant Get Out of School Free card”
Website – YouTube – Instagram – Facebook
The Free Range Child by Over Grow the System
“Over Grow The System has been dedicated to raising awareness around our food system, sustainability, and how to live a life that is more in tune with nature. We recognize that many aspects of our current systems in place around the globe are causing much of the environmental destruction and social issues that we currently face.” Website
Tiny House Family
“Sharing life on our mortgage-free homestead. Helping others reach mortgage-freedom through our popular eCourse.” Website – Instagram – Facebook
Watch her on my YouTube channel teaching how to use cloth diapers:
“I’m Allie, and I am super passionate about helping you love your life, not just get through it! I believe mothers need minimalism more than anyone else. Minimalism is less cleaning, it’s the joy of always being ready for company to drop by without stressing out, it’s more free time to focus on your priorities, it’s enjoying your home rather than being owned by it, it’s being able to be a mom who plays rather than a mom who’s always cleaning up, it’s being a happier person.” Website – YouTube – Instagram – Facebook
Small Footprint Family
“Our goal is to broaden and empower the circle of people who are protecting the planet for future generations with thoughtful choices about how we live our lives and raise our families.” Website – YouTube – Instagram – Facebook
“I created this group with the hope to empower you with natural solutions to improve and optimize the health of your mind, body and soul. My vision is to grow a community of like-minded individuals who have a passion for helping others. I highly encourage information sharing and celebrating each other’s accomplishments.” Website – YouTube – Instagram – Facebook
The Caterpillar Project
“Welcome to our story, we are so glad you’re here. This page details our journey from a family of five living within the city limits in a 3,000 sq ft house to a family of five building an off-grid, debt-free, ten-acre homestead and house. We are building ourselves, living tiny, and homeschooling along the way. Watch us become more sustainable, garden, build, tend bees, forage, and humbly learn as we go.” Website – Instagram – Facebook
The Fairly Local Vegan
“Hello Beautiful Rebels! My name is Amber, and I am a tattooed and pierced gentle parenting mama to two rad little wildings, Indie and Selkie, who I unschool at home! I’m also married to a hunky tattooed tech dude. We live in Canada with our two rescue dogs, Tofu and Arwyn. We strive to live consciously, and intentionally, through being vegan, striving for zero waste, gardening, etc.” Website – Instagram – Facebook
“Loving family – 2 boys – Trying to make sustainable choices – Heide, Antwerp, Belgium � Vegan – Bicycle – EV – Fair fashion – Cruelty free” Website – YouTube – Instagram – Facebook
“Rachel Jones, The Joyful Space Specialist. Practical minimalism, decluttering advice and relief from overwhelm.” Website – YouTube – Instagram – Facebook
New Society Publishers and Chelsea Green Publishing are two publishers I recommend. New Society is an activist, solutions-oriented publisher focused on bringing you tools for a world of change. They are creating a new society with the resources they publish and the way they do business. Chelsea Green publishes books about organic farming, gardening, homesteading, integrative health, natural building, sustainable living, socially responsible business, and more.
Be the Change: Robin Greenfield’s Call to Kids―Making a Difference in a Messed-Up Worldis a children’s book I wrote for elementary to early middle school-aged children to share how they can live in harmony with Earth, humanity and the plants and animals we share this home with. I designed this book for parents and teachers to read along with their children, in a joint effort of transforming our lives. There is also a companion guide to accompany the book.
Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educatorsby David T. Sobel. “Researchers have studied the lives of environmentalists to determine whether there are any similarities in their childhood experiences that might have led to their having strong ecological values and their choice of an environmental career. When Louise Chawla (1998) of Kentucky State University reviewed these studies, she found a striking pattern. Most environmentalists attributed their commitment to a combination of ‘many hours spent outdoors in a keenly remembered wild or semi-wild place in childhood or adolescence, and an adult who taught respect for nature.”
Indie Birth “There is a lot of misinformation out there about pregnancy, birth, and the role of birth workers. In our current culture and medical system, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only weirdo thinking about birth the way you do. At Indie Birth, we embrace a holistic approach to birth work that sets our students apart. We go beyond traditional practices by integrating magic, manifestation, mindset, self work, nonviolent communication, shamanic practice and ritual. We believe in nurturing the innate abilities of doulas and midwives, helping them tap into their intuition and get in tune with their own essence. By cultivating a positive and expansive mindset, our students are equipped to excel in their work and create transformative experiences for their clients. At Indie Birth, we empower our students to excel as doulas and midwives through a blend of magical, scientific and practical tools. By integrating these practices into their work, they bring a depth of care and a level of support that sets them apart in the birth work community. Join us on this extraordinary journey where we combine ancient wisdom with modern tools to shape a new generation of birth workers who are truly exceptional.”
“Margo was my homebirth midwife. She and Maryn have created an amazing online platform for people who want to have a natural, homebirth or who want to get into midwifery or becoming a doula. They are both powerhouse women and are doing very important work!” – April
13 Moons Platform “This is full of awesome resources for birthing women. Margo assigned me different things on this during my pregnancy and it helped prepare me for having a homebirth within a society that deems it unsafe and uneducated.” – April
Angel Coleman is a breastfeeding advocate. She extends her services as a doula and educator to Cornerstone Pregnancy Services in Ohio to help lower-income mothers receive doula services and education and to also lower maternal and infant mortality in Lorain County, Ohio. Angel specializes in virtual and in-home lactation support and helping moms reach their breastfeeding goals!
Here is a video from Emma Ross, also known as Mamalina, on how to use cloth diapers/cloth nappies to reduce waste, save money and raise children more healthfully. I find Emma to be very inspirational and I’m really glad to have had her as a guest on my channel. Emma is a mom to three children, living in London, UK. Her channel is a fantastic resource for parenting and living slowly and sustainably.
Regulating Screen Time for Children
Vaccine Alternative Schedule or No Vaccines
Children’s Health Defense and the Vaccine Safety Project is a very helpful resource for educating parents on the current vaccine program for children. On the current schedule, between prenatal to age 18, children are receiving 53-56 doses of vaccines. There are alternative schedules people can follow. Others simply opt out of all vaccines.
This is one of the major topics for families that are afraid their children will be taken away from them by the government.
“Co-sleeping is another topic with children that is often considered “dangerous” due to SUIDS (Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome). Co-sleeping is a very natural way of sleeping with a baby, and many, including myself, find it to be something that has been ingrained in us as humans since the beginning to keep our babies safe from danger while we sleep. It is common now for families to have infants sleep in other rooms disconnected from their parents. There are seven safety tips for parents who want to co-sleep with their baby. Here is one site about it.” – April
“I think kids are naturally drawn to the environment and this way of thinking. It’s years of lack of access to the outdoors and food deserts that teach them otherwise. You can’t love what you do not know. I have seen a huge change in my boys just since spending more time at the farm and we have not even gotten moved into the small house we are building yet. Instruction is not needed for kids, only parents. Set them loose in the woods, fields, or beside a stream and they figure it out faster than parents.” – Joe Deppe
“Children are very interested in living more sustainably and are very open-minded and enthusiastic about any ideas that mean a healthier, more diverse world for them to grow up into. I teach 10- to 11-year-olds, and they often express concern about food wastage, the decline in species through poaching, living beyond our environmental means and the continued, and to them, inexplicable use of coal fire energy as opposed to alternative sources. I would like to see kids outside more – walking, observing, recording and even gardening.” – Lisa Donnelly
“The most significant thing for our family has been to remote camp at the same incredible place every year for 2-3 weeks. It taught our children there is another way to live. It’s taught our children to respect nature because in this environment we are only the top species if we keep our wits about us. They recognize that keeping things simple and basic is easy … at least it is when you have no choice. If something breaks, it has to be fixed. Spare food is eaten. Rubbish is a menace to pack so there is very little. Fish for food. Conserve water. Pack only essential things. No power (solar) no water (rain or a well) AND we all have the time of our life even when the weather has turned into a nightmare and everyone’s bunkered down cold and wet. We come back very scruffy but healthy and vibrant.” – Kylie Myatt
“Volunteering, gardening and composting with children, buying their clothes second hand, going hiking and camping with an emphasis on ‘leaving no trace’, are all good habits that make a difference in the long run. Also, for services such as babysitting, piano lessons, or tutoring, we sometimes barter with friends and neighbors, instead of paying each other. Making a budget and reminding the kids that just because we have the money, doesn’t mean we need to spend it on consumables, is something I emphasize as well.” – Julie Saint-Mleux(Happiness Savouredhot)
“I think a large part for children is feeling the need to ‘fit in’ with their peers and society. Money seems to be a big thing with that. I’d like to teach children how to become a valuable leader to others with more natural living versus shaming.” – Melissa Hammett
“Cloth diapers, infant potty training, unschooling versus homeschooling versus traditional schooling, raising kids vegan/vegetarian, regulating screen time, nature preschools, etc., is what I want to learn about!” – Emma Lorusso
“In my opinion, the best way to help parents be sustainable is to advocate for more parent-friendly policies, flexible workplaces, strengthened parental leave programs (beyond maternity/paternity), publicly-provided quality preschool/daycare/aftercare, increased community resources, inter-generational support networks to link isolated older adults to families without kinship networks, and sustainable urban planning to enhance mass transit, cycling and walkability. THEN, busy, overworked parents will have leftover time and energy to plan.” – Renee Bogin
“Living with children in today’s messed up world is hard. I know how I want to raise mine, but because it goes against the grain, I always worry that someday a government agency will intervene. The one thing I struggle most with is getting my kids to live the type of life I want for them, but working against so many outside influences: their friends have the latest and greatest thing and they want it, public school exposes them to food (giving candy away as rewards) I would never let them consume, but now they crave it; the teachers at school or coaches teach my kids different things or in a way that demands obedience and not creative, independent thinking.
“I know the answer could be to keep them at home and mold them into what I want them to be. But not everyone has that option. I instill these values when I’m at home. But to provide my children with a house and safe organic food, I have to play into the life I don’t want them to live. I have to work 50 hours a week at a high-stress job to provide for them and it’s one I’m not passionate about. Teaching them to live differently, to go against the grain, to throw out what and how they are taught by the teachers they spend their whole day with, is hard.
“My concern is that I feel like I need more (money) to need less. Although it probably isn’t true, it is where I am at. We have a small fraction of an acre of land with almost no sunlight at our house. We want to buy a house with at least 10 acres where we can farm and start a little ecovillage. We are on one income while my wife watches our son and I just don’t make enough money to buy a home with that amount of land in a 15-mile radius to where we live. I do not have the skills to do remodeling and I make more than I would if I were to learn home construction. I have experience in natural building, but cannot afford to take time off to develop my skills to be able to facilitate workshops and build on my own.” – Brendon Tomasi