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USA: Sustainable Living Tour is Sunday

What is sustainable living? It all depends on whom you ask. And there will be plenty of people to ask about it this Sunday in Seaside and Del Rey Oaks.

That’s because the people who open their homes for the annual Sustainable Living Tour aren’t experts — they’re regular folks who want to be kinder to the Earth, are doing so in a variety of ways and willing to share with others what they’ve learned.

The third annual tour hosted by Sustainable Seaside this year features seven homes as well as special displays at Seaside Garden Center, where you can register for the free, self-guided tour and receive a map to the various locations.

At one home, speakers are scheduled throughout the day. And speaking of regular folks, I’m first up on the schedule, talking about “What Things Everyone Can Do For a More Sustainable Future.”

This year’s tour has some important differences from previous years. For one thing, it is officially part of International Homesteading Education Month, a project of Mother Earth News and Grit magazines.

In addition, according to co-organizer Cathy Rivera, there’s a greater range of home projects featured on this year’s tour.

Last year, she said, the tour locations were mostly about growing your own food and composting; for 2012, she wanted “more diversity in property styles.”

“We wanted to show everyone, even young people who are . .. renting or in very small places, what can be done. And then maybe they’ll say, ‘We can do
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that, too!'”

This year’s event features some beautifully landscaped yards that use little water, as well as organic vegetable gardening, beekeeping, chicken raising and water catchment systems.

What’s fun about this tour is that almost everyone has done the work themselves, sometimes making mistakes along the way, but learning as they go.

For instance, at the home of Don Basseri and Mary Pat O’Rourke, their impressive water catchment system includes pipes that channel the water from their roof to three 1,550-gallon tanks. Basseri, a carpenter, said that his homegrown project proved to have a few flaws which he’s still working out, and he calls it “a work in progress.”

However, he has been able to water his fruit trees, roses and vegetables for at least part of the year with his stored water, producing lush growth and some incredibly huge tomato plants. Better yet: his home demonstrates how it’s possible to hide water storage tanks behind attractive barriers, even in a small yard.

“I’m looking forward to getting ideas from people who come by during the tour,” said Basseri.

Another intriguing yard belongs to Peter and Louise Berry, who bought their home just shy of three years ago and had nothing in the back yard but sand and dilapidated fencing. Now it’s a gorgeous tri-level spread with succulents, drought-resistant plants, fruit trees and berry bushes.

Rainwater Catchment and Beekeeping. Starting in 2009, Tom Hughes and Cathy Rivera replaced water-hungry lawns with fruit, vegetables, and flowers. More water-saving measures in their yard include a gray water system for fruit trees and a 3,000-gallon water storage tank that connects to a homemade 2,000 gallon cistern. Hughes and Rivera also have a worm farm and 10 beehives. Hughes is Seaside’s resident “swarm catcher.” He will talk about backyard beekeeping at this site at 2 p.m.
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