A Day in the Life of the Sustainable Smiths

Mrs. Smith awoke to the sound of her alarm clock and sat up in bed, stretching and listening to the sounds of morning. Robins and Chickadees were cheerfully greeting the new day outside the open window, through which a cool spring breeze was drifting. A healthy sun was casting its first rays onto bedspread, warming Mrs. Smith’s feet.

“It’s Friday!” she said happily to her husband, who was waking up beside her.

Mr. Smith mumbled something inaudible, which she understood to be an expression of thankfulness.

Together they got out of bed and made for the bathroom.

“I’m so excited to have the day off work today,” Mrs. Smith said as she jumped in the shower, which, courtesy of the Smith’s recent BetterBuildings for Michigan home makeover, was now equipped with a low-flow shower head. “There is so much I want to get done around the house I just haven’t had a chance to do, we’ve been so busy at the store.”

“I’m glad for you, honey,” said Mr. Smith, loading a toothbrush with Tom’s toothpaste. “You deserve a day to yourself.”

“And I get to wear that new dress I just finished repurposing,” she continued excitedly. “You remember that one I bought from Salvation Army for about two dollars?”

“You mean the one that looked like it was straight out of a 70’s fashion catalog?” Mr. Smith grinned as he washed his face with Dr. Bronner’s soap.

“Yes, that one. Well I touched it up a bit, well, ok, a lot, and now I have a beautiful new spring dress to wear to dinner parties!”

Mr. Smith smiled. “I can’t wait to see it on you. I’m going to wake the kids.”

A few minutes later, the Smiths were sitting around the kitchen table tucking into a breakfast of fresh fruit from the Community Garden. 9-year-old Sam was challenging his little brother Jacob to a duel with his spoon, while 5-month-old Helen watched with mild interest from her high chair.

“Stop it!” wined Jacob, fending off his brother. “You’re hurting me!”

“Cut it out, Sam” said Mr. Smith calmly over the morning news. “Eat your food, and remember to give any scraps to the worms, both of you.”


“Sam, I want you to check the rain barrels after breakfast, they’re probably full,” said Mrs. Smith, spooning yogurt into Helen’s protesting mouth. “And if they are, could you please empty them onto the rain garden?”


“They’ll be heavy, so Dad can help you.”


“I’m going to do some shopping later today, Jacob, you need some new underwear, right?”


Mr. Smith looked up from the paper again. “Did you boys remember to unplug your power strips this morning?”

“Of course, dad.”

After breakfast Sam and Mr. Smith went out to water the garden. The rain barrels were indeed full after last night’s light rain, and the garden was burgeoning with all manner of dew-soaked flowers and plants, most of them native. The Cardinal Flowers, Golden Alexander and Great Blue Lobelia were doing especially well, towering above the rest as if stretching in the morning sunlight.

A few minutes later the boys were hoisting backpacks over their shoulders and waving goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. Smith as they set off for school, which was only a 2-block walk from the house. Mr. Smith kissed Mrs. Smith and set off for the bus stop down the street, his briefcase in one hand and a lunchbox (packed with fresh food from the Nourish Organic Market) in the other. He had been riding the Rapid to work every day for free ever since he began teaching at GVSU.

Back in the house, while Helen looked on and crooned contentedly, Mrs. Smith began cleaning the kitchen with a kit of green, non-toxic cleaning products she made herself, including window cleaner, oven cleaner, an all-purpose cleaner, furniture polish, and more.

Mrs. Smith was in a very good mood. She was very happy about the improvements recently made to the house by Better Buildings for Michigan, which were recommended by a green building professional from the Alliance for Environmental Sustainability.

The changes had already been quite noticeable, mainly in the house being far less drafty after the insulation improvements. Mr. and Mrs. Smith had been appalled by the amount of air leaks that were revealed by the Better Building team’s infrared testing, and even more shocked when they discovered how much money they were losing as a result. The house was already more comfortable after the energy makeover, and the Smith’s energy expenditures had likewise decreased significantly.

Encouraged by these improvements and eager to do even more to make their home sustainable, Mr. And Mrs. Smith had gone straight out and bought a number of energy efficient items including sustainable light bulbs and timers for many of their electrical units.

The phone rang, interrupting Mrs. Smith’s happy ruminations, and she paused in her cleaning to answer it. It was Linda, an employee in Mrs. Smith’s shop with a question from a customer. Mrs. Smith owned and worked at a small but popular store that used recycled items to make jewelry.

After answering Linda’s question, she took Helen outside to hang up a load of clean laundry on the clothesline, including some of Helen’s cloth diapers, which were saving the Smiths almost as much money as the house’s insulation improvements.

“You’ve been so patient, Helen, and now you get to go shopping with Mommy! Isn’t that exciting?”

Helen burped nonchalantly in response.

Mrs. Smith got out the electric car and, after bundling up Helen in the child’s seat and checking the tire pressure, headed out to their first destination: Tree Huggers, a store in nearby Eastown that offered a wide range of recycled, organic, and locally grown products. Mrs. Smith had been taking advantage of Tree Hugger’s free recycling services, which allowed her to responsibly dispose of items that are normally hard to recycle, including electronics, clothing, and personal care items, among much else.

Next they make a stop at Goodwill. Mrs. Smith had been wanting a new office chair and bedside lamp, both of which she found for a total of $12.

After school, the family took the Rapid to Bartertown, where they went for dinner every Friday evening as a family tradition. After a delicious meal of collard greens, chickpea dip, and vegan sandwiches, they spent the evening biking through Gaslight Village, and they ended the day watching the sun set over the peaceful waters of Reeds Lake.

Better Buildings

Tom’s toothpaste


Dr. Bronner’s soap

Community Garden

Wormsrain barrels


Unplug your power stripsnative plants

Bus stop

Nourish Organic Market


Green, non-toxic cleaning products

Alliance for Environmental Sustainability

Sustainable light bulbs

Timers for many of their electrical units

Used recycled items to make jewelryclothesline

Cloth diapers

Electric car

Checking the tire pressure

Hard to recycle




0 replies
  1. Charles Hausmann
    Charles Hausmann says:

    This is the kind of crap that gives environmentalist a bad name.
    99% of women would rather commit suicide than repurpose a goodwill dress.
    Worms are an invasive species.
    The Pilgrims almost all died using a communal gardening concept until they switched to personal property gardening.
    Communal gardeners wouldn’t bother with rain barrels. Let the other guy do it.
    Who’s paying for the free Rapid transit??
    Mrs Smith should get a real job producing something of value.
    There are community regulations to prohibit clotheslines in urban areas so we don’t start looking like Calcutta.
    Cloth diapers require entensive washing and water consumption. Besides, what working women would ever choose to use them.
    The electric car is COAL Fired! Get an efficient diesel hybred and save the environment.
    Meat and dairy are an important component of any serious organic farm. Don’t you read Mother Earth News?
    Now that enyone has lowered their standard of living down to a sustainable level, biking thru town will be difficult dodging the homeless people who couldn’t get a minimum wage job recycling junk to make costume jewelry.

    Let’s focus on some serious sustainable development that can support real jobs and 7 billion people. Fantasy Land is a waste of time.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I really liked the story; it helps to show that each one of us can make a change, thereby challenging the “macro” fallacy – if everyone things they don’t need to act because the other guy will do it, then who will do it? But what do I know; I’m just a Prius driving, Rapid riding, bicycle loving, worm farm owning, organic eating, clothes line drying, environmentalist – with a bad name…..


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