Learn a thing or two from the Amish’s sustainable philosophies.

The latest trend is definitely green. Everything you read about is green. There are many articles on how to sell green, how to install green and how to go green.

But what is green?

Green is a ubiquitous term that means different things to different people. Even the green codes and U.S. Green Building Council are having a hard time determining what is green when it comes to plumbing.

This past Easter I visited my sister and brother-in-law in Dalton, Ohio. If you are unfamiliar with the area, it is right next door to Kidron, which is right in the heart of Amish country in Ohio. You may not know it, but more Amish live in Ohio than in any other state in the nation, including Pennsylvania. My home state of Indiana also has a large Amish community.

Over the Easter weekend, I took my children through the Amish areas, stopping at a number of the stores. As I slowed down to ride behind a horse and buggy, it dawned on me the Amish live the ultimate green lifestyle. Think about it. They have a total respect for the earth and they use all their resources frugally.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not picking on the Amish. I have always admired them. Their work ethic and values are amazing. All the Amish I have met are wonderful, beautiful people. I simply realize that I would probably have a difficult time living their lifestyle. Does that mean I may have a difficult time living the life of the ultimate green? Probably.

Amish Water Conservation

Look at some of the water uses of the Amish. First, let me dispel a myth. Many of the Amish do have indoor plumbing. There are some sects of Amish that continue to use outhouses. In my sister’s neighborhood, they have indoor plumbing. But when they use the water, they use it wisely. Water is not haphazardly wasted.

When laundry is done, the clothes are hung outside, on the porch or in the basement to dry. They save on the electricity or gas that would have been used with a dryer.

If you look at water reuse, the Amish have been doing that forever. There was a legal case a few years ago where an Amish family was cited for violating the sewage disposal laws. They were taking human waste and spreading it on the field as fertilizer. The local officials indicated the spreading of human waste violated state laws regarding wastewater treatment.

In many ways that seemed comical. We allow farmers to spread horse manure, cow manure and pig manure on their fields as fertilizer without any treatment. Yet, human manure is not acceptable.

The Amish also have harvested rain for years. Again, they understand how precious water is and they use it correctly. Most of the water harvested is for taking care of fields and gardens.

More Ways To Conserve

That brings me to their mode of transportation. As everyone knows, the Amish ride around town in a horse and buggy. They are saving our precious resources by not using gasoline or diesel fuel. The energy source for the horses is renewable hay. The pollution from the horse is manure. However, the manure is used to fertilize the fields as well as the grass alongside the road.

In this current age of increased focus on sustainability, we’re supposed to look at how we use our vehicles and the fuel to run those vehicles. Imagine having to go from jobsite to jobsite on a horse and buggy. I am not suggesting that, just merely pointing out how green you could be.

Contrary to popular belief, the Amish do use power tools on their jobs. They also use computers at work. There are even a number of Amish plumbers. They simply do not have power tools or computers in their homes. Nor do they have phones in their homes. However, you will find many Amish carrying cell phones for their jobs. Hence, they use modern items to be efficient. In many ways, that is green.

Many green initiatives, including USGBC, promote locally grown and locally produced products. This is something the Amish have always been doing. Many Amish stores around my sister’s town sell local produce. We stopped at a store called the Ashery. I bought a tub of basil for 78 cents. A tub of oregano cost 72 cents. For the same amount of herbs at my local grocery store, I would have paid 10 times that price.

If you think about it, the transportation costs are minimal. The produce was grown a few miles away. The Amish used green drying techniques to prepare the herbs - again, no energy required. Finally, the packaging was simple. All very green.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized the green movement can learn a lot by following some of the practices used by the Amish. They have made being green very simple and easy. Isn’t that what we need to do, keep it simple?

Four days after Easter, my sister,Jo-Ann, died. She had been diagnosed with cancer last November. The cancer took her from us much faster than any of us expected or wanted.

At the wake, I was in the receiving line greeting all the people who came to pay their respects to my younger sister. I would tell the visitors stories about my sister and they would tell me and the rest of my family how Jo-Ann and her husband,Todd, had influenced their lives.

I was not surprised to see a number of Amish standing in the line at the wake. After all, my sister did live in an Amish community. She interacted with and loved many of her Amish neighbors. As her Amish friends told me how my sister impacted their lives, I could not help but think how much they have affected all our lives by always being green.

My thanks to the Amish community for respecting the earth and its people, and for preserving the land for our future.