The Sustainability Tango

A guest post by author Michael Nolan

Organic. Free Range. Sustainable.  We hear and read these words every day and probably use them almost as often but what do these buzzwords really mean and most important, what do they mean to us?

First off, in the US, the term organic may or may not mean what you think it does.  The Daily Green has an excellent rundown of the specifics on those food labels both in the US and abroad.

As for free range?  Yeah, not at all what it sounds like.  Suffice it to say that unless you are raising your own chickens or buying them (or their eggs) from a small farmer at a local farmer’s market, they aren’t going to be truly free range.

Now we get to my favorite, sustainable.  How sustainable is it, anyway?  When it comes to things that we grow, sustainability isn’t terribly difficult for the most part.  It involves starting our produce from seed, raising the plants, preserving the harvest and collecting the seeds at the end of the season.  It is pretty much just that easy unless you’re dealing with hybrid this or genetically modified that.

When I raise free range chickens, I do so in a way that is largely sustainable in conjunction with my organic gardening practices.  The chickens provide eggs.  Some of those eggs are allowed to hatch to provide more chickens while some of the chickens are eaten.  Those same chickens work as natural insect and weed control which helps my gardens and the extra bits of produce in turn feed them.  In return for that food, the chickens provide manure that fertilizes the soil and the sustainability tango continues.

What are some specific ways that you choose to be more sustainable and how have you made them work for you?


Michael Nolan, The Garden Rockstar is an author, blogger and speaker on gardening, sustainability, food ethics and homesteading.  He is currently in the process of writing a new guest post on a different site for each day in May. To follow his progress, visit


A special thank you to Michael from for a wonderful guest post.

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