To live a sustainable life, sometimes all you need is your own backyard! In this episode of In The Know: Extreme Minimalists, Aly (@glamgardenernyc), an urban forager and educator from Staten Island, New York, shares how she utilizes her neighborhood to live a sustainable, minimalist life, as well as how the simple practice of foraging can lead to a deeper environmental appreciation.
To Aly, foraging and minimalism have a seamless, built-in relationship. “Foraging and minimalism go hand-in-hand because foraging is really bringing us back to the most primal and natural thing that there is, and that’s what minimalism is trying to do too,” Aly tells In The Know. “It’s trying to bring us back to what’s simple, what was primal, and what came first before all of this other stuff complicated our lives.”
After studying sustainability at Arizona State University, Aly became interested in the concept of sustainable food systems, and saw foraging as an essential key in creating more sustainability in the food space.
“The sustainability mind is always looking for solutions to problems, so one of the problems that we have in our food system is that we’re importing a lot of our food in cities, and we also deal with food insecurity,” she says. “I realized that foraging could provide a solution to some of the issues in our food system.”
Aly sees foraging as a direct route to a more sustainable, minimalist lifestyle, as it leads people to use what’s around them instead of buying ingredients at the store.
“With foraging, it really gives you the opportunity to practice sustainable minimalism and simplify your life,” Aly tells In The Know. “There are so many plants outside that we’re disregarding as weeds, that we can use to replace so many things that we’re buying in the grocery store.”
It’s hard to dispute the environmental benefits of foraging, but foraging can still be an intimidating practice to undertake. But as Aly explains, foraging is nowhere near as hard as people think it is.
“Foraging is just as easy as learning one plant at a time,” she says. “We all can identify plants, like when we go to the grocery store or a plant shop. Learning about wild plants is the same exact thing.”
Aly also ensures that foragers don’t need any of the fancy “survival and bushcraft” gear that people assume are part of the experience. Aly’s gear normally consists of a recycled jar and a leftover takeout bag or tote bag. “It’s super easy and anyone can get into it,” she says.
While foraging provides Aly with tangible ingredients, it also allows her to connect emotionally with the world around her. “The way foraging makes me feel is probably the thing that keeps me foraging,” she tells In The Know. “I feel completely at peace and present when I’m foraging, which I think is absolutely necessary in the world that we’re living in.”
Aly hopes that others will use foraging as a tool for connecting with the natural world, even if it’s just a way to spark an initial interest in sustainable living.
“Nature is good for us and we need nature, no matter how much we think that we don’t,” says Aly. “So I think using our senses to get connected with wild edible plants around us can make us feel invested in protecting our local green spaces.”
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