Sustainable Living Guest Blogger: Kate Ruffing

I am coming off the eve of an annual family tradition that I had almost forgotten could be so much fun, but which has reinforced my belief that family gatherings build a sense of self and greater community.  In these blogs, I often share sustainable solutions for what scientists classify as the necessities of life - Food, Water and Shelter.  But what makes us distinctively human is how we come together into a Community group - be it in families, cities, nations, or as a planet. Cultivating this sense of place is just as important to living a sustainable life as the others.

I know, as you do, that getting the family together can be easier imagined than done as we madly dash to all the different activities on our calendars.  I typically start to think about family around the major holidays, but would encourage all of us to remember those other life moments that we can easily turn from “a happening” into “a habit”.

One of my family’s traditions is to head into the northern Wisconsin woods every fall, to gather with family and friends for a communal hunting trip.  Now don’t fear, I am not insisting that this become your family tradition, but rather it serve as an example for why you should find a time to come together and just be.  From Boston to Seattle, we pick one long weekend in the fall to gather together and eat, laugh, swap stories, and for us, head out into the woods.

So what is your family tradition?  Here are some suggestions to get you planning but tailor it to what you like to do.  These events don’t have to be only for blood-relatives.  Bringing neighbors and close friends into the fold just expands the fun.  For those teens and tweens, have them invite a friend to feel more engaged.

Annual Trip: Pick a spot - It can be a family home, campground, resort, picnic area, beach or a rotating location.  Pick a date - Like the second weekend of October or around a school break.  Organize planned activities or just play together.

Weekly Game or Movie Night: You can almost hear the teenage eye-roll on this suggestion, but pick a night of the week to play a game or watch a movie along with some fun snacks and drinks.  Curb the cell phones and computers for one night and allow different members to pick what game you play or movie to watch.

Community Project Work: Find a project in your area where the family can help out.  From collecting trash along a road to helping out at hospitals, senior centers, food banks and shelters.  Some quick searching will find something good for your group.

Monthly Gathering: Find a weekend day that works for everyone and have a pot luck meal or visit a museum.  You can go play a sport or take a historical tour.

At the end of it all, it is about getting together and being a family.  These bonds are what  life is all about so forge them every chance you get.  And don’t worry about the eye-rolls you may get- they will thank you later.