Welcome to City Homesteads, a DIY homesteading blog where we explore ways to take control of your home, your health, and your mind through practices of self-sufficiency. The methods and recommendations we explore are perfect for those living in urban or suburban environments and don’t require several acres of land (or any land at all!) to get going.
DIY homesteading isn’t about getting it perfect, it’s about getting started. This article will help you understand what urban homesteading is and how you can begin creating a more sustainable lifestyle today.
What Is Urban Homesteading?
Urban homesteading is a practice based on self-sustainable living for those located in urban and suburban locations. This can include apartment homesteading, patio homesteading, community homesteads, and much more. This emergent form of homesteading aims to change the way we view major metropolitan areas by shifting us away from consumerism towards a model of sustainability and resilience.
Creating a sustainable home and lifestyle may include producing your own food, finding better or reducing inefficient sources of energy, using less toxic products, utilizing long-term storage methods, and much more. Perhaps even more beneficial is the psychological benefits of maintaining a homestead. Individuals will experience a feeling of self-satisfaction, contribution, and connection when cultivating a sustainable home.
Benefits Of Urban Homesteading
You Can Improve Your Health
The single most important benefit from urban homesteading is that it is good for you! Taking a DIY homesteading approach will make you more active and equip your body with functional strength over time. It’s also known to significantly reduce stress and lessen anxiety.
Since many homesteading methods include natural homemade or toxin-free materials, you’ll expose yourself to less of the chemicals that are commonly found in homes. Homemade herbal remedies are also safe and gentle ways to support your immune system, energy levels, mood, and much more.
You’ll Save Money
Many people believe that homesteading requires a large amount of upfront money. However, this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Many urban homesteaders begin building their systems with very cheap or even free supplies. Reusing leftover wood, cardboard, glass bottles, and jars can be a very economical way to start your sustainable projects without an investment.
This journey is also about asking for support, and you can get a lot of materials from others who practice sustainability. You can borrow gardening supplies, get plant clippings from a friend, find an extra Kombucha SCOBY or sourdough starter for free, and start with what your given.
Over time, urban homesteading can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars. For example, purchasing one bottle of kombucha will cost between $3 to $6 dollars. When you make your own, it costs less than $3 to make an entire gallon of it.
You Can Earn Money
Not only can you save money by homesteading, but you can create a part or full time income with it as well. Vertical gardens and hydroponic growing systems are great ways to get high yields of microgreens, herbs, vegetables, mushrooms, and more for sale. If you enjoy fermenting vegetables, kombucha, or mead, there is likely a market for your small-batch artisan products. You can even make large amounts of all natural cleaning supplies and sell them in your community.
You’ll Be Helping The Environment
In urban and suburban environments, we can become disconnected from our relationship with nature. Not only is this relationship important for being happy humans, but it is also important for the environment itself. We can reduce waste, limit the consumption of electricity and natural gas, improve air quality, and release less toxins into the environment with these methods.
You’ll Be Better Prepared For Emergencies
Self-sufficiency is important in case of any major emergency. Last year the water in my city, Austin Texas, became unsafe to drink. Having a Berkey water purification system was a lifesaver at this time and ensured my family and I had fresh non-toxic water no matter what.
Methods such as fermenting, drying, and canning food and herbs can also ensure that in an emergency there is nutritious and shelf-stable food available as you wait for a situation to return to normal.
Solar energy can serve as an alternative or a backup to the grid system which has been known to crash during natural disasters.
You’ll Have Fun
Don’t forget that homesteading is fun! Maybe there are certain homesteading projects that you won’t enjoy, and I recommend that you don’t do them. Homesteading is an intuitive process where we find what works best for us and makes us as happy or healthy as possible. Since it’s principles are based in sustainability, it’s very important to choose practices and activities that you will enjoy doing for a long time. Experimentation is key for finding the perfect lifestyle fit.
Urban Homesteading For Beginners
When beginning your homesteading journey, it’s important to remember that, especially in urban environments, that this process is a compromise. You can have a more sustainable way of life while enjoying the benefits of living in or near a major city, and ultimately be a part of re-writing destructive aspects of city living as you and other community members embrace this practice over time.
Before you begin any homesteading projects, you’ll want to go inward and check in with what feels good for you. Here are some questions you can ask yourself when deciding how you would like to develop your homesteading lifestyle:
- What brings me joy and energy?
- What areas do I want to improve in my life, physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
- What are my time, energy, and money budgets?
- Do I want to make massive change in a short period of time, or adapt homesteading practices one step at a time?
- What will my life look like when I integrate sustainability into my lifestyle? Which parts are the most exciting?
- Who can help me on this journey, and who can I help?
These questions will help anchor your “why” for beginning this path before you establish the more specific details of “how” you will do it. Making lifestyle changes can get tough, and life can interrupt your progress. Knowing the answers to these questions will be helpful for inspiring you in the harder moments along this journey.
Urban Homesteading Ideas
Here are some various homesteading projects that lend themselves very well to smaller, urban, and suburban homesteaders. You can decide what broad categories you’re most interested in and then break them down into smaller projects.
Indoor, Patio, & Container Gardening
You don’t need a backyard to produce large yields of microgreens, herbs, vegetables, and fruits in your home. Indoor gardening works best when you place your plants near south-facing windows or use plant lights. A vertical garden works nicely both indoors and on a small patio to maximize space. For a soil-free space friendly solution, you may consider setting up a hydroponic garden, which can often lead to larger and quicker growing yields. For those with very small spaces that may only have a windowsill available, consider growing a space efficient herb garden or growing microgreens.
Preservation Techniques: Fermentation, Canning, & Drying
Preserving your food prevents waste, helps you to create back stock, and can also improve your health depending on the methods used. Fermentation adds probiotic benefits to your food and beverages and can range from making sourdough bread to mead making to fermented vegetables to cheese making, just to name a few options.
Canning is a great technique for creating shelf-stable “leftovers” out of the food you grow. You can also transform your garden yield into jellies, jams, sauces, salsas, and much more during this process. This will add flavor and complexity to your food, keeping it interesting and tasting delicious.
Drying herbs, vegetables, and fruits can also extend their usage time significantly. You can rehydrate many of these plants or eat them in their dried form. Drying and grinding herbs is a great method for preserving natural medicines that can be added to smoothies, teas, or even put into capsules and taken as a supplement.
Small Scale Composting
There are many ways to compost in your apartment or home without the issues of large messy piles or containers that attract insects. You can start affordably by purchasing plastic boxes or buckets and create a DIY compost bin. Common areas to store your compost in a smaller home or apartment include under the sink, under a plant stand, in a hall closet, or near your kitchen garbages.
You can put fruit, vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags, shredded paper, plant trimmings, pet hair, human hair, shredded toilet paper rolls, and dryer lint into your compost container. Avoid adding any animal products to your compost pile and make sure to break down your compost into small bits so it more easily decomposes.
Cooking With Whole Foods
There’s no point in growing your own food if you can’t make delicious dishes with it! Learning how to prepare your food in different ways will help you to have variety in your meals, even if you have a relatively small yield. You can use a sous vide circulator to deeply infuse flavors into your foods. A juicer can create convenient and bio-available beverages out of fresh produce. Investing in lifelong cookware such as a cast iron pan or a dutch oven can provide you with a solid basis for cooking a variety of meals.
Homemade Medicines, Cleaning Supplies, & Bath & Body
One of the best benefits of DIY homesteading is that it can eliminate toxins in both your body and home. Using natural oils, vinegars, fats, citrus, and herbs, you can create cleaning products, home remedies, and hygienic or beauty supplies. Often times these products are so gentle that you could technically eat or drink many of your cleaning products! Although this isn’t necessarily recommended, it should provide some peace of mind knowing that these substances aren’t inherently bad for the body.
For intermediate or advanced urban homesteaders, raising certain types of livestock is a great option for smaller spaces. You may consider raising chickens, quails, rabbits, goats, pigs, and bees. Make sure to check with your municipality to learn about what’s allowed in your city to make sure you’re compliant with local laws.
Conserve Energy & Manage Water
There are several creative ways to conserve resources, regardless of whether or not you are renting or own your home. Insulating your home very well helps reduce inefficient homes that can’t hold heat or cold well. Thermal window shades and energy efficient light bulbs are great options as well. These methods tend to pay for themselves in a couple of years.
Solar power is a great way to reduce grid energy usage. You can install panels, purchase products with a built-in capacity to charge in the sun, install hot water systems, and much more with solar technology.
Two ways that you can conserve and reduce water usage is by collecting greywater (lightly used water) and building or purchasing a rainwater harvesting system.
Consider walking, biking, or using transit systems to further reduce your dependency on non-renewable energy sources. If you need a vehicle, consider purchasing an electric or hybrid model. You can even make your own biodiesel fuel from vegetable oil if you’re feeling especially ambitious.
Self-sufficiency is actually about strategically asking for and offering support to a like minded community. No one can produce everything all at once, so it’s helpful, efficient, and affordable to share your resources with each other.
You can support your local community garden, CSA (community supported agriculture program), co-ops, and farmers markets to help build a meaningful and sustainable community in your city or town.
Homesteading isn’t one specific thing and you have the ability to define what it means for you. By participating in this practice we are creating agency and empowerment for individuals to improve their lives and contribute to the planet. How will you get started with your urban homestead? Let us know in the comments below!