Are you interested in learning how to live more sustainably, but don’t know where to start when it comes to urban homesteading? Luckily, there are plenty of small ways to start living an eco-friendly life in small spaces and big cities alike.
From composting to urban farming, here are 23 easy ways to get you started on your journey towards a greener lifestyle.
What is Homesteading?
Originally, traditional homesteading was all about getting free land from the government and making a life out of it back in the 1800s. But today, it’s evolved into an eco-friendly lifestyle that’s all about self-sufficiency, sustainability, and yes, affordability.
The aim of homesteading is to reduce our reliance on traditional systems and live a simpler, more self-sufficient life. This includes growing our own food, producing our own energy, and making conscious choices to reduce waste and live in harmony with the environment.
What is Urban Homesteading? How is it Different?
Urban homesteading comes in many shapes and sizes, and it’s about doing what you can to fend for yourself, creating more financial freedom via self-reliance. It’s not just about growing vegetables in your backyard (although that’s a great start!).
It’s also about reviving traditional skills like sewing, crocheting, knitting, quilting, canning, and food preservation.
Even if you live in the heart of the city, there are numerous ways to embrace the homesteading lifestyle. You could start a compost pile, raise small animals, or even cultivate a community through regenerative farming and learning experiences.
Can I Save Money Urban Homesteading?
It’s easy to save money as an urban homesteader. When you cook from scratch, you save hundreds of dollars on eating processed food. If you grow your own food, even just herbs, your grocery bill goes down as well.
It can be smart to make an investment when homesteading for savings down the line, but you can also start homesteading with no money.
The opportunities for savings are actually endless. Here are a few ways that I’ve saved money by embracing an urban homestead:
- Less money spent on paper products like toilet paper and paper towels
- No more major cosmetic purchases since I use single-ingredient items to moisturize my skin
- Reduced gas bills when biking, walking, or using public transportation
- Affordable and natural medicine with tinctures, herbal infusions, and salves made at home
- Free fertilizer from my compost pile
- Hundreds of dollars saved each month by making my own kombucha (you know it’s expensive in the stores!)
There are also plenty of indirect savings that come with being self-sufficient. For example, when I’m spending time on DIY projects, I’m less likely to mindlessly shop online, go out and eat expensive dinners, or buy things that I don’t really need.
And, I still feel “richer” by the end of it! Something about making things with your own two hands is incredibly rewarding, whereas spending money is a temporary pleasure.
23 Easy Urban Homesteading Ideas To Try Today
Here are a handful of easy ways you can get started on your urban homesteading journey:
1. Go Homemade
One of the best ways to try out different homesteading techniques is to start by making things from scratch. You could try homemade cleaning products, natural skincare, or even make your own candles and decor items. This is a great way to reduce waste and save money while getting creative.
And the homesteading journey is all about abundance, so make sure to give away a few things as well.
2. Grow Herbs
Herbs may seem like a small way to produce food, but I think these culinary little plants deserve a high spot on your list of easy things to grow indoors. Many herbs are very easy to maintain and can really transform your dinner plate with their fresh essential oils and high nutrient content.
And did I mention that herbs are super expensive these days? When I want to buy basil for a batch of pesto, I’m often paying at least $7 for a measly ounce. And it doesn’t even last as long as I need it to!
So here are a few easy ways to get started:
- Buy an Aerogarden for easy growing in all lighting conditions
- Get an indoor herb kit for an easy setup on a windowsill
- Find a lovely local plant shop and choose custom plants and containers
- Join an online plant group in your local area and see if you can get a free clipping
Growing indoor herbs at home makes it easy to simply prune what you need and let the plant keep growing. Plus, you can dry or freeze herbs for later use, which means saving even more money.
3. Start Composting
When most people think of composting, they picture a big backyard pile of rotting food scraps. But composting can easily be done in an apartment or small space using a continuous composting system like Bokashi.
This method uses a special mix of microbes to break down food waste and turn it into nutrient-rich soil. And there are many clean kitchen-friendly compost containers that you can use to keep food scraps contained until it’s time to add them to your Bokashi bin.
If you’re not ready to start composting but want to reduce your waste footprint, how about switching out your trash bags? Compostable trash bags are the easiest way to make a small change with major impacts.
4. Try Canning or Food Preservation
You don’t have to grow food to become a culinary homesteader. One popular way to start an urban homestead is by preserving food. Some popular methods include:
- Canning: This is a method of preserving food by placing it in airtight jars and boiling them for a certain period of time. Once canned, the food can be stored at room temperature for long periods of time. Here are a few helpful books for getting started.
- Dehydrating: Dehydration removes the moisture from food, making it last longer without spoilage. You can use special dehydrators or even your oven to dehydrate fruits, vegetables, and meats.
- Fermenting: This is the process of preserving food using natural bacteria and yeast. Popular fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha.
Having jars of beautiful canned goods or a shelf full of dehydrated fruits and veggies can make your home feel like a cozy farmhouse, even in the heart of the city. Plus, these methods allow you to enjoy seasonal produce all year round.
3. Grow Microgreens
An easy way to grow food at home is by starting with microgreens. These are seedlings of various vegetables and herbs that can be grown in trays indoors. They’re packed with nutrients, easy to grow, and can be used as a garnish or in salads for added flavor and nutrition.
Another great thing about growing microgreens is that you can use recycled containers like egg cartons or yogurt cups. They only take a week or two to grow, so you can have a constant supply of fresh greens in your home all year long.
4. Grow Mushrooms
I love everything about mushrooms. They’re delicious, packed with nutrients, and there are so many different varieties to try. But buying them at the store can get expensive, especially if you want organic or specialty mushrooms.
So why not grow your own? And no, I’m not talking about psychedelic ones! Unless you want, but you’ll need to read another blog for advice on that. Medicinal and culinary varieties are super easy to grow at home, and all you need is a dark space like a closet or basement.
Start with one of these affordable mushroom kits that come with everything you need to get started.
Once, long ago, our ancestors would forage for food and medicine in nature. In today’s modern world, we’ve lost touch with this ancient practice. But the good news is that you can reclaim it by learning how to forage in your local area.
Make sure to do your research before picking any wild plants or mushrooms – some may be poisonous or protected species. You also need to be mindful of pesticides and pollution in urban environments.
But with proper knowledge and caution, you can find some truly delicious and nutritious food right outside your doorstep. Plus, foraging promotes a deeper connection with nature and the environment, making it a rewarding activity for urban homesteaders.
6. Collect Rain Water
Water is essential for any garden, but it can also be expensive. Reduce your water bill and promote sustainability by collecting rainwater in a rain barrel or other container. You can use this water to hydrate your plants during dry spells or even for household chores like washing dishes or flushing toilets.
7. Raise Backyard Chickens & Animals
Raising animals is a more advanced option for beginner urban homesteaders, but suburban homesteaders with at least half an acre don’t need much space to raise chickens, ducks, rabbits, or even goats.
Not only do these animals provide fresh eggs and dairy products, but they also help to fertilize your garden bed or plot of land. This option is great if you want to make a major lifestyle change and have the time to invest in animal care.
It can also be a great way to start urban homesteading commercially if you want to sell your eggs or dairy products at local farmer’s markets or to friends and family.
8. Shop at the Farmer’s Market
A great way to start small without needing to do anything around the home is by supporting your local farmer’s market. Not only does this foster a sense of community and support for small businesses, but it also encourages sustainability.
When you buy produce directly from the grower, you reduce transportation emissions and eliminate waste in packaging materials. Plus, you get to enjoy fresh, seasonal produce that often tastes better than what you can find at the grocery store.
9. DIY & Upcycle as Much as Possible
There’s an important design aspect to homesteading life and that’s the art of repurposing and upcycling. You don’t need to buy new products for every little task; chances are, you can make it yourself with materials you already have or can find easily.
For example, instead of buying expensive cleaning supplies, make your own using simple ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. Instead of buying new clothes, learn how to sew and mend your existing ones.
Even furniture can be repurposed to breathe new life into old items. Take an inventory of your home and get creative with ways to use or repurpose things before buying something new.
10. Learn How to Fish or Crab
If you live near a body of water, take advantage of it by learning how to fish or crab. Not only is this a fun and relaxing activity, but you can also catch your own food for dinner. Plus, fishing and crabbing are sustainable practices when done responsibly.
Check with your local regulations and make sure to obtain proper permits before heading out on your fishing or crabbing adventure. And always practice catch and release for any non-edible or protected species.
11. Brew Your Own Kombucha
I’ve discovered a game-changer in my homesteading journey – brewing my own Kombucha. This fermented tea delight has become my favorite way to quench my thirst, helping me kick the soda and juice habit.
What’s even more exciting is incorporating it into my cooking! It can be pricey buying from stores, but making it is cost-effective and reduces waste.
My secret? Black or green tea, sugar, and a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). You can easily find starter kits online and can have your first batch ready within 2 weeks of getting started.
If you’d like a little guidance, here’s my guide on how to make Kombucha in a small space.
12. Plant Flowers
If you have a small plot of green space or an area suitable for container gardening, plant flowers. Not only do they add beauty to your urban homestead, but they also attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, which are essential for a thriving ecosystem.
Some great options for flowers that don’t require a lot of space include:
If you have limited space, consider vertical gardening or hanging planters to make the most out of your available area.
13. Use Sustainable Cleaning Products
VOCs are found in many household cleaning products and can contribute to indoor air pollution. Do your part for the environment and your health by switching to eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products.
You can also make your own using simple ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. Not only are these alternatives better for the environment, but they’re also often more affordable than store-bought.
For an easy option to buy, I like the Nature Lake Household Cleaners. They use dissolvable tabs and reusable bottles to reduce waste, making it a more sustainable choice for urban homesteaders.
14. Go Solar
From outdoor solar lights in your backyard homestead to RV solar kits, going solar can be a great option for urban homesteaders. Opt for portable and foldable solar panels for easy storage and use them to power small appliances or charge your devices.
You can even hook up solar panels to a small generator to serve as a power source in case of emergencies in your apartment or urban home.
15. Put Up a Hummingbird Feeder or Bird Bath
If your small homestead has a few trees surrounding it, make it more habitable for our feathered friends by setting up a hummingbird feeder or bird bath. Not only does it provide a source of water and food, but it also adds to the natural beauty of your space.
Just make sure to regularly clean and refill the feeder or bath to keep your avian visitors happy and healthy.
Layering on your solar homesteading skills makes this idea even more sustainable. You can use a solar fountain in your bird bath to avoid using electricity to power the water source and add solar lights for a beautiful nighttime display.
16. Join a Community Garden
A great way to take part in urban homesteading is to join a community garden. Not only do you get access to gardening space if you don’t have any in your apartment or home, but it’s also a great way to meet like-minded individuals who can support you with learning new skills.
Many urban areas have community gardens that offer affordable membership fees and often host workshops and events related to gardening and sustainable living.
If there isn’t one in your area, consider starting one with your neighbors or friends. Community gardens not only provide fresh produce for their members but also promote a sense of community and connection in urban areas.
17. Swap with the Neighbors
Another communal way I’ve been urban homesteading is by exchanging goods with my neighbors. Facebook has an abundance of “free groups” that you can find by searching for your local area and the keyword “free”.
These groups are a great way to declutter your home while also finding items you need without breaking the bank. Plus, it helps reduce waste by giving unwanted items a new home.
This past Mother’s Day I was moving out of my home and had hundreds of items to keep out of the landfill. Giving them all away during the holiday was an incredible bonding experience. I was able to meet all of the local mothers enjoying the day and looking for a free treasure.
That’s the other part I love about the free groups – they foster a sense of community!
18. Try Beekeeping (or Create a Bee-Friendly Habitat)
Beekeeping may sound like a large undertaking as a beginner homesteader, but there are several cooperative programs that will install a hive at your urban home and share the harvest with you.
In Austin, Texas, we have the famed organization Two Hives Honey. They install, maintain, and train you on how to keep thriving bees in your backyard.
Due to their pollinating abilities, they’re an essential part of any urban homestead, not to mention the delicious honey they produce.
If beekeeping isn’t for you, consider starting a small herb garden or planting bee-friendly flowers to support the local pollinator population. Every little bit helps in creating a sustainable and thriving eco-system in our urban areas.
Overall, there are many ways to incorporate urban homesteading into your daily life, even in
19. Learn How to Sew
Even if you don’t have a large garden or outdoor space, you can still practice sustainability in your daily life by learning how to sew. By repairing and repurposing old clothing and fabrics, you can reduce waste and save money.
Plus, with the rise of DIY fashion and eco-friendly fashion brands, sewing your own clothes allows you to create unique pieces that reflect your personal style.
If sewing seems intimidating, there are many online tutorials and classes available to help you get started. You can also join a local sewing group or club to learn from more experienced sewers and make new friends in your community.
20. Shop Local & From Sustainable Brands
If you can’t make it for the early limited hours to your local farmer’s market or simply don’t have one near you, consider joining a CSA program or supporting local businesses and farmers through online ordering.
Not only does this support your community’s economy, but it also reduces the carbon footprint caused by shipping and packaging from larger corporations.
To take additional shipping costs and carbon footprint out of the picture, find a local brand that sources their materials sustainably and ethically. Check for certifications such as Fair Trade, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), or B-Corp to ensure your purchases align with your values.
21. Become a Culinary Pro
Ever since I’ve redefined my cooking practice as a homesteading practice, I’ve been able to drop into the rhythm of meal prep and cooking with more joy.
Challenging myself to try new dishes while working with fresh ingredients has been an amazing experience. Plus, making meals from scratch not only saves money but also reduces packaging waste and allows you to have more control over the ingredients in your food.
What food have you always wanted to make from scratch? Pick a new recipe to try each week and see how it adds to your urban homesteading journey.
22. Adopt a Minimalist Lifestyle
Minimalism is more of an overarching lifestyle than a specific homesteading practice. However, it aligns very well with the values of urban homesteading.
By simplifying your life and reducing material possessions, you can reduce your carbon footprint and live more sustainably. Plus, with fewer things to take care of and maintain, you have more time and energy to focus on other homesteading practices.
Start with a few of these easy steps to declutter your life and embrace minimalism:
- Donate or recycle items you no longer need
- Limit impulse purchases and focus on purchasing necessities
- Reduce paper waste by opting for electronic bills and subscriptions
- Simplify your wardrobe by incorporating a capsule wardrobe system
- Let go of dietary items that don’t bring you joy and focus on fresh, whole foods.
Remember, minimalism looks different for everyone. Find what works for you and your lifestyle, and don’t feel pressured to conform to a certain aesthetic or definition of minimalism.
With time, you’ll find that your attachments to material possessions will decrease, and you’ll have more space for the things that truly bring value to your life.
23. Volunteer In Your Community
Sustainability is rooted in permaculture. This is the idea that all systems are connected and that they should be designed in a way that benefits all living things.
By volunteering in your community, you become a part of an interconnected system. You can participate in local clean-up events, help out at urban gardens, or even just lend a hand to a neighbor in need.
I love to teach volunteer classes around kombucha making and herbalism as a way to share what I’ve learned and make new friends interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle.
Think about what skills or knowledge you have that you can share with others in your community and use it as a way to connect and contribute to the sustainability of your local ecosystem.
Final Thoughts: Urban Homesteading For Beginners
Although there’s a wealth of options to try in this guide to urban homesteading, it’s important to remember to start small. Trying out about 1 to 5 tips to start will help you build your confidence and comfort with these new practices.
Remember, urban homesteading is not about doing everything perfectly or all at once. It’s a journey of learning, growing, and finding what works best for you and your lifestyle.
So don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes along the way – that’s part of the process! And most importantly, have fun and enjoy the sustainable, rewarding lifestyle of urban homesteading.
Keep learning, keep growing, and keep nurturing your connection to nature in the midst of city living. Happy homesteading!