Saving the world really does begin with just one person. Harold Stevenson and his wife, Nancy, work every day to reduce their consumption by making small adaptations to their household and lifestyle that allow him to live more eco-friendly.
Harold’s friends have dubbed him an eco-warrior. His home is filled with dozens of ingenious contraptions and methods meant to reduce his environmental footprint. He’s found countless ways to reuse anything that he can—water, packaging, egg cartons and toilet paper rolls. If it can be used once, Harold can use it twice.
“Recycling is good, but if you can reuse it, it’s better,” Harold said.
Arriving at their Sam Hughes home, solar panel installations and outdoor water cisterns greet visitors, which tuck in around the exterior of the house. There are several cisterns in the backyard, a green vegetable garden, a bee-hive that yields honey in the spring and a chicken coop with fresh, Omega-3 eggs daily.
Harold is especially passionate about water conservation. When he does dishes, rather than let the water drain down the pipes, he collects it in two pales and uses it to water his garden.
“I’ve really been saving water all of my life,” Harold said. “Really, life is just running around trying to collect water in the desert.”
His water cisterns are used to irrigate his home-grown vegetables. They double as his source of drinking water after an incredibly extensive filtration process. The process takes about three cycles to filter, and then he boils it on the stove—“just to be safe.”
Stevenson’s wife, Nancy, works with him to maintain their sustainable home. She said that he motivates her to be more conscious of sustainability.
“Did you know that cooking oil is recyclable?” Nancy said.
Much of what the Stevensons eat comes directly from their backyard. Nancy helps to can and package any excess foods for later use so that nothing goes to waste.
“She’s the inside person, and I’m the outside person,” Harold said.
He said that while being environmentally conscious helps the planet, it helps his wallet, too. With the addition of solar panels to his home, his monthly electric bill has decreased to $8 a month.
The savings don’t just stop with the utility bills. The Stevensons also save money on groceries by eating their own vegetables. Even the flax seed used to feed their chickens is home-grown.
“The last time I went to the store, I was shocked by the price [of vegetables],” Stevenson said. He hadn’t bought food from a grocery store, himself, in years.
Cardboard and Styrofoam packaging accumulates in the side yard, and Harold donates it to Mikey Block, a recycling center that uses donated items to create building materials for Tucson infrastructure. The couple also gives old paper towel and toilet paper rolls to Treasures 4 Teachers, an organization that provides low-cost school supplies to teachers.
Harold invests a lot of his time and money into being such a conscious consumer, but he knows that living such a sustainable lifestyle is not something everyone feels like they have the time to do.
“People get overwhelmed by the thought, so they end up doing nothing,” he said. “Starting with the little things can help you become more aware. Everyone has things that they can do.”
Starting small can mean bringing your own bags to the grocery store and reusing your own water bottle, rather than purchasing that 60 pack of plastics from Costco.
The Stevensons waved me goodbye as I backed out of their driveway, being very careful not to break the dozen eggs that they insisted I leave with—barring I bring back the egg carton that is.
Marissa Ryan is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.