For a couple of years my wife and I have had a wacky idea: chickens in the backyard. I joke with people that I’ve always wanted a pet bird and she loves fresh eggs so it made sense. We loved what we read about how chickens could compliment backyard gardens by consuming kitchen scraps and producing rich compost. The idea of knowing where our food came from also appeals to us. Most people agree that backyard gardens allow people to shrink their carbon footprint with a more local and sustainable food source too.
It was an Austin Meetup.com online community and monthly meetings that allowed us to stop dreaming about chickens and actually jump into building a coop and adopting seven pullets (young hens). In learning about different breeds, feed, chick coop styles, predator control, and general care for chickens I also learned some valuable lessons in social networking and online organization:
- There truly is a community for everything. I’ve sometimes wondered how so many micro-communities have sprung up on Ning.com and Meetup.org. Who’s interested in those things, I thought? Then I found a reason to be especially interested in backyard chickens in Austin, TX and I joined one of these small communities. I post pictures of our personally designed and built coop, my wife shares questions and answers to community questions, and we mark our calendars for the monthly in-person meetups at feed stores, backyards, and garden shops.
- Community involvement is cyclical. Owning chickens for less than 6 months, we are still fresh and excited with the things we have learned and questions we still have. Community organizers are wise to welcome people like us into the community immediately and leverage our passion. We will become less involved over time but I’m sure we’ll play a part in welcoming other chicken noobies into the group.
- All information is not online. Being a web-geek, I was determined to learn everything we needed to know about chickens online. When faced with a question on chicken care, I flipped open the netbook and my wife referenced 2 books she purchased. More often than not she found the answer more accurately and quickly. There’s huge value in person-to-person networking too. Chicken breeders and feed shop owners are a far more valuable resource for us than Google for this hobby.
Along with chickens, we have also hoped to own a home where we could install solar panels to reduce our reliance on energy off the grid. Turns out local resources were also helpful for us on this front too. After visiting a friend’s house who recently installed panels on his garage, we learned that Austin Energy and a federal refund program made solar panels a much more affordable endeavor than we expected. We received free quotes from several local companies and now have 24 panels on the back roof of our house which should cover between 60-80% of our energy consumption throughout the year.
There are some great resources online for those interested in learning more about solar energy and if it would be a viable solution for your home. Check out Mother Earth magazine’s Renewable Energy page. The National Renewable Energy Lab publishes a lot of information about current research and methods of converting the sunlight into electricity. As for the companies implementing systems, I worked with a company in Austin called Green City Solar and found them to be very helpful and they took the time to educate us about the system.
Finally I believe that Yelp.com is helping me fight global climate change also. Yelp, you ask? The restaurant, bar, and services review site? Yep, Yelp. Here’s why:
Yelp has fundamentally changed how I search and discover the restaurants and bars where I socialize and get together with others. With Yelp I’m able to find local establishments within walking or bike-riding range no matter where I am. I can be very targeted with my visits and planned activities for an evening. I no longer need to cruise across town to find a restaurant that is strongly recommended by others, Yelp helps me find the ones that are right in my neighborhood. If I’m meeting someone in another part of town or another city, Yelp helps us find the best place that serves food we can be sure we’ll both be interested in. No more hopping around between establishments until we find one that looks good. If you have an iPhone, discovering local venues is even easier with the augmented reality “monocle” view which overlays names and ratings over the camera view of the iPhone as you hold it up. It’s amazing, I encourage you to give it a try and find a local restaurant or pub to support.
There you have it, this Blog Action Day, I declare I am fighting global climate change with chickens, solar, and Yelp. Grow and raise food in your backyard, consume less, adopt sustainable energy solutions, and get on your bike and peddle to support local establishments. Maybe a stretch by some standards, but I’m also taking a lot of the more conventional approaches, and every little bit helps. Happy Blog Action Day and please do your part to raise awareness of global climate change.