KRIS BORDESSA launched her blog, Attainable Sustainable, in 2011 to create a community focused on more self-reliant living. Through topics such as gardening, green living, and cooking whole food, she encourages readers to tackle small, actionable steps to embrace simpler living through a DIY lifestyle. These days, she lives in Hawai’i with her family, strives for an abundant vegetable garden, and raises a thriving — and often humorous — chicken flock. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living was published by National Geographic Books.
Meredith: Some people refer to their creations as their children. Some view them as entities entirely separate from themselves. To me our creations are more as an extension of our own biology. In other words, our words are who we are, just expressed in an alternate form (kind of like how water freezes to ice and then melts and flows again). How do you view your creations and how did you come to seeing them this way?
KRIS: I feel as though my current projects are a sort of a bridge, touching history and bringing the knowledge of past generations to the modern day world. So many vintage skills have been lost over the past couple of generations. I’m lucky in that I grew up learning many of them from my mom; I love that I have the opportunity now to pass those skills on.
Meredith: The child development writer Joseph Chilton Pearce said: “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” Let’s talk about what “wrong” is, or what we think it is. Can you help us dissect?
KRIS: For the instructional sort of writing I do, there is certainly a wrong – sometimes even unsafe – way to do some tasks. In that sense, it’s important that I’m not wrong!
Outside of that though, my job is to figure out how to give readers the confidence to properly complete a project or recipe. I’ve had a lot of practice fine-tuning my communication skills to make it as easy as possible for readers to follow along. Even so, sometimes I get questions from readers about the proper way to do a certain step and I realize that I wasn’t as clear as I could have been. There are many different ways to explain things; one might not necessarily be “wrong” but if I haven’t made it clear enough for people to follow along, I need to rethink how to do better.
Meredith: Tell us about nature’s role in your writing. How it feels and fits and feeds you and your writing.
KRIS: Nature and the environment are really the backbone of why I write what I write, even though it might not look like it!
Much of my current writing focuses on self-reliant living — gardening, cooking, food preservation. That might not sound like “nature writing” but to me, it’s all tied together. Shifting our thinking from a consumeristic lifestyle to one in which we produce more for ourselves has a direct impact on the environment. Growing food instead of buying produce that’s been shipped across miles lowers carbon in the environment. Cooking at home with pantry staples eliminates much in the way of disposable plastic and packaging. Preserving food while it’s abundant locally means a stocked pantry without depending on imports. It all adds up to being better stewards of the land, right from our own home.
Meredith: Are you ever frightened of your own ideas, or what’s inside you? Or maybe the question should be, are you scared of putting them down on the page?
KRIS: I can be a bit passionate and inflexible about certain things (for instance, except in very rare cases, I’m a big NO on bottled water). I worry that sometimes my strong opinions will alienate people who don’t necessarily agree with me on things, so I try to tread carefully when discussing topics that can be polarizing.
I guess my biggest fear, though, is that I’ll be unable to present an idea in a way that feels approachable for readers.
Meredith: When is the moment you *know* within that an idea is going to fly. That moment when it feels destined to become…
KRIS: Ha! I’m not sure I ever know if what I’m writing will resonate with people. My “big idea” is the one that I’m still feeding ten years later. When Attainable Sustainable launched, I felt the need to share my knowledge with people who were not lucky enough to grow up with the kind of background I had. I didn’t know if people would embrace it or not. When I started getting questions from readers or comments that the content resonated with them, I realized that there was a need for what I was doing. I’ve learned over the years what my readers are looking for help with and I try to cater to their needs, while still allowing my own voice and experience to come through.
[Thank you, Kris.]