Sustainable Sac: Preppers


There’s being prepared for disasters, and there’s being a prepper. Can either one qualify as sustainable?

First, let us consider preppers, the popular term used to describe people who make preparations for a future catastrophe or emergency by stockpiling food and other supplies. There are gradations and exceptions, of course, but it is not unreasonable to suggest that many preppers stockpile large amounts of water and whatever they deem to be sustenance (beans, grains, jerky, powdered rations, etc.) in large plastic containers, stowed in basements and backyard bunkers.

They might refresh the sustenance every year or so—replace the canned beans with new ones, ditto the beer, and heartily consume all the old stuff. But then again, they might let it go to waste.

A year ago, several weeks after the United States got caught in the clutches of COVID-19, a New Jersey blogger addressed the topic “What Is a Sustainable Prepper?” The writer, who chose anonymity, suggested that “the prepper world” is mired in fantasy.

“It is a lot of zombie-esque situations where you need to shoot your way through people for some reason,” the blogger wrote. “We know that there are plenty of real-life situations that do occur that practical preparation is a better bet than the zombie apocalypse.”

The blogger advocated a different approach to confronting disasters, defining a sustainable prepper as someone “who practices radical self-reliance, who by preparing to take care of themselves during emergencies, then has the time and capacity to take care of others.”

The recent horrors that stemmed from record-low temperatures in Texas, where enormous numbers of residents had no power and/or water for days, are logically linked to climate change, failing infrastructure and questionable politics. And that frightful situation is but one of many examples of how things that are actually happening on our planet—which so far has not hosted a zombie apocalypse—can suddenly turn life into a high-stakes game of survival. Here in Sacramento, flooding is a perpetual concern and earthquakes are not out of the question.

SMUD, the local electricity provider and one that touts its investments in solar energy, has an emergency preparedness planning guide on PG&E, which serves much of the region, also on its website ( addresses emergency preparedness.

Is there any way to prepare in sustainable ways?

You might find (as some people did in Texas) that a camping stove and propane tanks could suddenly come in handy. There’s nothing especially sustainable about that, but here are a few disaster-prep ideas that qualify as “less wasteful”:

  • Repurpose used pasta jars, plastic water bottles and the like as storage containers for tap water.
  • If you have made a list of items to keep in an emergency “go-bag” or some other sort of grab-and-go kit, look around your house for those items (flashlights, bandages, batteries, etc.) before you go out and buy everything new.
  • If storage is limited and you don’t want to convert the attic or build a bunker, perhaps you and your neighbors could team up to create caches of necessities.
  • Keep a close eye on canned foods’ expiration dates, as it’s possible some preppers do.

Yes, preppers again. As tempting as it is to make fun of them, they can add to this conversation. Disasters bring people together, after all.