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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Live the Lifestyle You Want to Live, and Live it Sustainably

The following is a post I wrote for the co-op recently – I posted it late, so it wasn’t read by many.  Because it is a natural progression from my recent post here, I thought you all might enjoy it…

Ellis Exploring the Roof Garden

Last month I wrote about finding your own version of sustainability. Everyone is different, and for that reason, there is no ONE way to live sustainably. From the comments, I gathered that some readers felt I was somehow letting everyone off the hook, that we didn’t all need to live sustainably but we just had to live happily. However, that is far from what I meant. I believe we can, each of us, live the lives and lifestyles that we want to live – and live them sustainably.

In other words, if I am most comfortable in a city, I don’t need to move back to the land to live sustainably. If you hate the chaos of the city, you can find a lifestyle in the country that is sustainable. If I want to fit into society – and not be thought of as someone outside of society – I can find a way to do that sustainably.

If I don’t have time to knit or sew, I don’t necessarily have to make time to do those things – as long as I buy clothing and household items that are sustainably made (and only when I truly need them). If I don’t like gardening, or if I’m not good at it, I don’t have to live in the country and tend a huge garden. Instead, I can live in the city and purchase local, organic foods at the farmer’s market or through a CSA. Often this makes food and clothing more sustainable, because fewer resources are used when things are made and/or grown in bulk. This is not true across the board, of course – no matter what you do, you have to do it conscientiously in order to remain sustainable. But you don’t have to do everything yourself in order to live sustainably.

Why don’t I do everything myself? I grow some food in a community garden and work with my mother on a second urban garden, but I no longer have a 2,000 foot garden in the country. I don’t knit or sew, and I don’t always make my own food at home. You can do all of those things and live sustainably and happily. But you don’t have to. And in order to do all of the work I do to make the world a better place, I cannot manage a large garden, sew, knit, cook all of my own meals, preserve foods, make my own soaps, and many other things.

I live a professional lifestyle, and at the same time I consume 90% less energy than the average American. I live a pretty darn sustainable lifestyle.

It is a choice. And I have chosen to do as much as I can at home, and to utilize my surrounding community to help me do the rest to live sustainably. And I do that in order to have a job that helps me reach a lot of people and create world change. Ultimately, I have a larger impact on the world.

I can do things in the city that I could not do in the country, and I have access to people and resources I did not have access to in the country. For these reasons, I can do more world changing things here.

Plus I have a small, energy efficient home here – built with green materials, and sharing energy and resources with other people in my building. I can walk or take public transportation nearly everywhere I need to go. I can find used designer clothing and nice furniture in local thrift and antique stores, I can walk across the street to the farmer’s market and across another street to a green grocery store. For these reasons and many more, I am able to live the lifestyle that I enjoy living, and make the changes I want to make in the world – all while living sustainably.

So I encourage you to live the lifestyle you want to live and make it sustainable. Only you are you, so don’t let others sway you into living a lifestyle you don’t enjoy. Life your life, and make it sustainable.

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7 comments to Live the Lifestyle You Want to Live, and Live it Sustainably

  • ahh, nice. no, we dont have to do everything. thanks for the reminder.

  • Great post…….certainly glad I don’t have to take up knitting again! Tweeted you out there locally.

  • katecontinued

    That just makes good sense, Melinda. I do want to raise one aspect you didn’t capture here. That is the notion of life span. Having gone through many different chapters, I now value some of the skills I learned many years ago even though didn’t use them or have the faintest interest in them for a couple of decades. Among these were sewing, bread making, yogurt making and bike riding. I suspect I may bump into a few more before I die. I think our needs and our perspective changes enough in a lifetime that we can benefit from long view planning. It is good to venture out of our comfort zones and take on learning some basic subsistence skills – just because. It doesn’t mean we have to live them or promote them as the only way of being. It simply makes us more resilient and appreciative of those who have mastered skills we barely think about in modern life.

    I whole heartedly agree that the setting where we choose to make our life speak is of little importance. All of us are needed wherever and however we are doing this.

  • …plus, isn’t it nice to know you can rely on yourself? It really gives you a sense of worth. These skills need to be shared, taught, encouraged in so many others.

  • I know I am often a foil here, but I live sustainably so I can rely on myself instead of a bloated govermnent to provide for my family and get ahead in a free-market economy.

  • nice post as always.

    I’m a firm believer in the notion of having as vast an array of experiences as possible. Learn to fix it, grow it, or bake it, and if you decide to have someone else do it for you later, you’ll be a more educated consumer. And you’ll know that in a pinch, or on a special occasion, you can just replace that tire or sink yourself, or bake a loaf when you really want it. You restore the notion of choice in your life. The first step in living sustainably is to live mindful of how many choices you make each day.

    Icculus, its funny how you and I could look at the same situation (the state of affairs in the world today) and come to two different conclusions about its root cause. The wonders of the human mind I suppose.

  • [...] We’re still working on finding ways to be more sustainable with less time.  In some ways that is the antithesis of the simple living movement.  But it’s important for us to live our lives as we want to live them, and live them sustainably. [...]

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