I believe we could.
The idea of sustainability is extremely important to this site and what we discuss here, so here’s my take on it…
What Is Sustainability?
The word comes from sustain, as in to support, hold, or bear, to supply with food, drink, and other necessities of life, to endure without yielding, and at the most basic level, to keep in existence (perpetuate).
So to be sustainable is to be able to support, endure, perpetuate, and to supply the necessities of life. Sustainability is the act of supporting, enduring, perpetuating, and supplying the necessities of life.
Why Live Sustainably?
Right now and throughout our lifetime, the reasons to live sustainably involve climate change, energy costs and problems of supply, personal happiness and contentedness, species extinction, disastrous environmental destruction, our family’s health and safety, adaptability (to awful direct experiences like the ones to which Revkin refers below), karma if you believe in it, food and water supply issues, waste, social problems like homelessness and a working wage, … The reasons are many, and I’m sure you all could add several more here (feel free to do so in the comments).
The reasons are many, but the lifestyle is the same. Sustainability is by its very nature a system that heals itself, perpetuates itself, supports itself. If we all lived sustainably, we would be a part of a positive-feedback system. The state of the world and our future would change immensely.
The other day Andrew Revkin wrote, “Only direct experience seems to trigger change.” By that he meant disasters, deaths, destruction, home loss, looming gas prices, … imminent experiences that make you change your lifestyle right now because you have no other choice. I have no other way of saying this other than that really sucks. Let’s prove him wrong. Let’s change our lifestyles before things get awful. Now.
Here’s a little game you can play from American Public Media, to find out how sustainably you’re living. It’s not perfect – they never are! – but maybe it will help give you an indication of what areas to focus on as you work to live more sustainably. (My score was 1.1, for what it’s worth.)
What Does Sustainability Mean To Me?
I hope I don’t come across too strongly here, but it means everything to me. With big and small decisions in my life, I always try to think about sustainability. And a lot of this has to do with questioning myself before I make a decision, and working to find a perfect balance in life.
Sustainable Relationships. Without them, I am not as functional and effective. I need to be loved, I need to love, I need to have a shoulder to cry on, a pet to make a funny face at me, a friend to drag me to the farmer’s market when I just don’t want to go, groups of friends to help me relax and enjoy life, readers to push me harder and help me learn and grow, husband to support me in numerous ways. Sustainable family and work relationships, sustainable friendships, and most important for me, a sustainable marriage.
Sustainable Food. As most of you know, we have worked hard to grow a lot of our own food. Last year, it was somewhere around 75% of our total food. This year, we don’t have that giant garden so we’ve had to find local food at the farmer’s market and in grocery stores. It’s more difficult, sure, but doable. I go back and forth about whether local or organic is more sustainable, but I purchase local organic food whenever possible. Biodynamic methods are also sustainable. Here’s a good resource for more information.
Finally, I believe that the most sustainable food of all is a vegetarian diet composed mostly of organic fruits and vegetables grown from seed in the garden, supplemented with some milk and eggs from a couple of backyard animals. That is our goal as a family.
Sustainable Products. There are a lot of products in our lives, from cleaning products to dishes and kitchen supplies, to furniture and books and vehicles and appliances and … oh boy, the list goes on and on. It’s a lot to think about.
Essentially, I stated my mantra in an article last week: Don’t buy things that will hurt you. Don’t buy things that will hurt others. Don’t buy things that will hurt the planet. And don’t buy things that will set you back financially unless it helps you, others, or the planet. I have researched and researched to find products that are safe for us, safe for the environment, and safe for our budget. It’s not easy and it takes more time to find sustainable products, but it is worth it and it is necessary.
Sustainable Body. I exercise regularly, by walking to and from the grocery store, the library, and most everywhere else I need to go. Places that used to seem too far to walk now seem a normal walking distance. My phone has a pedometer on it, and so far in Seattle I have averaged 1.3 miles/day on foot (some days I don’t walk at all, while others I walk quite a lot). We are also lucky to have medical insurance through Matt’s work, so I have annual check-ups and keep in top maintenance health. I also take some supplemental vitamins and I eat three to four small, well-balanced meals per day. And I avoid putting toxins in my body, on my body, or around my body.
Sustainable City & Community. We researched long and hard about where we were going to move, once we decided Geyserville was not sustainable for us. If you are planning to move in the future, please research as we did! I feel very good about our choice – it is exactly the right (sustainable) place for this point in our lives. And now that we are here, we are working to support our local infrastructure, and help make our community more sustainable.
Sustainable Change. On a personal level, sustainable change is deliberate change made slowly but steadily over time. On a larger level, I’ve been studying how to create sustained change in our communities and in our society as a whole.
Sustainable Lifestyle. Our lifestyle encompasses all of these things and more. I have to enjoy my living space in order to be productive, and so that is a part of a sustainable life. A sustainable budget is a necessity. I have to breathe clean air, drink clean water. I am constantly aware of the importance of a sustainable planet, full of sustainable systems including sustainable agriculture and urban planning, so I support those every chance I get (even if I can only do that with Armchair Activism).
And in the midst of it all, it is important to me to sustain my sanity, have fun, and be happy.
I’m not perfect by any means. I’m still learning. I’m still taking new steps. I wish I made more of my own cleaning products, I wish I made clothing, I wish I rode my bike more, I wish I had a bigger garden, I wish we didn’t live in an apartment with white linoleum in the kitchen (!), I wish sometimes I wasn’t so tired that I throw a frozen pizza in the oven (organic but not local), I wish we could afford to put up solar panels or a windmill, and I wish we had a yard to keep a couple of ducks and chickens and goats. But I do the best I can, without becoming overwhelmed, and I’ve come a long way. Even when I look back at our lives just a year ago, that is clear.
What Does Sustainability Mean To You?
Do you think about this often? Is my definition too broad? What sorts of sustainable changes are you making in your lifestyle? If we all began living a sustainable lifestyle, would this solve our biggest problems? Could we change the state of the world?
To see what other bloggers are writing about sustainability, please visit the APLS Carnival on August 15th at Better Living.