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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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If We All Lived Sustainably, Could We Change The World?

Our Garden Yesterday


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.)


Ellis (with His New Haircut) Exploring the Garden


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.

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31 comments to If We All Lived Sustainably, Could We Change The World?

  • An excellent post Melinda, very much where we come from too in thoughts and practices.

    I think for the world to change I side with Revkin. Sadly mankind appears to be willing to learn about the consequences from his disposable, consumeristic life by experience……Unfortunately that drags us all into the net too:(

    Blessings:)

  • No, I don’t think your definition of “sustainable” is too broad. In fact, you’ve pretty much described mine. I like it as a description of a lifestyle because it is broad enough to cover a lot of areas. “green,” to me, is just a very small piece of the bigger picture. So is “organic.”

    I’ve mentioned this before, but I also think having employment that is sustainable is important too, both for the environment and for our selves.

    I think there are a lot of people who need a direct experience to motivate change. I’ve been a little sad (but not surprised) about how much people have been motivated by money lately. I wish that more people were motivated by being able to imagine where are we are going to end up if we continue the life styles we have now (as a generalization).

  • To answer your question “if we all lived sustainably could we change the world?” if we all lived sustainably then the world would already be changed.

    The first step is to think about how your choices affect other things, once a person can start considering the world outside their home, shopping cart, etc, they’re already moving in the right direction.

    For me, to sustain means to infuse my existence with things that enrich and enliven, rather than merely keep me breathing. No one who is part of a system which is substantially sick can remain healthy and happy. I wont be a part of that.

    and Kudos for speaking up about being vegetarian as a key component. I know a lot of people might disagree (in fact it got marginally vicious on the Homegrown Evolution blog) but until the agricultural system changes fundamentally, there is no way the public at large could consume meat sustainably. Fix the system and there are still other issues but I won’t get into that.

  • Almost 2 years ago I bought a farm in the Cambrian Mountains of Wales.
    It consists of a huge bowl within a high serpentine valley, whose floor is at about 900 ft, with the mountains’ shoulders to north and south at around 1.400 ft, rising to 2.000 ft within a mile.
    There are about 160 acres within the fences, plus common grazing rights for 800 ewes up on the mountains.

    While we can grow some basic veg & fruit here, we are just too high and too far north (52 degrees N) to do other than to re-develop sustainable livestock production.

    What is more, the idea that animal production is necessarily less sustainable than plant production merely betrays a lack of basic understanding of ecology. Both are essential for a viable (sustainable) ecosystem, and in fact both have a right to thrive within that system.

    For these reasons we are re-establishing the native breeds, being (medieval) Black Welsh Sheep, (Celtic Christian) St Idloes’ sheep, and (pre-roman) Welsh Black Cattle.
    I hope also to re-introduce (Celtic Christian) St Gallen’s Goats from Switzerland, as the native wild ones have sadly been wiped out.

    These choices are not from sentimentality, they are about trying to recover the hardiness, thriftiness and reliable yields of the ancient breeds, whose ancestors grazed these mountains when the bronze age burial mounds were being built.

    That’s about 5,000 years of sustainable agriculture, with a recent blip due to the suicidal ideology of centralization of power via “economic growth”.

    Which brings me to perhaps the main danger of a new “back to the land” movement – that we are deluded into tending our little patches while ignoring the duty to participate in utterly vital global politics of the defence of the global commons.

    In this context, the increasingly destabilized climate is already hitting farming hard worldwide,
    and, since the present state reflects the planet’s temperature over thirty years ago;
    we face decades of greater destabilization before there is much prospect of improvement.

    Whatever we do in sustainable food production,
    in forestry for charcoal-carbon-banking and liquid fuels,
    in energy efficiency and sustainable supply –
    all these are second order activities – necessary but utterly insufficient in themselves to provide the change we need.

    They may demonstrate what can be done, but they do nothing at all to constrain the damage done by other people locally, regionally, and globally.

    For example, producing methanol from sustainable coppice forestry (here God willing, one day)
    will do nothing at all to cut fossil fuel usage as society uses every drop of oil it can get.

    What is needed is rising popular support for a global Treaty of the Atmospheric Commons,
    to match the growing official support among major governments and regional groupings.
    Specifically, the EU Parliament plus German & French Governments, together with India and the African Nations’ Group,
    are calling for such a treaty based on the policy framework of “Contraction & Convergence”.

    Briefly, this is about :

    CONTRACTION
    of global greenhouse gas emissions to respect the Earth’s capacity,

    & CONVERGENCE
    of all nations’ emission rights to per capita parity.

    A full description plus analysis, endorsements etc. can be found at
    http://www.gci.org.uk

    With the best of goodwill, and serious skills and funding,
    and working 70-hour weeks with no days off,
    it seems very obvious here in the mountains that without such a treaty,
    (which has to be both equitable and efficient if it is to be negotiable, durable and effective in cutting airborne GHGs),

    all our efforts at sustainable living would be just straws in the wind,
    and a tragic waste of our opportunity for survival.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  • Hey, I don’t like that game. My greatest impact was my food impact, and that’s eating 5% meat and more of everything else. And no coffee, wine, or beer whatsoever. It said that coffee is one of those things that takes a lot of energy to produce and ship around the world, and yet the fact that I don’t drink coffee made my score jump 1.5 planets? That didn’t make sense to me at all.

    Anyway, I think this is a great article and I still can’t wait to see more posts on the Green Your Insides challenge. I’m searching for tips to get started and am, frankly, floundering helplessly.

  • Robert Firth

    A most thoughtful article, but I fear its premise is unsustainable. We cannot “all” live sustainably. On a whole Earth, perhaps 20% of us could so live; our present much degraded Earth can I fear support barely 10%.

    As to how we get there from here: Nature will do that for us, regardless of our hopes and fears.

  • dooberheim

    I agree with Robert that a large population reduction will be needed to live truly sustainably. Whether that is one billion or three billion depends on several things – technology mainly.

    I have a question though. Has Melinda researched what a toxin really is? She states she does not want them around her, but how can she know if she does not know her enemy?

    The human body has adapted to countless toxins, many in vegetables and fruits (they produce them to be successful). Many modern pesticides are adaptations of natural pesticides that allow the plants that produce them, to live.

    Has she researched what the comparative risk of eating an apple with a higher than allowed level of Alar is, with taking a shower?, With being outside in a lightning storm? With DRIVING? Or working in many professions?

    If not, she has no rational basis to avoid “toxins”. In fact, in a resource poor world, “toxins” might save her life. Consider an intentional community of the future largely cut off from a failing grid. Suppose they had crop insect problems that would destroy 50% of their crops despite their best efforts, and that would perhaps make 20% of them starve by next spring. Suppose they could get some DDT (or similar), that would kill the pests, but might make 0.1% of them get cancer in the next 20 years? What’s the best course of action? Reduce to a more sustainable population or preserve everyone at some small risk?

    My point is, toxins are not necessarily ingredients that you can’t pronounce. That is a very simple minded and dangerous attitude. Only by education (yes, chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, engineering, the hard stuff), and balancing risk vs. benefit, can the best course of action be decided.

    DK

  • LEWIS, I agree that animals should be allowed to thrive in an ecosystem. I do not agree that humans need to eat them in order to thrive. Having said that, we all have our own opinions and ideals about what we put in our bodies – it is a very personal thing. And it seems that both of us have made up our minds, and worked hard to live a sustainable life. So there is really no reason to argue about this. There are more important things for us to do, than to battle among one another!

    I will say that I tried the back-to-lander approach and I found that it didn’t work for us, which is why we have moved to the city. (Please feel free to peruse our archives at Elements In Time: Creating Edible Landscape.) Please do check out the other things that we’re doing with our lives and lifestyles. We are absolutely not “deluded into tending our little patches while ignoring the duty to participate in utterly vital global politics.” But I won’t take your accusation personally. Rather, I will agree that we all need to do more, we all need to think and do at a global level. It is not enough to change our personal selves. But for many people who come here to this blog, they are still at the beginning stages, still learning what is going on, still learning what to do, where to go once they’ve discovered that our world needs fixing.

    As to your specific agenda here, I can only say what I believe, which is that we have to work at many different levels in society: global politics, national politics, local politics, communities, individuals, and all of the systems with which they intertwine. People will not pass a treaty that they do not believe in, and they won’t believe in it unless they understand the issues, and they don’t understand the issues unless it hits home personally, and it doesn’t hit home personally unless it affects them drastically on an emotional, financial, or visceral level, and usually then over time. So much as we want a quick fix, I just don’t believe it will happen. We have to gain momentum as a society while we try to affect policy.

    ROBERT & DOOBERHEIM, Agreed, there is a population problem on this earth. But I prefer to look toward solutions, rather than dwell on the problems. Living sustainably, and helping others to do so, is why I feel I am here on this earth. Some of us do choose not to have children, others choose to have children and show them a sustainable way of life. Together, we are creating change in our personal lives, in our communities, and in our world.

    DOOBERHEIM, For my own experiences with toxins, I will refer you to this post about pesticides, and this post about my lung health. In one story, my cat almost died. In another story, I almost died. I am human, and I share my own personal experiences and research here. You’ve made a lot of assumptions here that I’m just not going to address.

  • Deep Breath. Now…

    MOLLY, Thank you for your comment! It does seem like the majority of people in this world do change as Revkin suggests. But some of us are changing now – what makes us different? And how to we replicate our own reactions? That is the trillion dollar question, isn’t it?

    DEB G, Interesting… I never thought about the definition of “green”! So funny, and so tragic, considering I named a blog using the term! I guess to me green is synonymous with sustainable…

    I completely agree that employment must be sustainable – and I remember us discussing it together before! (Somewhere?) I’ll ask you the same question I asked Molly: Since we are changing without a drastic experience, what makes us different? How do we replicate that??

    KORY, LOL, you’re right. “To sustain means to infuse my existence with things that enrich and enliven.” I like that very much.

    I was wondering if the vegetarian aspect was going to cause an argument, and I see it has (above)… I don’t preach about it, but personally I believe that it is the most sustainable option for me. But it is one of many, many things I’m doing to live more sustainably. (And I do know a few meat eaters who eat pretty darn sustainably, too.)

    Greene Onion, Thanks! It’s good to hear. ;)

  • I welcome new comments! Especially ones that do not make assumptions and do not attack me, of course. ; )

  • Hi Melinda,

    She who must be obeyed, Mother Nature, has always been in control, though we have all been living an illusion of affluence and security, but for just a speck in all of human history, known as the oil age. Much of human history was just trying to survive, and so it will be again, we exhausted Mother Nature’s one time endowment of old solar energy.

    We cannot sustain the earth’s large population, as we are being fed and warmed by the sun’s energy stored in fossil fuels that are on the wane, so too is the human population and most of us. Mother Nature does not discriminate on the basis of wealth and national power. And I know it will happen sooner than most realize.

    We are on a Titanic, so invincible it seems, but yet so vulnerable in reality. Illusion and reality, sustainable and unsustainable, life and death, for many, and for us too in the so called developed world.

    I am saddened, and try to alert people — with a free 48 page report that can be downloaded, website posted, distributed, and emailed: http://www.peakoilassociates.com/POAnalysis.html

    What do I see, I will be specific — reality, not illusion.

    According to energy investment banker Matthew Simmons and most independent analysts, global oil production is now declining, from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time demand will increase 14%.

    This is equivalent to a 33% drop in 7 years. No one can reverse this trend, nor can we conserve our way out of this catastrophe. Because the demand for oil is so high, it will always be higher than production; thus the depletion rate will continue until all recoverable oil is extracted.

    Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment.

    We will experience the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel trucks for maintenance of bridges, cleaning culverts to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables, all from far away. With the highways out, there will be no food coming in from “outside,” and without the power grid virtually nothing works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated systems.

    But I am a survivor and think of me and my family first. My wife and I and some of the family members have made it to one of the lifeboats. We relocated to a sustainable place. There’s lots of room here if anyone wants to try to make it to safety.

    I used to live in NH-USA, but moved to a sustainable place. Anyone interested in relocating to a nice, pretty, sustainable area with a good climate and good soil? Email: clifford dot wirth at yahoo dot com or give me a phone call which operates here as my old USA-NH number 603-668-4207.

    We hope to see you here, this lifeboat has a nice feel to it. We are happy here. Hugs, Cliff and Cristi

  • Shane

    I am not sure “sustainable” is as useful a concept as we have been encouraged to believe. Nothing in existence is static or unchanging. Everything has its time and then dies away. So I think the real goal isnt “sustainability” but rather the kind of progress that leads to more progress, and so on. And by progress I don’t necessarily mean technology and consumerism, but they might be part of the process.

    One thing will lead to another, mistakes will be made and dealt with.

    It’s life, it’s evolution, it’s destiny.

  • Oh wow. I tried that game and my family’s sustainability is almost 5. We travel a lot which is where a lot of it comes from which really sucks…

    Anywho, I don’t think your definition is too broad at all. I think sustainability needs to take into consideration every aspect of your life.

    And to answer your question, if everyone in the world tried to live sustainable life style we could certainly change the world. With the amount of people on the planet though, I think we’d eventually run out of resources. Even trying our hardest, I don’t think the planet could support the Earth’s population. That’s just my feelings on that. I’m not an expert so I good be very wrong.

    As for what my family is doing…

    My mom is currently working towards making our house more energy efficient.

    I’m working on doing more recycling. My goal is to have nearly 100% of our paper, plastics, glass, and aluminum be recyclable. Most of what we buy is recyclable… we just need to recycle it all. What we can’t recycle we need to switch to brands that are. All organic waste I plan on putting in the compost pile, and we can buy all our meat and dairy/egg products locally and organically so move towards not buying more of that than we’ll eat. My goal is to have the whole family doing all that by the end of December. I doubt I get my brother and sister completely in on that but it should improve things quite a lot.

  • Melinda,

    I think “One Green Generation” still works quite well. :) I just think there are some choices that I might make that wouldn’t be the greenest choice, but are the most sustainable choice for me. So, for me, they aren’t quite the same thing.

    I still think that what makes a difference in why some people are motivated to live sustainable lives without having to have a crisis is the ability to imagine without having to actually experience, the willingness to be different from the crowd, and information. Especially after talking to a friend tonight. I was telling her that I was trying to remember exactly when I became interested in being sustainable with my life and she told me I’ve been that way for as long as she’s known me (she’s known me over 20 years!). She thinks it was the way I was raised.

    Maybe too, it’s the ability to see how small choices, individual action, might fit into a larger picture. I’ll be thinking about this some more.

  • STEPHANIE, I wonder if there is a bug in the program – weird. Drinking coffee certainly made my score jump from 0.7 planets to 1.1! Someday, I will grow my own coffee!! Or at least support a local coffee farm. I’ve researched it – coffee really can be grown here.

    Anyway, at your urging, I spent a long time yesterday compiling a Green Your Insides post! Please let me know specifically what you’re interested in learning and changing!!

    CLIFFORD, We are vulnerable, I agree. I believe we are vulnerable not only because of peak oil, but also climate change (our impact on nature). And we, too, chose a sustainable and adaptable area in which to live, and we are working on making it more so.

    The more we can do now – rather than when catastrophes hit – the more likely we will have a positive impact (or at least a less negative one) on our climate. And by “do” I mean live a personal sustainable life, build our communities, work to change our public policies, and work to change our world policies.

    SHANE, I think sustainability by its very nature encompasses adaptability, so I agree that it is not static – interesting point.

    ARADIA, Several of you have mentioned the population problem. It’s interesting, and a good reminder for me. Do you think that if people began living sustainably, they may see that problem as well? In our country, that awareness does seem to go hand in hand with education. In a few European countries, the population is remaining pretty steady – I wonder what that magic ingredient is.

    I love that you have your family on a recycling/waste plan! That’s great!

    DEB G, Phew! : ) Glad the title still works!

    So imagination is the key… how do we infuse the world with the ability to imagine, then? Actually, I guess I agree with you. I’ve always felt that empathy was the key, which is pretty much the same thing: the ability to imagine someone else’s suffering. Let’s both think about it some more!!

    Maybe we’ll come up with something….

  • Great discussion – please continue to comment!

  • Great post! You are an inspiration. And, by the way, getting folks who react strongly to your posts is an indication that you’re stirring the pot and getting people to think, which is the point of having a blog. So good job! I know how hard it is to receive comments from folks who obviously have an agenda or are in attack mode, and I think you handled it all with grace ;)

  • Melinda,

    Your post and the comments that it prompted are all thought provoking, action inducing, statements to embrace. A devil’s advocate is necessary to recognize issues before they arise. Motivating people to find a solution, thus avoiding the problem all together. Great stuff!

  • [...] in the future. I believe we must work to make our communities more resilient, more adaptable, and more sustainable. But how do we do it??!! That’s the real question, isn’t [...]

  • That game was GREAT!!!! I was doing good–less than one Earth… until I got to transportation and by the end I was up to 5 EARTHS!!! Wow–very eye opening!

  • Bobbi

    Your passion is inspiring. I think your broad definition of sustainable is spot on. But it is daunting to think about all the areas of my life that need work. I realize I can’t tackle it all at once if I want to see progress. Good post.

  • Thank you Julie & Green Sheep, for your support – very appreciated!

    Shawna, I’m glad you found it eyeopening – it certainly made me think twice about my food intake. I was at .7 planets & feeling good, until the food page. Sheesh – you mean despite my eating a good percentage of my food from local sources and growing some of it too, I still have to work more on it??! And they’re totally right. I do.

    Bobbi, You made me smile. Thank you. And definitely, these changes have taken me years, and I’m not finished. Go as quickly as you can while still making those changes sustainable, and having fun too!

  • Okay, so I scored an 8.4. I’m guessing most of your just choked on your salad. I really got nailed for the transportation which is something I can’t do a whole lot about. We have six kids still at home and they play sports which means a lot of driving. I am not going to tell my three boys they can’t play football or hockey so we can be greener. We sacrifice where we can such as I sit in parking lots for several hours rather than run back and forth. Flying got us, too. It’s a five hour flight to just get to Seattle never mind some place warm. I may have misunderstood the who fuel/electricity thing, but our electric bill is $400 per month and I’m sure the fuel will be $1000 per month this winter. I am hanging the clothes on the line which is a lot of work with 8 of us, but I’m sure it will help that electric bill go down. I don’t know…I want the world to be a good one for my children. There are somethings we do to ensure that, there are some things that I don’t want to change (such as moving into town…I want to raise my kids in the country) and there is a whole lot more we could do differently and I will work on that. “Being Green” is a great concept, but not a quick concept to fashion your life around. If anything the game got me thinking of the things we can do rather than worry about the things I can’t do. (Oh, and we didn’t do so well with food. We are meat eaters. I grew up on moose and caribou, and I love meat. Organic is not something I buy…the price is too high. We would never be able to afford it).

  • GAYLE, Being green and living sustainably is a lifelong process. We do what we can, and we slowly but steadily push ourselves to to more. You won’t find green police here – but you will find suggestions, and a place to ask questions, and hopefully you’ll learn and grow here and in the rest of your life, slowly but steadily. I’m extremely impressed that you hang your clothes on the line – good for you! And also great that you sit and wait for the boys rather than drive back and forth.

    We’re doing all of this for our children, right? And grandchildren, too. They need a planet, and they need to be nurtured. There is a balance. It sounds like you’re taking steps to find that balance. You might find “Redefining Normal” an interesting read, if you haven’t read it yet.

    Suggestions I have… maybe look into carpooling with another mom for some of the games. Also, seek sustainably-raised meats – not only is it better for the environment, but it is much better for your family’s health. Yes, it is more expensive. But yes, it is worth your health and the environment. You might start out with one meal a week this way. Organic, also, is important for your family’s health. But here is the thing: you live in the country, where you must have land. What a great thing to do with children: plant an organic garden. Please look here for more inspiration. It’s much cheaper, more nutritious, and more fun to grow your own.

    Redefine normal just a little bit one day, and the next day it gets easier.

  • [...] lately a new group has formed. Last month I wrote “If We All Lived Sustainably, Could We Change The World?” for the first APLS carnival. If you haven’t encountered the APLS site, APLS stands for [...]

  • [...] there, we gave ourselves the freedom to move to a sustainable city, surrounded by family and people who care about the issues we hold dear. Matt decided to go to [...]

  • Dan Conine

    A pretty good post. I think we must truly look at what’s sustainable in the natural world first. How does one species survive for millions of years while others pop in and die out in hundreds or thousands?
    I think the answer is what I call “net usefulness”. What we consume or produce for ourselves is not important in the very long run. What determines our usefulness is what we leave for the next generation. If we consume more than we create for the future of either our species or the symbiotic Earth, then we will go extinct eventually. Pollution is another form of consumption of resources.
    Sustainability implies some kind of stable measuring stick, such as our environment, but nature isn’t stable. It is random. We can’t just barely survive and be sustainable. We have to be useful to our future selves over and above the minimum. When random difficulties face us, we must have some reserve ‘usefulness’ to spend to get through those times. That’s the “net” in “net usefulness”. A species must produce more future usefulness than it consumes in resources, or it will go extinct.
    We can’t just think “live sustainably”, because that is still thinking in terms of our selfish present state of being. To be Net Useful, we have to change the flow of our actions from gratification in the human world to usefulness in the natural world. We have to stop thinking of the real physical world as a resource that feeds our imaginary “progress”, and start thinking of ourselves as being in service and respectful to the earth, air and water that we need.
    We are not a manufactured “product” of some higher power, but instead, we are amazingly complicated fruit of the labors of nature against randomness. We can imagine all kinds of self-aggrandized “purposes” for humans, but we have to stop separating ourselves from the sources of our life.
    Living sustainably is just not enough in the long run. We have to work for those creatures and resources below us, not those who claim to be ‘above’ us and nature.

  • Jay

    Sustainability is many things. Energy, water, food, etc. If we all make do with just a little bit less, the better it is for everyone, everywhere. Yet it can be difficult to make even those little sacrifices in a culture that is built on accumulating everything.

  • this is a brilliant website, it gives you a clear understanding of living sustainibly and a heap of ideas, everyone should try it.

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