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Did I fall off the sustainability wagon?

 
Three years ago I realized I needed to spend some time focused on my health and well-being. I declared that I would spend a “Year about me.” That turned into Year Two, and then ultimately three total years “about me.” Yes, it took a little longer than I expected.

A brief look back

For those new to this blog, the brief backstory is this: in 2007, my husband and I left Los Angeles (my home of 10 years) and moved to the outskirts of a town of 1,600 people in Northern California wine country. For a year, we essentially lived off the land.

We turned a barren, over-tilled backyard into a 2000 square foot garden. Every day we had fresh food from the garden, fresh bread from our own starter, fresh cheese we made from local cows milk, and fresh wine from a local organic vineyard.

We also worked to reduce our carbon footprint to just 10% of the American average.

And I blogged about it all.

It was beautiful.

But the recession hit, our rescued cat almost died from pesticides (a canary in a coal mine), I couldn’t find a local job, and we depleted our savings.

We tried back to the land, but it wasn’t right for us, at least not at that time in our lives.

So we moved back to Seattle, my original home, to live sustainably in an urban center. We became involved in our local community, we gardened in a community garden plot, we walked or took the bus everywhere, we made new lifestyle changes.

I started a business that was going to change the world. Matt started a new career path.

And shortly after we moved, the meaning of sustainability changed for me. I realized I was working so hard to “save the planet”, that my body and mind were suffering – for the long, hard work weeks of a startup, plus blogging every day, plus all the volunteer work I was doing.

Thus the year about me began.

Where I am now

Over the last few years, I’ve hinted at some changes. We went on a juice cleanse. And another. I started meditating and doing yoga, and having regular medical massage sessions. I stopped eating gluten.

Daily pains I thought were a way of life are now gone. I lost 10 lbs. and 4 pant sizes (from inflammation loss). I’m doing really great work that I love.

The positive changes

  1. Reduced medications. A reduction my meds means less medications being produced for me, less medications ending up in the waste stream, and probably increased longevity.
  2. Reduced driving. I drive maybe once a week, for an average of 5 miles or so.
  3. I shop locally. More often than I did before. Last year I didn’t make all my Christmas presents, but I did buy them all within a 5 mile radius.
  4. Reduced home/work carbon footprint. I worked within walking distance, and now I work from home. In an apartment. Where our footprint is lower than a house.
  5. Fewer medical visits. My primary doctor is a naturopath, who looks at my body holistically. Often what the American medical system thinks is a big deal, for a naturopath it’s about rebalancing your body (more on that later).
  6. Community impact. I’m now on the boards of two non-profit organizations. One is our local community gardening trust, which I’m leading into a new era of supporting gardens and urban farms throughout the northwest (not just in our own city).
  7. I’m truly amplifying my impact through my work. I am empowering some great organizations and businesses to do more of their work, better.

The less “good”

  1. I travel a lot for work. I recently started offsetting my carbon. And I do a lot of work remotely with great online tools. And I travel with a reusable coffee cup, water bottle and bag. But I still travel.
  2. I don’t worry as much about my waste. We eat packaged food quite a bit. Still organic, often local, almost always recycled but nonetheless packaged. I just don’t have time with work and the other things I’m doing.
  3. I’m not writing as much, which means I’m not amplifying my impact in that way so much. Working on that now!
  4. I buy new clothes. Until recently (after the Bangladesh disasters), I hadn’t looked too much at the supply chains of the clothing I bought. Now I do… some. That’s one to work on together.
  5. I’m not gardening as much. I still have my garden but I’m not an ideal gardener. My garden has weeds, I don’t nurture it the way a good gardener would.
  6. I went back to some products. I still make my own deodorant. A little different from that recipe – I’ll have to post it. But I use packaged shampoo (SLS-free), soap, other cleaning products (natural, organic, local when possible).
  7. I buy from Amazon. It’s technically local – I can see the Amazon HQ from my living room – but it’s hardly really supporting my local economy. I can do better.

So, did I fall off the wagon?

I’m not sure if I’m less or more sustainable than I was 3 years ago. Less in some ways, more in others. I do, however, know that I’m happier and healthier than I’ve been in a very long time.

And that personal sustainability means I’m more productive in the socially and environmentally good work I do in my day job, and I spread that positivity into the world as I go about my life.

There is always room for improvement. I could use a little help from you all to keep me on track for those improvements. So here we are.

Let’s get back on the path to sustainability together. I missed you all!

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7 comments to Did I fall off the sustainability wagon?

  • Thanks, Robbie! Good to see you too.

  • I’ve missed you, welcome back! So glad to hear about your improved health too. Your post has me thinking about where I’ve succeeded and what I am still working on when I think about sustainability as a lifestyle. I’m thinking about resilience a lot these days too.

    • Missed you too, Deb! Glad to be back. :)

      Love your comment, too – I think it’s important to reflect on that every once in a while – in part because our definitions of sustainability change.

  • First time visitor to your blog, and you touched on something I feel guilt over. Shopping on Amazon! The convenience and the low prices dissuade me too often from buying locally for some staple items, yet I still lament when local shops close.

  • So glad to see you’re back! I have missed your voice over the past couple of years but am very glad to see that you have taken the time and space to take care of yourself! It’s all baby steps, really. We do our best to affect change but we can’t change anything effectively if we are harming ourselves in the process! I look forward to hearing more about your journey and where you will go from here :-)

  • Rob

    I do not think you fell off anything. You took time to take care of yourself and that is #1 in my outlook on sustainability. You have and still are an inspiration to many

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