A resource for sustainable living in today’s world
What Does it Mean to Live Sustainably?
For those who live in the United States or any other “developed” country, living sustainably is an uphill battle, one that often feels like you’re fighting armed corporate drones with a butter knife. Those on the path of sustainable living are no strangers to guilt. One trip to the grocery store can leave you feeling like you’ve sold part of your soul to the gods of convenience.
Guilt pricks our conscience in order to spur us into right action, realigning us with our integrity. Refusing to take right action or maintaining the status quo will eventually numb our conscience, or lead to a state of learned hopelessness, both of which can have detrimental effects on our emotional wellbeing. But what does one do when the systems that support and meet our basic physiological needs become the very thing we need to overcome in order to live in right relationship with the environment and ourselves? I put together a basic list of what someone who is just starting out on the sustainable path can do.
1. Take it one step at a time.
It’s not that our situation isn’t dire, but insisting that you do more than you actually can at this time won’t help you live more sustainably. If you can do more than one thing – great. If not, no judgement. Just choose one thing you can do, and find a way to do it 100% of the time. Build it into your routine. Tell your kids to do it too. Tell others why you are doing what you are doing. When it becomes an actual habit, add one more thing you will do (or not do) 100% of the time. Keep building. Ideas: Switch to re-usable water bottles, avoid single use plastic, bring your own bags to the grocery store, only use re-usable straws, etc…
2. It’s not supposed to be convenient.
If the one thing you chose to do (see above) is taking up more of your time than expected, or causing disruption to your schedule, then you’re likely doing it right. We were never supposed to create conveniences at the expense of nature. Don’t worry, it gets easier.
3. Stay on top of the issues.
Figure out a way to stay up to date on environmental issues in your state and county. The best way is to follow local and state environmental/nature conservation organizations on Facebook or sign up for their newsletters. Do not rely on evening or mainstream news (they miss a lot). And for the love of all that is green on Earth, avoid talk show pundits. Find reputable sources who are not funded by corporations. For more information, visit the Resources page.
4. Join a local environmental organization.
Joining a local campaign or group will help you stay up to date on the issues, help you fell less alone on this journey, and is a great way to learn about other ways to live more sustainably.
Know how your representatives vote in regards to environmental issues and vote them in or out accordingly.
The Deeper Meaning of Sustainability: Relationship
Environmental naysayers are those who like to remind us that “it’s too late to do anything”, or my favorite, “one person can’t possibly make a difference, so why try.” There are reputable articles justifying the naysayers and still others that refute their doomsday opinions. A few things we can all agree on is that human behavior has caused the increased rate of change happening in the Earth today, and these changes are already negatively impacting communities around the world.
Humanity’s potential extinction aside, there is another reason to live sustainably: relationship. All humans have a relationship with Nature and the Earth. It may be conscious or one based in ignorance. I have had the privilege of having both, and can say from experience that having a conscious relationship with Earth and Nature equals, and at times rivals, relationships with humans. Nature is conscious. Earth is conscious. We were meant to be in a conscious relationship with one another. Yes, we were not taught this in school (or church, mosque, temple…). But, our ancestors knew all about this kind of relationship. How else could they have survived without grocery stores, cars, and smart phones? The beauty of relationship is created with time, energy, and heart. Nature and Earth have always invested in us. Your body and all that sustains you is proof of this. I hope the relationship you have with Earth and Nature is deeper than recycling, or engaging in sustainable practices just for the sake of our species’ survival (admittedly a good reason). If not, I hope you will stay open to the possibility.
Dr. Jane Goodall’s Advice for Getting Others to Care
About the Environment