Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Does Living Sustainably Mean to You?

So, the APLS community is hunkering down and thinking about what it means to live sustainably (and you can, too, if you post before tomorrow). As a concept, living sustainably -- for me -- boils down to living in concert with my beliefs as much as I can, and giving myself a pass for the egregious infractions of my ideals that occur daily. You see, I do think that I ought to strive to live my life more simply, more in tune with the needs of the entire world's population, present and forthcoming, in balance with the planet. But I also know that to create any lasting change in my ownself, I need to relax and allow myself to make mistakes. I can only improve myself by changing one habit at a time.

That's really what sustainability means to me: figuring out how to do something small in my life (yes! Tiny Choices!), and to do it with fewer resources, more effectively, and more consciously. I recognize that I am very focused on personal change; note that I do also think that to live sustainably, it's important to be politically aware enough to share my views with elected officials and to vote in accordance with my beliefs. But the thing I can control the most? My actions and my attitude.

So that's my take on sustainability: trying to push myself as hard as I possibly can for as long as it takes to change my habits, and letting the rest sliiiiiide. As one of my eco-heroes said about feeding her kids non-local GMO craptastic snack food, and I quote, "Even if they were made from a combination of baby seals and methane gas, you would ALWAYS find Cheez-Its and Goldfish crackers in our cupboard." That's my kind of sustainable. Find the things you can change, that you can live with, and run with 'em. As for the rest? Know your choices, educate yourself so that you can embrace your inner seal-beater, and realize that we're all a shade less perfect than Mother Theresa.

Heck, speaking of perfection, forget Mother Theresa. I keep thinking about Yvon Chouinard, who, when offered a swag bag at an awards ceremony, demurred by saying, "I have everything I need right here." All I'm saying is that when I picked up my DC Metro Moms booty from BlogHer, I realized the core of my poser eco-self is this: I like stuff just as much as the next gal. Especially free stuff that I can give away to my friends! Just like if I'm at a party, I like to toss back a frosty cocktail or eat something horrendously unhealthy that I would never allow into my house. Velveeta queso, anyone? Hey, even in Little House on the Prairie, they got sticks of candy once a year.

All this imperfection is A-ok with me. I think it helps me to tip the balance in favor of simple living. 'Cause although I do love me some Rice Krispy holiday cookies in hues never found in the natural world, I
do, in fact, want them to be scarce. I really do love the whole wheat, honey-sweetened lifestyle, and I want to hang onto it for the long haul.

14 comments:

Burbanmom said...

Not Nellie and Willie. They got candy sticks any time they wanted 'em.

Bastards.

Bobbi said...

Great post!

Gray Matters said...

Loved this so much! There are times when I feel discouraged because I can't keep up with the "green" world, but then I realize I am human and the me of today really kicks the me of 5 years ago's butt! Thanks for your words.

MamaBird said...

Burbs, burbs, you had me at the baby seals.

Gray Matters - in some ways, I think that realizing others are on top of their green sh*t is helpful, as in, I am motivated to walk by all the retired people hauling their groceries home on their backs in our little neighborhood. But in another way, it's something that gets seized on, like AHA! You aren't 100% there. Well, who cares? Who's 100% of anything? Embracing my flawed self and not hiding my complexity gives me room to be imperfect and *still* embrace my values without feeling discouraged. With help from folks like you! Kiss that baby's cheeks for me!

eco 'burban mom said...

Oh, I agree totally. My post for the carnival topic was similar. I can't deny my boys every thing they want, but compromise is key. Yes, you can have a new iPod for Christmas, but we thrift shop for clothing, find used hockey skates on Craigslist and repair or reuse as much as we can. If you beat yourself up for every small thing, you won't have the energy or happiness to keep taking small steps.

Oh, and yes, I will eat the Velveeta queso at the BBQ and love it too. Everything in moderation! ;o)

Green Bean said...

Nicely put. I do think sustainability is all about balance - about not killing yourself but finding a place where you live lighter, embrace the natural beauty of life and are happy. I did the Riot 4 Austerity for a while. Once we hit about 30% (average) of the typical America's usage, I stopped. Why? Because at 30%, there are the occasional treats. The slides, the things that maybe aren't so great. But it feels good here. I can sustain 30%. Dropping another 20% would be painful, difficult to maintain, not sustainable.

Enjoy those multi-hued rice cripsie treats on the rare occasions that you have them.

Green Resolutions said...

I totally agree. As someone just becoming eco-aware, the guilt can consume. I think it is important to let go of the guilt and focus on the changes that make the most sense for my family at this time.

Trace Terri said...

You are so right about balance. After all we are here to enjoy our lives and hopefully create a better world for our grandchildren. So go out and get your hands in the soil and plant seeds. You will find happiness being so close to Mother Earth. After all, if you look down the soil is right under your feet while heaven still seems many miles away up in the sky.

Stacy (mama-om) said...

I think the main thing for me is to remember to take actions that stem from my heart (rather than from a sense of following the rules)... And yes, this means imperfection, but it also means gentleness with that imperfection....

All what you already said.

And burbanmom, OMG, your comment cracked me up!

Nora Bee said...

Seriously. Laura and Mary loved those annual candies. Thanks for being kind to yourself.

greeen sheeep said...

I agree. If you get too caught up in the failures you will never succeed. Small successes really do make a difference!

Julie Artz said...

What is it with women and guilt? We guilt ourselves that we're not more green, that we don't parent different/better/more joyfully/whatever. We guilt ourselves that we aren't smarter, thinner, healthier, happier.

I totally agree with you about being more relaxed and feeling less guilt. One green & red Rice Krispie Treat is not going to end life as we know it, but taking small steps like the ones you describe--and cutting ourselves some slack when we aren't perfectly "green"--has the potential to really make an impact.

I think so many people feel completely overwhelmed by fossil fuels, climate change, politics in general, that they just shut down and think there's nothing they can do. Then other think that if we don't all go completely off-grid, doom will befall us all. A happy medium like what you suggest seems like the right way to go here...

Bobbi said...

I agree with Julie. It's not like we all started out to get ourselves into such a dangerous situation. And ladies, if we didn't have the washing machines, clothing stores, markets, etc, we wouldn't have time to be blogging. The conveniences, the refrigerators, the AC (it's 78% humidity in my area of SoCal right now. Not sure how that can be but it is. Though I don't have the AC on.) So we have to realize we can't do everything, at least all at the same time. Really, I don't know if I can go all the way back. I'm using the dryer right now even though I started the summer hanging clothes outside. But today I went to a sustainable festival and the younger daughter came home from 8 weeks at camp. Do you know how many clothes a 16 year old can cram into her cabin? I had to choose.

Okay, I'll step down from the soapbox now before I fall...

Condo Blues said...

I'm so glad I found your blog and this post! I try to live an environmentally responsible life but I've made comprimises too. For example 90% of my household cleaners are environmentally responsible but I'm going to keep using eraser sponges to get marks off of my walls because I can't find anything else that works as well. It's nice to know that there are some other bloggers out there that recognize that the occasional comprimise is OK. Thanks.