Okay, I'm going to go ahead and get the ball rolling on this one. For our inaugural APLS carnival, Melissa posed the question, "What does living sustainably mean to you?"
When people discuss living sustainably, they're generally talking about the ways that they have reduced their carbon footprint. I'm not going to give you a laundry list of things I've done to live lightly, mostly, because I've already done that. Instead I'd like to explore what living sustainably really means to me, personally.
In my mind, living sustainably is about finding balance. I've talked a lot about how I believe APLS are people who embrace the duality of living a lower impact life in a higher impact world. But by balance I don't just mean societal balance. I mean personal balance as well.
When I first embarked on my non-consumerist challenge, I decided to pursue a path that theoretically, I could continue indefinitely (albeit with minor tweaking and the odd 'cheat' here and there.)
I think, I can live quite happily buying 90% used stuff. Sure, I'm really looking forward to new underwear and socks, and when my laptop finally goes completely and totally dead, I'll likely buy a new computer. But even when my year is over, I will probably be buying most of my stuff used.
I thought about pursuing a different challenge. I thought about including restaurants, movies, plays, and other experiences under my non-consumerism banner. But such a life is not sustainable for me. Eating out, seeing a movie or a play, listening to a band? These things give me great pleasure, and they generally allow me to spend some time with a friend or family member. If I never went to a restaurant or never saw another play, I would be less happy than I am today. And if I had made the rules too strict, I might have given up and started buying everything again. So to me, not buying stuff, but allowing myself to buy experiences is the right balance. It's something that I can sustain.
Sustainable living, then, is about living lighter, yes, but it's also about living happier, and with less guilt. It's about recognizing that the perfect is the enemy of the good, that we can't go it alone, and that yes, sometimes we have to compromise our ideals. If an aspect of living lighter is making you miserable, then ... it's not sustainable. It just isn't. And that means we have to figure out a way to make living lighter not miserable.
The truth is, there is no one size fits all answer to living sustainably. I may have gone a year without buying clothes, but I still buy my jam. I don't make my own bread or pasta sauce. What works for me may not work for someone else. Which is why I think living sustainably also means having an open mind, being willing to try out new things, and being okay with failure. Who knew that going without toilet paper for number one would be one of the easiest changes I'd make? Not me!
My rule is try everything LEGAL once (yes, this ruled out pee terrorism.) Give it your best shot, and see how you do. If it works for you, great. If it doesn't, try something else out. This isn't about guilt. This isn't a competition. This is about what makes sense for you and your life and your circumstances.
Balance. It's a tricky thing to find initially, but once you figure it out, you'll never go back to living any other way.
What does living sustainably mean to you? Get your posts up by August 12th in order to be included in the APLS Carnival.
3 months ago