Ask 5 people what it means to live a sustainable lifestyle and you’ll get 5 very different answers. A buzzword for sure, but not many of us are able to define it.
Even Webster seems a little uncertain! Here’s their definition:
“1: capable of being sustained 2a : of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture>; 2b: of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods”
Through my research and discussions with others regarding the subject, I have created my own definition. Here it is, in my own words:
Sustainable living involves designing a deeply enjoyable and rewarding life that is interdependent on like-minded others, ecologically responsible and centered around the home. Sustainable living is all about making decisions based on knowledgeable insight. It’s about being intentional. And it’s about effecting change in order to improve our quality of life and that of future generations! Every little choice we make, every small step we take in the direction of this lifestyle moves us closer and closer to the goal!
Common Misconceptions about Sustainable Living
There are plenty of misconceptions regarding sustainable living; primarily because sustainability can look different for everyone. Most of the inquiries I receive from others who have questions about the lifestyle ask:
What kind of car do you drive? Or, let me guess, you ride your bike!
Does it mean I have to have chickens?
Can I still shop at the grocery store?
So, are you a hippie?
Do you ever go to the movies or the mall?
Is your house made out of straw-bales?
The answer could be yes, no, and sometimes to each one of these questions. Because here’s the thing about sustainability…it’s a personal journey down a path full of constant learning and lifestyle adjustments. It’s about making decisions that make the most sense to us, assuming our own standards, needs, and morals. It’s about intentional living. It’s about being fully present and aware of the implications of our daily actions. Those things that you find important and valuable may not necessarily be important to, or valued by, your family, friends, or neighbors. And guess what…that’s OK! It’s the charm of sustainability.
So what will I have to give up?
Still thinking that a sustainable lifestyle will require sacrifice? Are you afraid that you will have to give up your most beloved possessions? Don’t worry! Contrary to popular belief, having “enough” and “living within our means” does not mean self-denial. It simply means being okay with what you already have.
However, sustainable living will require that we become more careful with our decisions. We naturally tend to function on autopilot; everyone with his/her own specialty. We don’t really prioritize our thoughts about deeply held standards, our beliefs, and the significance of our actions.
Instead, we spend without a budget, and then panic when we see the credit card bill. The planner has no more space for appointments, and then we wonder why we’re so stressed out. We go about our daily business and are puzzled when laws pass that restrict who can grow what and where.
What does sustainable living mean to you? What is important and valued in your home?
Let’s take just a moment for reflection! I want you to open a new Word doc., copy and paste the following questions, and then answer them honestly.
1. I love doing these three things…
2. I used to love doing these three things…
3. These three things are on my bucket list…
4. Now, here are three good reasons why I don’t do 1, 2, and 3…
Identifying those things that you love to do will help you to focus on your values. And recognizing barriers to those things will help you live more intentionally. No doubt there are many obstacles to sustainable living. However, the key is to focus on what is most important to us and do that! Because in the end, being the people we were created to be is the most sustainable act we could ever perform.
Now it’s your turn! Share, in your own words, what sustainable living means to you!