Sustainable Living

Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. ( Isaiah 5:8 )

As a human being, it is difficult to live a sustainable lifestyle. I think this is because of greed. We always want more. I want more. A few more clothes, a couple CDs, a new laptop, a few more DVDs, plane rides around the world, long, hot showers, cheap gas, more camping gear, a bigger house…

We quickly consume all of our resources. I’ve heard it said (how’s that for scientific) that the U.S. represents 6% of the world’s population, and yet we consume roughly 40% of it resources. I read in a magazine recently that if all the world lived the lifestyle of Americans, three more planets of natural resources would be needed. I don’t know how they came to that number, but it is startling. Revealing. Wrong.

Sustainable living means that the environment is left in tact for future generations (all generations, not just the next one or two). It means that we will leave natural resources for those future generations. It means political structures will be stable, fair and just. It means we have to practice some restraint. It means there is hope for the future of this planet.

Sustainable Living — Disclaimer

My own understanding of sustainable living is still developing; this page is bound to change as I learn more. Lessening one’s footprint on the planet can seem like an overwhelming task. This fact led me to try to break it down into steps. While neither complete nor without contradictions, here is my biased breakdown.

Sustainable Living — A Process Approach

STAGE 1
A. Food & Drink:
— Eat more fruits, vegetables and nuts.
— Eat less fast food.
Filter your water.
B. Clothing:
— Empty the closet of clothes you haven’t worn in the past year.
— Give clothes to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
C. Transportation:
— Plan ahead for smart car use. For example, use one drive for multiple errands rather than taking several trips in the car.
D. Waste:
Recycle whatever is possible.
E. Energy:
— Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
— Use energy efficient light bulbs.
F. Special Time:
— Spend time with spouse or significant other.
G. Education:
— Read Serve God, Save the Planet (Matthew Sleeth, M.D.) & Green Living (E Magazine).
— Visit Grist & A Rocha.
— Watch An Inconvenient Truth, In Debt We Trust & Trashed.

STAGE 2
A. Food & Drink:
— Eat fewer processed and artificial foods (junk food).
— Drink more water and unsweetened fruit juices.
— Cut out most soft drinks and sweetened drinks.
— Consume less sugar.
B. Clothing:
— Only buy clothes you need.
C. Transportation:
— Carpool to work whenever possible.
— Make sure your tires are fully inflated.
D. Waste:
— Buy products with minimal packaging.
E. Energy:
— Turn down the water heater one notch, and insulate it.
— Turn down the heat or air conditioner one notch.
F. Special Time:
— Make time for your family.
G. Education:
— Read For the Beauty of the Earth (Steven Bouma-Prediger), Let My People Go Surfing (Yvon Chouinard) & Reason for Hope (Jane Goodall).
— Visit Tree Hugger & Creation Care.
— Watch Energy Crossroads, Super Size Me & A Convenient Truth.

STAGE 3
A. Food & Drink:
— Cook with good oils. Eat good oil/fat.
— Get plenty of protein (beans, nuts, soy products, chicken, fish, etc.).
— Use sea salt.
— Buy locally grown produce in stores or farmers’ markets when possible.
B. Clothing:
— Buy clothes from thrift shops or secondhand stores.
— Look for clothes made of organic cotton.
C. Transportation:
— Ride the bus or subway to work once a week or more.
— Use gas supplemented with ethanol or use other biofuels like these. (At the time I first wrote this, ethanol was all the rage. Now time has shown that using corn for fuel and plastics has driven up the price of corn, putting extra pressure on the poor around the world in the form of higher food prices. This demonstrates the intricacies and dangers of unintended consequences.)
D. Waste:
— Compost your food waste.
— Reuse plastic grocery bags or use cotton bags that can be used repeatedly.
E. Energy:
— Buy a hybrid vehicle. Use it as little as possible. While hybrids aren’t the final answer for transport, they do tell manufacturers that there is a market for green technology, which should encourage them to invest more in this area.
— Put electronic equipment on a power supply that can be switched off to stop phantom power usage.
— Use fewer electrical gadgets.
F. Special Time:
— Spend some time in meditation/prayer.
G. Education:
— Read Saving God’s Green Earth (Tri Robinson & Jason Chatraw), Natural Capitalism (Paul Hawken) & Culture Jam (Kalle Lasn).
— Visit Earth 911 & Lighter Footstep.
— Watch A Crude Awakening, Fast Food Nation & The Future of Food.

STAGE 4
A. Food & Drink:

— Join a co-op in your community.
— Buy organic, non-GMO foods whenever possible. Also, only buy free-range meat.
— Take a complete, food-based vitamin/mineral supplement.
— Consider becoming a vegetarian.
B. Clothing:
— Buy clothes that are not made in sweatshops.
— Learn about community conscious producers.
C. Transportation:
— Try to use your bike for uses other than exercise.
D. Waste:
— Use a library so fewer trees have to be cut for paper.
E. Energy:
— Improve the insulation in your house.
— Purchase wind energy or other green energy from your electric utility.
F. Special Time:
Volunteer.
G. Education:
— Read The Care of Creation (Editor: R. J. Berry), Beyond Growth (Herman Daly) & Design Anarchy (Kalle Lasn).
— Visit Restoring Eden & Earth Easy.
— Watch Empty Oceans, Empty Nets, The Power of Community & Hempsters.

STAGE 5
A. Food & Drink:
— Reduce the use of stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol.
— Become a member of a CSA (community supported agriculture).
— Start your own organic garden.
— Eat more raw food.
— Consider becoming a vegan.
B. Clothing:
— Buy clothes made from organic hemp.
— Only buy fair trade certified clothes.
— Sew your own clothes.
C. Transportation:
— Convert a diesel car to run on biodiesel.
— Use bikes and feet as much as possible.
— Look for work closer to home.
D. Waste:
— Share as much as possible with neighbors so you can buy less. The more we buy, the more waste we produce.
— Use a co-op to avoid buying plastic containers. Many co-ops allow you to refill shampoo bottles, peanut butter jars, spice racks, non-chemical cleaners, etc.
E. Energy:
— Build or install a small wind generator.
— Switch to solar power and solar water heating.
— Become an activist for renewable energy production.
F. Special Time:
— Go for walks in nature with friends and family.
— Become an activist and share what you’ve learned.
G. Education:
— Read Redeeming Creation (Van Dyke, Mahan, Sheldon & Brand), Plan B 2.0 (Lester Brown), Eco-Economy (Lester Brown) & Cradle to Cradle (McDonough & Braungart).
— Visit Co-op America & Eco Sherpa.
— Watch Earthlings, How to Save the World & The End of Suburbia.
— Spend extra time educating yourself by reading books (at the library), blogs and websites.

And always search for ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and rot.

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