I’ve realised that I haven’t talked much about sustainability yet in my posts. I think because I don’t like talking about myself that much, plus I don’t like preaching to people; I actually think sustainability is something we all need to work out for ourselves. But there’s not much point to this website if I don’t write about sustainability.
So here goes; this is what sustainability means to me…
Sustainability Means Different Things To Different People
I don’t believe there’s a “one size fits all” solution for living sustainable lives. We’re all different people with different circumstances.
I don’t have any kids and live in an area of Sydney that has an abundance of public transport. Plus, I work from home (even when I’m not in lockdown) and don’t need or like to travel much beyond my local area. Because of these reasons, I don’t own a car which leads to a whole bunch of sustainability savings.
But if you have kids, or don’t have access to public transport, or need to travel a lot for work, then you might not have the luxury of not owning a car. But you might have access to other types of sustainability, like being able to drive to a farmers market on the weekend or take excess recycling to recycle centres; things that are not easy for me to do.
But what we all do have in common is the ability to lead more sustainable lives in our own ways.
Sustainability Means Not Being Afraid Of Science And Technology
We all recognise the sustainability warrior stereotype; the long-haired hippie standing in a field in front of a ramshackled self-built sustainable home, living off-grid and off-the-land. 100% organic and 100% renewable. No technology. The full neolithic lifestyle.
But, of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, sometimes the old ways are not always the best, and sometimes modern technology and techniques can be more sustainable than traditional solutions.
Then there’s the other cliche of the cold, ruthless, multinational research scientist, looking for ways to screw-over the environment to drive up profits and shareholder satisfaction. And unfortunately, there’s still too much of that in the world.
But just because there are a small number of greedy, self-serving bastards out there in the scientific community doesn’t mean we should ignore the abundance of technology and science available to us that can actually help us lead more sustainable lives. In fact, we should celebrate and support all those amazing research scientists who are trying to make our world a better place by developing remarkable new sustainable technologies.
The bottom line is that we should all keep our minds open and not shut to either point of view. Sometimes old-school is more sustainable, sometimes the modern world does it better. It’s all about understanding what works best for you, which leads me to…
Sustainability Is Evolutionary, Not Revolutionary
In April 2017, my wife gave me a Fitbit for my birthday. I’m not sure if she was trying to tell me something, but I thanked her anyway and decided to introduce this new piece of technology into my life.
From that moment, everything changed. Suddenly I was able to keep track of how much energy I was using up each day. And, by keeping a log of the food I ate, I was able to compare the number of calories I was burning each day versus the amount I was consuming.
It soon became apparent I was consuming more calories than I was expending, and I finally had to admit to myself that I was, in fact, a fatty-boombah.
Things had to change.
I increased the amount of exercise I performed each day, mainly by walking at least 5K each morning on weekdays and taking longer 12K walks around Sydney Harbour National Park on weekends. Plus I changed what I ate each day, but not to the point of starving myself. I just focused on eating better, not less. The same number of meals each day; only fewer calories. A sustainable way of eating.
Over the next 18 months, I managed to lose over 20 kilos, and have managed to keep my weight below 80-kilos ever since. But I know the only way I’ll maintain my weight at a healthy level is by continuous review and adjustment.
And the same idea of continuous revision, adjustment, and evolution can be applied to sustainability. Creating a more sustainable lifestyle doesn’t need to be revolutionary and drastic. It can be evolutionary and built on small but incremental changes to our lifestyles.
But to do that, we need to be more self-aware and educated about our ecological footprints. Just like using a Fitbit to become more aware of my relationship with food and exercise.
Which brings me to…
Sustainability Means Self-Education
Unfortunately, there’s no sustainability Fitbit that you can strap to your arm and help you determine how sustainable your lifestyle is. To do that, you’re going to have to do some work. But even though it will take some effort, there’s no need to be ignorant about sustainability. There are so many resources available online to help you lead a more sustainable life that there’s no excuse not to.
Here are two for example:
Educate yourself about how to lead a more energy-efficient life, and how to source ecologically sustainable goods and produce. Don’t wait for someone to do the hard work for you. Go out and learn how to live a more sustainable life. Which brings me to…
Sustainability Means Self-Awareness
It’s quite easy to sleepwalk through life and not take any responsibility for your own actions. But do you really want to be that person? Every action has a consequence. Just like being aware of how many calories I eat and burn-off each day, living a sustainable lifestyle also requires a high level of self-awareness.
Once you’ve done the work to self-educate yourself about sustainability, you now need to apply those lessons to your own life. Every decision you make about what to buy, where it comes from, how it’s made will ultimately make a difference.
Do you need another pair of leather shoes? Is it better to buy leather or synthetic? Can I resole my old shoes instead of buying new ones? These are all things we need to research and decide for ourselves.
Plus it’s the little things too. Turning off lights when you leave a room, and turning off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth. Only buying what you need when you need it and accepting you don’t always need the latest gadget.
And that’s what sustainability means to me. Continuous research and education and review and improvement wrapped up in a healthy level of self-awareness, leading to sustainable evolution and growth.