If the revolution isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.
I often wonder what people imagine when they hear I’m trying to live environmentally sustainably for three months. Do they picture me living in a tree, hunting rabbits and eating grass? Do they think “oh, I could never do that for myself,” or do they think I’m lying?
Sure, establishing and maintaining a sustainable lifestyle goes against the grain. It can be draining, and it may not be possible to implement the chosen lifestyle modifications in your expected timeframe, which can be discouraging.
But to innovate a way of living that is in keeping with your ideals can be the most empowering thing you ever do. Sustainable living is creative–it will always require imagination and a good dose of gumption. It gets you “out there,” doing new and radical things that you may have never thought you would do. That, my friends, is living!
My two months of sustainable living so far have been rocky. Sometimes I don’t eat as many calories as I should in one day. I will skip meals–not because I’m trying to lose weight, but because the sustainable food choices aren’t accessible enough to me, either because I don’t feel like biking for an hour to get some produce, or I don’t have the time to cook, etc. Sometimes it feels like a chore to live environmentally sustainably.
But it always felt like a chore to go to work every morning, too. It felt like a chore to pay bills, a chore to clean my house. Overall, I feel significantly freer now than I ever have before. And slowly but surely, I am replacing old unsustainable routines with new ones, and settling into them. My life has frequently felt unstable over the past two months, due to many factors. I dug up my old lifestyle and it’s been hard… until I am now beginning to lay the foundation for a new life.
Here’s something I must stress about living sustainably: if you’re not having any fun, stop doing it! (Don’t worry, I make this mistake all the time.) Your health must absolutely come before some vague goal of environmental perfection. You will never be perfect, but then again… that should never be a goal. Resolve, instead, to be exactly you.
A truly sustainable lifestyle incorporates what is environmentally sustainable AND what is personally essential for you to be happy. A sustainable lifestyle means:
You must get out of the house. It’s easy to get stuck in one mindset, or on one project, and feel it impossible to see a solution. Be careful not to hole up with your green project–include the community in designing it. Trade skills–if you want help building a solar shower, ask your neighbors or friends in exchange for a favor to them. Mutual aid is more than just empowering–it is essential! Connect, organize, live!
You must spend time with your friends. If they want to meet at a bar, go ahead–simply don’t drink (or ask for a local brew), and eat before you go. A better option would be to stay in–so don’t be shy to suggest it. Explain why you’d rather know where you food and liquor are coming from, and invite them to spend time at your place. That way you can provide a smorgasbord of tasty local and organic treats, all while boozing it up with a locally or HOME brewed beer (in Pittsburgh, check out the East End Brewery or the Church Brew Works.) Once your pals see what totally awesome green projects you are working on, they’ll likely be willing to help!
You must include activities that enrich your life. This past weekend I spent hours exchanging songs with a new friend, then made a creative dinner with available ingredients. The next day I went to a fundraiser brunch made from redeemed foods, and after that I biked to an activist organizing meeting. Have you ever tried growing your own food before? Why not? Try it! Have you ever tried building your own solar cooker before? Give it a go! Living is learning.
You must be willing to be patient. Maybe your friend is having a difficult emotional time right now, and needs you more than your new water heater does. Maybe you need to give yourself a day to just sit, and process some of the inner changes associated with reorganizing your life and priorities. Don’t push yourself like I did to create a sustainable lifestyle within a strict deadline. Simply commit to growing towards what you truly believe in, and away from participating in what you don’t. Commit to learning and reading as much as you can.
Despite the tumult, I’d be lying if I said that these past two months haven’t been profoundly transforming. My future possibilities are broader than ever before. There is little left that I think I can’t do, and plenty more that I think I would like to do. I feel… fulfilled.
Justin Van Kleeck
“You will never be perfect, but then again… that should never be a goal. Resolve, instead, to be exactly you.”
This is a perfect gem of real, solid life wisdom. We (especially we Americans) have been bred to be perfect–in how we look, how we feel, how we perform on the job, how much money we make–and the result in large part is a lifestyle that is not only not sustainable but downright self-destructive.
I think the most sustainable lifestyle is one of contentment and peace with oneself and one’s environment, in a mutual synergism of support and nourishment. I suppose part of living in harmony with life is being able to say, like Del (John Candy) in Planes, Trains, and Autombiles, “I like me.” But we have to go through a HECK of a lot to really understand this.
I am glad you are reaching that realization, Caroline, and finding a more sustainable lifestyle in the process.
Living sustainable is often rocky, often, but I think it is a lot of fun and satisfying. Thanks for your blog, it is very encouraging and enjoyable.
Scott at East End Brewing
Love the piece you’ve written here, and the project sounds fantastic.
How come people shouldn’t go out to eat though? Is it the energy used in transit? Used in preparing food from less than local sources – compared to what you might use at home? Often, there’s energy/packaging/economies of scale that can make dining out equal to or better than cooking for one or two at home.
Lastly, when it comes to beer, recycling is for suckers… and by that, I mean RE-USE is far far better in my book. Consider draft beer enjoyed by the keg or the growler: ZERO Packaging waste, zero recycling load, and you’re probably getting a fresher/better beer in the process too.
Keep up the great work, and thanks for the mention!
Brewer/Owner East End Brewing
BUY A GOOD FRIEND A GOOD BEER (TM)