Sustainable Living Rule #3: Take Your Time

Take it easy.  Go slow.  Take your time.

Lately, I’ve been writing about lessons learned during my three-month sustainable living experiment.  Most of them are not concrete facts, but rather emotional insights which came to the forefront when the stresses of my new lifestyle began taking their toll.

Welcome to my most significant understanding: that developing an environmentally sustainable lifestyle MUST be personal, too.  It must reflect the individual.  It is not a one-size-fits-all game plan for green living.  There’s an unfortunate popular “Wonder Diet” mindset pervading American media, which says:

  1. There IS one solution.
  2. It’s painless and requires no real effort or commitment.
  3. It’s quick and tidy–no mess!

I realize I made a mistake in planning for my Sust Enable project by embodying some of these cultural concepts of media in MY media.  For the sake of being easily recognizable and gimmicky, I assigned a strict deadline to my sustainable living project, thus making it sound more like a game show than the life-changing experience it has been.

Three months exactly.  From Day One to Day 92.  A riveting progression from novice to expert, from struggle to smooth sailing.  

Don’t do what I did.

If you are to be successful in your sustainable living venture, your actions need to come organically out of your motivations.  Your goals will shift over time.  You will realize what is feasible for you and what is not; what you need help with and what you can push yourself to do.  

Am I expected to stop living as close to 100% environmentally sustainable as possible once August 1st clocks over?  And when did I really begin?  In wanting to live 100% sustainably, in preparation and research, or on the first day I may have successfully attained “sustainable living?”  Placing constraints on the necessary, urgent, but constantly shape-shifting goal of “living sustainably” is counterproductive.  

I have been plagued the last few days with concerns over how to deal with my current home: the tent. It’s leaking.  It’s damp.  It’s moldy.  It’s small and dirty.  Two days ago, laundry detergent spilled all over the inside.  My bedding is shoddy at best.  In short, it is personally unsustainable for me to really consider “living” there.  

So what are my options?  Couchsurf for four weeks?  Sleep on the boyfriend’s couch or my friend’s couch?  Sleep in the woods?  All of these options turn me off for the same reasons the tent does: they are not stable solutions, nor are they long-term sustainable.  

It makes me think that if I were really to get this experiment right, I would have spent some months prior to 5/1/08 constructing a cob cottage.  A small one, no bigger than my tent space, wouldn’t be too hard nor too expensive to construct.  On the other hand, had I done that, when would my “sustainable living experiment” have begun?  On my move-in date?  Or when I began construction?

I have been compiling a list of possessions and practices that I would never be comfortable giving up, plus a list of what I found easy and satisfying to trade in for a new lifestyle.  Guess which list is longer?  The latter, by 2-3 times more.  

I will be glad to share this list with viewers and readers at the end of the experiment.  It remains my goal to provide insight and direct experience to help guide choices for people who don’t have the opportunity to live “off the grid” or out-of-work for a long period of time.  While I think this is still true, I now see the importance of how my personal priorities, preferences, attitudes and needs crafted this story.

You will never be me, and I will never be you.  However, WE can be the change we wish to see in the world.  Communicating about our desires and experiences is the only bridge we have to paradise.

Read More About:

Shifting priorities reflected in American consumption patterns?
Utah law mandates taking more time off work
Ways to relax in nature
Sustainable Living Rule #1: Be Gentle To Yourself
Sustainable Living Rule #2: Have FUN 

photo credit: public domain image from WikiCommons, “Relax”

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