In your head I hope you're hearing the majestic musical sounds of Disney against the panoramic view of animated Africa. The circle of life is not something our modern day culture often considers. In fact, a significant number of American's think of “the environment” as a separate entity, like “the moon” or “”. The environment is something “out there” disconnected and unaffected by our every day choices. How appropriate then, to assume our natural lack of concern on behalf of environmental pleas and sustainability efforts may stem from our illusion of independence.
The truth is, even if we are clogged with supermarkets and shopping malls, humans are still interconnected with nature. Another truth; it is not simply about the environment. The concept of sustainability is multidimensional and filled with surprising information and strategies. Consider these dimensions of sustainability;
– Personal Finance, becoming more sustainable can save you money just as the opposite can cost you more money.
– Human Health including both personal and family health
– National Security, resource scarcity creates conflict and destabilizes political situations.
– Social Justice and Human Rights, environmental breakdowns have a huge affect on the poor populations of this earth.
– Obligations to future generations
Our lives are full of obligations and responsibility, and re-examining our impact on the air we breath and the water we drink should not be an additional obligation. We ought to view our role as a priviledge. This shift in perspective can be seen as an opportunity to re-examine our lives, expand our creativity, and explore the possibilities. Developing a sustainable lifestyle is a process and it is reinforced everyday through the decisions we make. Here are some suggestions on how you can pursue a healthier lifestyle without becoming burdened with guilt or overwhelmed by the possibilities.
1. Share what you're learning with a friend- talk with some people, build a support group. There is no shame in gathering up evidence and awareness before jumping into a lifestyle change.
2. Surround yourself with encouraging stories- It is true, the plight of our earth is loud and humanities lifestyle to this point has been damaging to us all- but there is work being done! All over the world people are rising to the occasion of sustainability. Educate yourself and be inspired!
3. Don't give in to ignorance- There is a lot of information out there and it's important to be wise about what is beneficial and what is not. There are causes that are best to jump into, and others that are outside your realm of influence. Be encouraged, learn from them, but remember each person has a role. You cannot get involved in everything.
4. Be aware of how information is framed- For example, the images presented in media regarding global warming are often melting ice caps and dying polar bears. Global warming is a global problem, not simply a Icelandic one. We are all effected by our earth's condition.
5. One step at a time-Consider your lifestyle and commitment level at this point. Perhaps create a list of questions to spur your intentional thinking and take it with you to the store or post it in your home.Suggestions for questions could be-
Do I really need this?
Can I borrow this instead, or find it used?
How far away has it come from?
Could this be done/created with less waste?
Is there a lower energy way of doing this?
Could this item and/or its packaging be recycled?
The quest for sustainability is a worthy one, but there is no need to go it alone. The harmful affects of our actions on our environment, and in turn ourselves, was and is a process. As will the restorative action of sustainability be an accumulative action.
If you are already dedicated to shedding some consumerist weight, check out this article pumped with tips for sustainable living. Also explore this paper by Christine Manning entitled, The Psychology of Sustainable Behavior- tips for empowering people to take environmentally positive action.