Tenets of Sustainability: Know Thyself

This post is the second post in a multi part series on sustainability.  These posts are meant to be guidelines on how to make more sustainable choices in your day to day life.  Enjoy!  You can find  the first post here.

You may think this is an odd spot to start, but after giving careful consideration I think that knowing what you’re willing (and not willing) to do is key to make you as sustainable as you want to be, and no more sustainable than you think you should be.  If you go too deep into it, you could very well find yourself doing things you dont think are worth your time.  You’ll quickly become resentful and feel like you’re forced to do things that you dont even care much about, such as sprinkling your old coffee grounds on the plants, or walking 8 blocks in bitter cold and sustained wind, all to further your goal of “being more sustainable”.

You dont need to do crap you dont want to do to become more sustainable.  I find this happening a lot in my own life.  I live near the downtown area in my city, and have to run errands down there occasionally over lunch.  Not too long ago, I had to go to the post office to drop some things off.  I started walking over there, and the wind was probably sustained in the 40mph range, with gusts in the mid 50mph range.  I got about a half a block before I turned around and got in the truck and drove the few blocks it took.  While this obviously wasnt the most sustainable thing I’ve ever done, walking over there and being miserable the entire time would have really annoyed me.

The best part about becoming more sustainable is that there’s so many options you can really choose what you do want to do and what you do not want to do.  As my dad always says, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”, and this is true in this situation as well.  If you’re concerned about the amount of energy you’re using around the house and are not interested in unplugging everything after you’re done using it because you think that’s a pain and dont want to have to plug it all back in later, dont worry about it.  That’s not going to kill all the polar bears.  Try doing something else instead, like installing a programmable thermostat, or getting new, more efficient windows.  These things (once paid for) take no extra action on your part aside from initial set up, and you dont have to mess with a plug 15 times a day.  They’ll still reduce your energy consumption (most likely much more than stopping vampire draw).

Once you figure out what you’re willing to do, keep trying new thing things, eventually, you’ll find your lower limit for sustainability – or perhaps once you get the low hanging fruit you’ll be interested in heading further down the rabbit hole.  Of course, maybe you wont.  What you need to figure out when you decide you want to be greener is how far you’re willing to go.  Once you get to this point, you can head off in as many directions as you want.  You can tackle your personal energy consumption, personal transportation, food sources, and anything else you can think of.

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16 thoughts on “Tenets of Sustainability: Know Thyself”

  1. Knowing your self brings a multitude of benefits in all areas of your life! Most people don’t want to think about it. But you have to accept yourself, flaws and all, without judging, if you want to make any kind of meaningful personal change!

    • I agree Dollar D – knowing your habits (good and bad) can help you figure out ways to outsmart yourself and get around your bad habits. not judging yourself is critical, as if you feel bad about something, You’ll just continue to make excuses for yourself and get angrier at yourself with no real progress.

  2. I completely agree. If you’re doing things you hate, it won’t work out in the long run. The easiest thing to do is the one off investment like replacing windows or just moving to a smaller place. 🙂 That’s what we did and it works for us.

    • I agree joe, and aside from the cost and probably an afternoon off work letting the window company in, the process of saving energy (and money) that was was relatively painless. Though i’m sure the move wasnt as easy, it was still something you got used to and stopped noticing after a while.

  3. Yes, and “more sustainable” doesn’t mean “the most sustainable person in the WORLD” — don’t let perfect get in the way of good enough! Anything you do in the direction of sustainability is better than what you were doing before.

    Will I ever reuse ziploc bags? Unlikely. But I started composting, and I’m happy to pat myself on the back for that!

    • Great point FP – the perfect doesnt need to get in the way of the good enough, and for myself (like im assuming for everyone) there’s always something more you can do.

  4. Great point Jeff. I encourage people to take little steps toward helping the planet. Starting with little things can have a snowball affect. Jumping in head first early on might scare people off completely.

  5. Good approach, like your personal finances or just about anything else really, you aren’t going to be able to commit to something if you hate doing it. Find what works for you and be as good as you can at it, often you naturally grow from there anyway.

  6. I do little things here and there to be sustainable, like stay home more often, or recycle metals, or save more money so it can be invested back into the economy instead of spending it on frivolous consumption. A frugal lifestyle is not a bad one to follow, and doesn’t have to mean deprivation. 🙂

    • Agreed IIW – and it’s the little things in sustainability that matter. Usually they dont cost much, take little time and yield a large benefit.

  7. I love your dad’s comment about skinning a cat – I’ve heard that from my dad too. But you’re right – sometimes you’ve got to decide if something that, sure, is sustainable, is worth your time and energy.

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