What is sustainable living?

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You hear it everywhere these days–businesses and families alike are striving to lead a more sustainable existence.  I’ve mentioned it many times myself in various posts─but what is sustainable living really?

Surprisingly enough─a Google search does not produce many results to define sustainable living.  From what I found I was able to ascertain that sustainable living is a lifestyle that seeks to maintain itself by optimizing the use of the Earth’s natural resources through a change in  the way we use them.

What exactly does that mean?

Basically it means that you’re trying to create a more self-serving life to reduce your reliance on natural resources.  It means that families become producers rather than continuing only as consumers.  Sustainability requires respect for nature and mankind’s symbiotic relationship with Earth’s natural ecology and cycles.

Advocates of sustainable living typically are attempting to reduce their carbon footprint by altering their use of transportation, energy consumption, and diet.

The result of such a lifestyle is health.  And that health affects four key areas of our lives: physical health, economic health, environmental and social health.

blackberryPhysical

People concerned about living sustainably tend to be more aware of the health risks posed by chemicals in our foods.  They might grow some of their own food, using natural and organic methods.  Or they buy from small local farmers whom they know and trust, frequenting farmer’s markets or subscribing to CSAs.  This means they eat healthier foods, and healthy families make for a more healthy community.

Economic

The sustainable lifestyle generally leads to a do-it-yourself mentality which results in families who spend less.  When you grow your own food, bake your own breads, or make your own laundry soap, you are able to produce that product for a fraction of what it would cost to purchase those items at the store.

Families who are able to save money at home typically endeavor to buy locally, investing in their community to promote the local economy.

Environmental

By focusing on reducing consumption of natural resources (from oil to gas, electricity to money) those who are working toward living more sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyles are those folks who have a high regard for and respect the natural world around them.  If they’re producing any amount of their own food, usually they’re doing so with an organic mind-set, raising food free from the chemicals that scientific studies indicate pose harmful long-term effects on the health of not just the human body, but for the natural world as well.

environmental stewardshipThey focus on soil health and ecologic diversity; they practice a peaceful coexistence with wildlife, and teach their children to be good stewards of the land.

This kind of environmental appreciation might start at home, but entire communities are now realizing that these concepts must be incorporated into our towns and cities to create a healthy and balanced atmosphere for all of us.

Social

community actionAll of these aspects of sustainable living pose a cumulative affect on a community as a whole.  When families can spend less on outside inputs to their households, they are free to spend more on investments to their community.  Those investments might come in the form of money, or time–or perhaps both.

When families have what they need at home, they are better able to share that bounty with friends and family, to care for those outside their immediate circle.  And during this time of modern conveniences and technological advancement, when community camaraderie seems to have  fallen by the wayside, creating opportunities for sharing and caring among our local peoples seems like something that needs to be fostered and nurtured right now.

Time & Practice

To live sustainably, families everywhere are adopting a do-it-yourself mentality and many are returning to their roots as homestead producers.  These people are eager learners, willing to work, and proud to be able to provide for their families.  For many, sustainable living means a dramatic change in the way they’ve lived their lives in the past.  It takes time and practice to learn the skills that were commonplace just 2 or 3 generations ago.

So if you’re not as far along as you’d like to be, don’t beat yourself up.  Take comfort in the knowledge that every small accomplishment is one more thing you will not need to bring in to your homestead–one more thing your family will no longer be reliant on the system for.

References

What is Sustainable Development? – from Sustainable Development Info.

What is Sustainable Living? – WiseGeek

What is Sustainable Living? – LocalHarvest

Sustainable Living – Wikipedia

Share your thoughts, comments or questions!