Another rejection letter. I sighed. We had just moved from North Carolina to Pennsylvania and I was searching for a job. Not just a job, but one that would actually help my career. I applied to every job in my field that I could. I polished my resume and my cover letters. I went to interviews, but finding that job was much harder than I had anticipated. It was taking too long. Every week that passed was one more week we were living on one income.
We had just bought our first home, and as is the case with most first homes, we quickly discovered they come with more costs than just at closing! Our central air broke not even a week after we moved in. We realized that hey, ladders are important. Oh and trash cans, and lamps. And all of these rooms are empty… it all added up and meant we were digging into our savings. Our expenses quickly out growing our income. Fortunately, we got a break. I got a job…first a temp job, then a more permanent job. Our money woes were over! We were now able to live within our means every month and afford the necessities and the nice to haves. Our money situation was once again, sustainable.
What does this have to do with sustainable living any how?
Everything. While I was searching for work at that time we were NOT living sustainably in the finance department. Every month we had to go over the amount of money we had coming in just to pay for the essentials. Everything is created from something, just like everything costs money (either in time or actual money). Sustainable living isn’t just some lofty idea. It’s a way of living that doesn’t go over the amount of resources that the earth provides for us. Ideally, it means actually giving back. Instead of saving money every month, its a less tangible benefit: giving back to the earth. That’s really all sustainable living is: the ability to live within the resources that you need for the earth to sustain you. It’s everything from food, to water, to energy. All the things needed for survival.
How do you know what’s sustainable?
One way to tell is by your carbon footprint. It basically is the amount of carbon and other greenhouse gasses (such as methane) that your activities put into the world. It takes into account both direct activities, like you running your car, to indirect means like the amount of energy it takes to ship your food to the store that you buy it from. This is often expressed in the number of Earths it would take to sustain everyone on the planet if everyone lived like you do.
Obviously, we only have one Earth, so going above that isn’t good. How do you support everyone in the world, plus all the plants, animals and fungi that inhabit it if you need more than the number of Earths you have? Something’s gotta give! That’s why sustainable living, using just enough assets & resources to live comfortably. It means there are enough resources to let everyone live and not burden the natural systems that keep us alive.
What’s your carbon footprint?
Take the test here to find out!
How do you live sustainably?
In practice, living sunstainbly probably means you will have to alter your living style from how you may be living now. It means reducing your waste through both direct and indirect means. This means doing things like recycling, re-purposing, and going waste-free. Purchase items with lower carbon footprints; for example instead of buying foods shipped from across the world, choose local, seasonal foods. Instead of driving your car everywhere switch to a bike or public transportation. Or making sure your living area is energy efficient, and cutting down your utility bills. It may mean ditching air conditioning, or installing draft guards, or replacing old, drafty windows. It may mean simply buying less, bartering more, and renting items instead of buying them yourself. It means changing your attitude from consumption to thrift.
There’s no one right way to live sustainably. It’s a lifestyle that can be incorporated into the life you lead right now. While being carbon neutral may be your end goal, it’s probably not something that you can make happen overnight! It’s important to realize it’s a journey, one that you can accomplish by taking small actions – small steps – right now. It means doing what you can, with what you have, and always trying to improve.
Sustainable Living Actions To Take Right Now:
You can start taking these actions right now, no matter who you are, no matter where you are.
- Invest in energy efficient appliances
- Conserve Energy (turn off lights when not in use, turn off lights when you are not home, etc)
- Conserve Water (turn water off when you are brushing your teeth, use efficient fixtures like toilets and showerheads)
- Change from incandescent to energy efficient light bulbs
- Purchase seasonal, local foods & products
- Take more public transportation
- Walk or Bike instead of taking the car
- Support Carbon Offset Programs
- Shop at thrift shops
- Reuse, Upcycle or repurpose goods
- Go waste free (or plastic free)
- Shop with reusable bags instead of plastic
- Support local initiatives and actions to encourage environmental awareness & sustainability (ex. local plastic bag ban laws, local community events, local charities)
- Get an energy audit on your home.
- Purchase items made from sustainably harvested and sourced materials (ex. Cork, recycled glass, recycled paper)
- Vote with your dollar. Purchase from businesses who are environmentally conscious and have sustainable practices. (Protip: Look for B Corporations, like Seventh Generation).
- Lower your thermostat in winter (raise it in the summer, or forego air conditioning all together) Protip: Never go below 55 F in winter to avoid freezing pipes! 65-68F is comfortable & energy efficient.
- Join a CSA
- Shop at your local farmer’s market
- Live a seasonal lifestle
What steps do you take to live more sustainably?