I am new to the sustainable living movement....very new....meaning that most of my ideas are just that: ideas waiting to be put into action. We bought a home a year ago (intentionally choosing a small house to reduce heating/cooling costs) that's on 3/4 acre of land (planning to have room to grow plenty of food). My first garden attempt last year was an abysmal failure because of a drought in NC, where I'm from. I planned to grow tons of fresh produce and to can and freeze them so that we'd have plenty of food during the winter, so naturally, I was crushed by the slow, agonizing death of every plant in my garden. This year, I couldn't even bear to try as I was afraid that it would just happen again.
My initial failure at developing our sustainability led me to read everything that I possibly could on the topic, and to find a way to reconcile the "process" of getting there" to "becoming the end result." Sustainability, to me, has since become a spiritual and mental shift wherein I reviewed the Bible (as I am a Christian) to reconcile my views with the uber-conservative, "Global warming is all faked by the heathen, pagan scientists who surely hate the concept of God," view, which is pretty prevalent in my area of the country. I began to search online to see what I could find and this is what I've come up with:
1. Sustainability, to me, is how we are called by God to be. God did not give us unrestricted domain over the earth to do exactly what we please and to use its resources however we see fit. We are creations of God, just as this earth and all creatures that dwell upon it are. We are called to be stewards of this earth, to care for it, not to dominate it and destroy it. Part of the shortfall of my faith is the tendency for us to place so much emphasis on ourselves that we overlook the importance of Creation (I'm not using that in a "Creation vs. Evolution" sense) to God as well. A verse in Romans says that Creation itself is waiting to be redeemed, which means to me that spiritually, we are to look at this earth as a gift that we were given and as something that we should work to protect and sustain. This probably isn't a popular view in the conservative church, but through discussions with new friends, I am comfortable with this idea.
2. Sustainability is a change in the way we view the world, in the way we view the things we buy, the drives we make, the food we prepare, the way we entertain ourselves. I used to believe that sustainability meant selling our car and biking to work (which made me feel defeated because I live 17 miles from my job right now), moving to a small condo in the city and having a roof-top garden (which depressed me because I like being on my own land). What I'm growing to understand is that all of those ultimate goals may be good, but I have to do what I can where I am to move forward. Right now, I cannot bike to work. Eventually, I may be able to. I'm working to get my graduate degree so that I can ultimately teach on a college level (as is my husband). If these plans come to fruition, we could potentially live within walking distance of our job. That's what I'm hoping for. For now, I bought my car used for cash, keep it in top running condition, purchased a car that gets over 30 mpg, and coast down hills whenever I can to use less fuel. We keep our thermostat as high as we can comfortably (78 or 79) and keep our natural gas use to a minimum (winters are COLD in our house). I'm purchasing a used bike this weekend so that I can bike to the local grocery store and to friends' houses who live nearby.
Next year, I will likely dust off the gardening gloves again and see what happens. I'm getting a rain barrel from our city so that I can conserve rainwater to use for said potential future garden. I'm cooking from scratch and storing up food so that we can be prepared for whatever happens to the economy.
It also amuses me how sustainability and frugality go hand-in-hand so well. I'm an avid frugalite, both because I have to be right now and because I choose to be. We buy clothes and discretionary items used whenever possible, both to save money and to keep items from going into the landfills. We also THINK about our purchases, about whether we really need them or whether we're just looking to fill a "want" rather than a "need." We're seeking to buy whole food items rather than processed, prepackaged, food-like things. It tastes better when they're cooked from scratch anyway.
To me, sustainability is being willing to go the extra mile, to take the extra time, to give decisions greater thought, and sometimes to make a personal sacrifice to fulfill our duties as good stewards of our own lives and of our surroundings. I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it, moving toward it, and growing little by little into who I hope to be.