We hear this word more frequently as environmental efforts grow and yet many people are not sure what sustainability actually means. I believe it is some sort of an ideal state for a Green lifestyle. I hear about buying sustainable products like bamboo and living in sustainable housing. I also often hear this word when in discussions involving transportation, energy and food.
Looking for the true definition, I started with the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Sustainable: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged
Then during a quick trip to Wikipedia, I found a quote that helped me better understand sustainability in the context of a Green lifestyle:
Lester R. Brown, an environmental analyst, summarizes the situation as "sustaining progress depends on shifting from a fossil fuel-based, automobile-centered, economy to a renewable energy-based, diversified transport, reuse/recycle economy".
So it seems that being sustainable means creating a lifestyle favoring renewable options and not exhausting natural resources. With this in mind, the going Green process is a shifting to this sustainable lifestyle by making smart, everyday choices that will protect natural resources.
I then thought about the personal choices I make every day and whether they were sustainable decisions:
- Should I walk to my corner grocery store to buy produce or drive across town to the nearest farmer’s market for local, organic food?
- Should I buy a regular $2 light bulb or spend an additional $5 on an energy-saving CFL mercury light bulb?
- Should I blast my air-conditioner or open my windows on a hot summer day?
- Should I buy a hybrid car or find ways to drive my gas car less frequently?
- Should I clean my home with the same chemical cleaning products my mom trusted for years or switch to non-toxic natural cleaners?
While going Green has certainly gotten easier in the past 7 years since I adopted this lifestyle, sometimes, I do choose the less-sustainable option. Sometimes when I’m feeling strapped for cash, I choose to close my wallet on Green. Sometimes when Green feels like too much of an effort, I choose Red instead. Red because I do know Green is the better choice, and I get embarrassed and red-in-the-face because I gave in.
How do I know that Green is the better choice and that my Green decisions actually make a difference? I have a hard time wrapping my head around the concept that the everyday choices I make impact the future of our planet. That is pretty serious stuff. But I continue to make these Green decisions because I can see how these choices positively impact my own life. When I make personal Green decisions such as buying organic food because it tastes better and ensures that my body isn’t ingesting pesticides and chemicals, I’ve seen how this decision also benefits my family, my home as well as my planet. Now I’m not a scientist so I truly don’t know what leads to climate change. But I do know that when I shift and make a sustainable, Green choice, my whole body feels like it is a good, healthy decision. It just sits right with me and makes me smile. And those smiles are quite sustainable.