Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 Earth Day favorite. It was originally published on April 30, 2012. Enjoy!
Throughout this April Earth Month, Care2 Causes bloggers have been tackling the myriad issues that make up sustainable living – or a lack thereof. From deforestation to fracking, ocean pollution to the decline of bees, the challenges of living lightly on the earth are everywhere. Most of all, it is the pressure that those of us in the developed world often feel to keep consuming at all costs that is making our lifestyles spiral out of control.
To be truly effective, living sustainably goes beyond measures like avoiding plastic bottles, using less electricity, eating real food produced locally – though all of those things are important — to approaching everything that we do with a long-term, all-embracing, global view. Remembering that our actions matter because all beings are connected helps us to derive certain basic guidelines to a life sustainably lived. They include:
Think globally, act locally. One trick to evaluating a green choice is to think of the consequences if everyone “did it like that.” If six billion people were to eat meat 3 times a day, drive a car, and live in a large, single family home in the suburbs….where would we be? Out of planet, and pretty quickly. It is tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that my single actions don’t make a difference, yet we see time and again that individual choices and acts, from signing petitions to talking to neighbors to volunteering, are all that can make a difference.
Remember what matters. A recent article paints a moving picture of the top regrets of the dying, as gathered by a palliative care nurse. Few people regret not earning more money, buying more stuff, or having a fancier car; instead, the dying most often wish they had spent more time with loved ones or not worked so hard. Connecting to people and to nature are low-impact, high gratification actions that make a difference in the end.
Be kind to yourself. Like going on a diet, it’s important not to punish yourself if you fall off the “sustainability wagon.” The other day I ate some bacon, or drove when I could have walked, or bought something I didn’t need that was made far away by workers who were not paid a living wage. What matters is not that you’re not perfect, but that you keep trying. If you give in to temptation and have a banana split, just try again tomorrow. Just don’t give up and eat a grilled cheese sandwich on top of the ice cream.
Get – and stay — inspired. Keep a journal, write yourself a memo, or find other ways to remind yourself that we have so much to appreciate on this brief, wild ride. When I feel myself taking the journey for granted, I watch the film Baraka, and awaken again to the marvels of being human on this fantastic earth. Here’s the trailer:
The Care2 community is a great resource of information and support to everyone who understands that that we’re all in this together. We have the opportunity to make more sustainable decisions every day. If we mess up on one individual choice, there are lots more chances to make it up to ourselves and to the planet….for now. Living sustainably is a path that extends past Earth Day to every day…and we can enjoy the journey. Happy Earth Year!
Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work has appeared in xoJane, Care2 Causes, Greener Ideal, and Inhabitat. Follow her on Twitter @julierwrites. less