What’s Your One Thing?
Living the Sustainable Lifestyle
Sustainability and Living the Sustainable Lifestyle.
When it comes to living sustainably, what is the One Thing you do that you are most proud of?
Do you recycle, up-cycle, compost, reuse and reduce?
Do you live a car-less life or bike it a lot?
Do you make financial donations to support earth-friendly and environmentally responsible organizations?
Are you an activist or a member of an organization that takes proactive measures to combat local, regional or global issues?
OK, so why am I asking you this?
I want to encourage all environmentally responsible actions that people take no matter how small those actions may be. Small positive actions repeated consistently result in bigger compounded results.
I try to connect with the ethos behind someone’s choices. I try to understand why they do what they do. A person’s socioeconomic status has an enormous impact on what kind of sustainable choices they make. A farmer obviously can’t take mass transit and a city dweller can’t grow organic vegetables on a large scale. However, let's look for similarity not who is greener than who. In the city vs country example, solidarity is represented by a shared environmentally responsible philosophy.
It’s a mindset that understands we are all in this together and we should cheer on our fellow Green Warriors. Some people have their 3rd-degree black belt in living the sustainable living while others are newbie white belts. Anyone trying to create a better healthier future needs to be respected and encouraged.
Sustainability & Integration
We can build upon small sustainable choices by integrating those choices into our daily lives, so they become routine. After a new habit becomes established it allows space to consider developing a new habit.
The Economics’ of It
In today’s globally connected economy it can be difficult to keep a roof over your head. If you don’t participate to some degree in the marketplace, your existence will likely be a difficult one. However, participating in the global economy can feel so inescapable, it can make you feel trapped. It can be extremely difficult to figure out where products are sourced or processed. The system makes it convenient for you to make poor choices that hurt the environment.
Collectively we need to vote with our dollars and support ideas, products and organizations doing the right thing. We should hold companies responsible for their choices but do so with a rational understanding they too are trapped in this global economy.
Identify just one environmentally unfriendly product in your home.
Replace that product with an earth-friendly product.
Celebrate that you switched. Put the product in a special container or display it some attractive way. Think intentionally about why you switched every time you use the product. Products produced with environmentally responsible processes tend to be of higher quality and craftsmanship. You can live sustainably and live luxuriously.
Are You Thing-less?
If you feel like you don’t have One Thing, then I encourage you to start small with one simple habit. Like the example above of replacing a non-environmentally friendly product in your home with a product that is friendly.
Whatever you do make it something that you can win at easily. Then do it and measure your results for 30 days.
Another example could be for instance you want to lower your water consumption.
First, time how long it takes you to shower. Do this at least three times to get an average.
The next time you shower set a warning alarm to go off one minute prior to your average shower time.
Then shoot to shorten your shower time as much as possible. The average shower head is rated for 2.5 gpm (gallons per minute) so two minutes saved is five gallons/shower. Assuming you shower every day that’s 1,825 gallons annually.
In contrast bathroom, sink faucets have an average rating of 1.2 gpm. At a saving of 1.3 gpm/shower, it’s worth considering if anything you are scrubbing or shaving in the shower can be done at the sink.
Do you Have too Many One Things?
In contrast to the person who is searching for small simple choices, there are the people who tend to over-commit themselves to making a difference. These people can have elaborate processes for the acquisition of environmentally responsible products. Sometimes their money, time and energy are spent in unsustainable ways because the focus is too wide and shallow.
They spend their energies on several different challenges and spread themselves too thin. It’s not that actively fighting for a better future on several fronts is not a bad thing as long as you’re effective in all the battles you are engaged.
The temptation can be great to throw ourselves into the fray of an issue that we feel strongly about. However, spreading ourselves too thin over too many battles results in overwhelm, burnout and withdrawal. The problems facing humanity today are complex but solvable. To be truly effective we need to take care not to overwhelm ourselves with EVERYTHING that pulls at our heartstrings.
To really make a difference it’s important to develop telescopic focus. To protect our sanity, we need to learn how to view issues in general through a wide angle and zoom in on those issues we can be the most effective in changing. By always having our current One Thing we have something to dive deep into when the headlines distract us.
Developing the habit of asking yourself, is this helping my One Thing, or is this a distraction? We should keep ourselves informed but resist the urge to freely commit to new causes. We should stop and be totally honest with ourselves; Do you have the bandwidth and energy to take on something new?
The Shiny Object Syndrome
I know people and most likely you do too, that run from one issue to the next, the shiny object syndrome. They learn the talking points, speak loudly, go the meetings/rallies, get the gear, whatever it is but make a minimal impact with their efforts. They always seem to be too busy and on the run to their next cause. Accomplishing any goal requires focus and effort, especially when the tasks are un-sexy, tedious and boring.
Stop Running Start Asking
I used to be that person who ran from issue to issue only to end up exhausted and depressed. I finally I decided to focus on one specific area of interest where I felt I could make a difference. I took time and thought through four basic questions:
My One Thing
In my case, my first One Thing was Rainwater Harvesting. This is defiantly a topic for future posts, but I will use it here for a quick example. I answered the questions above questions with the following answers:
- I am extremely passionate about Rainwater. Clean and accessible water is arguably the biggest problem facing mankind. No water, no mankind. I love collecting rainwater for free while lessening my dependency upon the municipal system.
- I researched and wrote a book on how to design a rainwater harvesting system (RHS) for residential homes. I also designed a handful of commercial rainwater harvesting systems as Water Efficiency Measures for inclusion in building audit reports.
- I designed, installed and then tore back out an RHS for my home, I made mistakes but learned a lot in the process. Current,ly I’m completely re-designing my system and incorporating a grey-water system. Another topic for future posts.
- Eventually, I became an expert on Rainwater Harvesting, I mastered the topic. It’s not a particularly complex or difficult topic to master just some some focus and experimentation.
My passion for RWH hasn't waned but the more informed I become the more time I have had to think about other things. This is applicable to anything you master.
Let's look at recycling.
Let says you are feeling like maybe recycling is your One Thing but you’re not sure.
Ask yourself, self;
- Is this something that I’m truly passionate about? Do I experience recyclers guilt while hovering over the waste bin with a small piece of plastic? Do I feel recycling is a major piece in solving the puzzle? Do I to ALWAYS recycle? Am I a little obsessed with recycling?
At this point, if you are saying “Holy leotards Batman I just wanted to recycle my milk jugs, not become the Ruler of the Recycling realm”, then most likely this isn’t your one thing.
If, however you feel like recycling is your one thing, then…
- What could you do to support recycling? I don’t mean separating glass from plastics but what can you done specifically to improve the recycling process? What else could you do? What unexpressed actions would you like to act upon? How can you connect/support the recycling community in your area?
If you can honestly say to yourself, yes, I am recycling fanatic then you could…
- Design an elegant and graceful recycling system for your home. Make it a system that can be easily replicated. Ensure that it’s convenient to use. It’s good to rely on self-discipline but it’s better to develop systems that keep you from misbehaving.
- Finally, master recycling. When people have questions about recycling they should be calling you. Take recycling certification courses. Ask yourself how you can be a leader in the recycling community?
I realize recycling is a relatively easy example to illustrate but none-the-less the process of determining your One Thing is the same. You need to test and experiment with your One Thing to determine how to best integrate it into your lifestyle. As I have already mentioned, it’s too easy to become overwhelmed regarding the health of our planet and the future of humanity. However, if our efforts are scattered so will be our results.
More than ever we need individuals who are obsessed with making a difference in a specific area. What we don’t need are people running from one issue to another and burning themselves out. Yes, the challenges are many so aim to put a high degree of focus on just one issue.
We need focused and fearless leaders that know their stuff. Make healthy decisions, be informed, stay focused and take massive action. Rinse and repeat.