“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” – Robert Swan, OBE
Answering the call: how to live more sustainably
I grew up in a fairly eco-friendly family, even though back then we didn’t really think of it as ‘how to live sustainably.’ It felt more about saving money, and not wasting precious resources. Boomers, huh? They have a lot to answer for.
I’m proud of it now, but at the time, I often felt embarrassed — like I descended from a family of dirty-faced hippies. Yet this is my heritage. All the women in my family, going back generations now, are avid second-hand shoppers, passionate recyclers, and always grew their own vegetables, tending vast gardens.
My aunt is a botanist, my grandmother brewed her own booze, and my mum taught me most of the things I know about gardening. As a child, I used to cringe when my mum emptied out fruit and vegetables from their plastic packaging at the checkout and lecture whoever was listening on waste.
Now, this was way before sustainability and ‘eco-friendliness’ was fashionable. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was the opposite of fashionable — as an 80s child, growing up in the 90s and 2000s, the focus seemed very much on consuming more, more, more.
That’s why I worked hard at school — so that I could improve my life, and maybe one day escape from my family’s thrifty ways. I went to law school so I could get a good job and climb up that ladder that would allow me to keep pace on the more, more, more treadmill.
Law to Environmental Science
But something in me changed during those years reading law. I stopped shunning the grubby, green-fingered environmentalists of my family. I stopped desiring a corporate career. I fell in love with environmental law during my Honours years, studied an MSc in Environmental Management, and then went into a career as an environmental impact and renewables consultant.
I loved the work, and I loved my clients and colleagues. I finally felt I could make a difference.
But it wasn’t coming fast enough though. Plus, I was regularly hiring cars and driving vast distances for audits and site visits. I loved the wind turbines, but I longed to be at home, in my garden, making and mending and canning things. It started to really weigh on me — the call to live more ethically and more sustainably was ringing in my ears.
So eventually, inevitably, I quit my job.
How to live more sustainably
Moving to the Mountains
Slowly, ever so slowly, we moved towards a life that felt more sustainable. It was a circuitous route, but a necessary one. Initially we wanted to spend more time in the wilderness, in the mountains. Then we wanted to spend more time travelling. Read more about all that here.
Yes, lots and lots of travel and a digital nomad lifestyle flies in the face of sustainability. We’ve definitely had a lot of time to think about that recently.
On the one hand, we didn’t have our own home, or our own car – it felt like a lifestyle equivalent of the second hand economy. But eventually, we settled in the mountains.
Becoming more sustainable has also looked like cutting down and then eliminating meat from our diets. Reducing the number of long haul flights we take. More public transport, and less driving.
More homegrown or locally sourced food. More second-hand items, and less Amazon Prime… (Where I can — that one is a work-in-progress I’m afraid.) We don’t own a TV. All our cleaning products are either homemade or eco-friendly and certified vegan. I make my own toothpaste, to the despair of my long-suffering fiance.
We switched our energy supplier to a 100% renewable source — and I am tirelessly campaigning for a smart meter so I can monitor and aim to further cut down our energy consumption. While I’m on that subject, I’m also campaigning for my landlord to improve the insulation in our house, and add on some solar panels, obviously.
Watch this space….
As I’ve got older, I’ve become increasingly aware of my environmental impact, and the call to live more sustainably has been getting louder and clearer. Not answering it, or ignoring it caused a great deal of pain and discontent. But the more I move towards it, the happier I become.
I’ve not always been in a position to do this, but these days I’m actually gleeful when I can buy food in bulk, and I can reduce the packaging, deliveries, or trips to the store.
If you ask me what I’m most proud of — it might just be my little vegetable patch, or my thriving sourdough starter, or my stash of bread flour, or all the things I’ve foraged this season. My homemade jam collection.
And now I’m beginning to be more aware of where I spend my money as well — the brands and companies I choose to buy from. I’m pleased that carbon accounting is gaining traction, and that companies like Puma are publishing their results and their environmental profit and loss accounts.
We need more of this.
We need to do more as individuals, and we need to do more as companies, and governments, and societies.
Mahatma Gandhi — ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world.’
I’ve always been inspired this quote — it’s guided me, and it’s lead me to better places, and to becoming the person I want to be. The homesteader, the prepper, the eco-warrior, the environmentalist.
I’m not quite there, I’m still learning, and it’s definitely a work in progress. While there are a lot of easy wins and easy lifestyle modifications you can make to live more sustainably, it’s not an overnight job.
How to live more sustainably. It’s a journey, and I’m very happy to be on the path.