“Sustainability” and “sustainable lifestyle” are terms that I see being thrown around quite a bit lately. They’re big news and really popular right now. The tag line of this blog is “Finding joy in a simple, sustainable lifestyle”. I think many people, myself included, feel strongly that the world around us is out of control and just moving way too fast. I know that I personally would jump off of this speeding roller coaster in a heart beat if I could. “Sustainability” sounds slower, more stable, on-going, and secure. But what exactly does it mean?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives three definitions for the word “sustainable”. They are :  “able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed, involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources, and able to last or continue for a long time”. If you really think about it, and I hope that you take the time to do so, there is nothing in the average American lifestyle that is remotely sustainable. Make a list of as many aspects of your lifestyle as you can think of. Start with the basics: your home, your car, your television and electronic devices, your stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, your trinkets, knick-knacks and home decorations, your clothes, jewelry, and even your food and water and other beverages. Where do the materials and ingredients to make all of those things come from? Are the supplies of those materials unlimited? Of course they aren’t. Big Business wants us to think they are so we will continue to mindlessly over-consume everything. They build in obsolescence so we will go out and buy the same items over and over again. How many of us really need a new iPhone every year? I haven’t even learned all of the features of my phone yet and they’re already pushing the upgrade! Somehow, they make it seem like it’s OK. After all, this is America. We DESERVE whatever we want, whenever we want it, and in whatever insane quantities we want. But if we continue to squander all of our natural resources with wild abandon and no thought for the future, what happens when those supplies run out? What corporation is going to be there to take care of us all then?

At the opposite end of the lifestyle spectrum are the people who decide to leave it all behind, move to the wilderness, and go completely off-grid, 100% self-sufficient. But it wouldn’t be feasible or practical to assume that millions of people could do this, even if they wanted to. So what’s the answer? It has to be somewhere in the middle, and it’s probably a little bit different depending on who you ask.

My own dream is to create a small farm/homestead, away from the mainstream of average America, growing a good portion of my own food organically, respecting the land by employing concepts of permaculture, conservation, and ecology. I want to live in harmony with and as a steward of the environment. But I know I can’t be 100% self-sufficient. So I think I need to really take a hard look at what my goals are. What is realistic and what isn’t? Right now it’s kind of like I just want to do it all–raise every kind of farm animal, grow a hundred different crops, have dairy goats, make cheese and soap, raise sheep and alpacas and rabbits and spin their wool into yarn. Then I want to knit things, and weave things, and make quilts, and can all kinds of salsas and preserves, and have a little store, and on and on. These things are dreams that I have had since I was a child. But I need a dose of reality. I like my car. And my refrigerator. And I obviously don’t want to give up my computer or the internet!

So that’s what comes next. I need to narrow down the field and set some clear priorities. What can I do, what do I LIKE to do, and what are my skills? What could I learn to do? What things should I take responsibility for providing for myself, and what things are OK to rely on someone else for? Just imagine if everyone did this, and then small communities could spring up where everyone could take care of each other’s needs. Maybe I could grow fruit in my orchard and exchange that with someone else for their grass-fed beef that I wanted. I think that’s how things started out a long, long time ago. Maybe it’s time to give it another try, only this time with the knowledge and hindsight of experience that our founding fathers lacked. 

Published by Lauren Steele