Sustainability — Baby Steps for the Skeptic

heart shaped clouds — Los Angeles, CA original photo, J. Black

Words occasionally lose their lustre. Words can be used so often we become agitated or numb to hearing it at the least. A word like, “sustainability” falls into that lexicon-like abyss, thus devaluing the intent of its meaning. Oxford dictionary defines, sustainability: “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”. The word is appropriately applied. Those who groan when the word is uttered may not quite understand its relevance, its importance to our planet.

There will always be skeptics and naysayers no matter how clear (and well presented) facts can be. Such is the case for environmentalists and advocates for the natural world, and most important the average layperson unsure on the topic.

A heady subject like global warming or climate change has its opponents, who often lump the concept of sustainability to the agenda of left leaning people. Justifying a philosophical aversion to the topic at its base creates a tough uphill battle to convince political conservatives and industrialist types, the true merits of ecological preservation.

This is not about politics or standing for an ideology. In fact, the early laws creating federally protected lands were championed by a political conservative, Theodore Roosevelt. The environmentalist movement is an amalgam of real world, sensible actions we can all participate for the greater good, for our heirs, for ourselves.

Why does sustainability matter, and what will it do for me?

Being acutely aware of how much we consume (not just food) and, how it impacts us in the short term doesn’t require making a political leaning agenda item. Being conscience of the causes of our actions is the core point. A specific example, the addiction many people have to single use wares, such as utensils or product packaging.

For example, a small household (say three people or less) don’t need to produce as much waste in the name of convenience (i.e. what we throw away in a trash can) as a family of six. When we think about reusing an item, say plastic wrap, it can often be reused, whether it is for the same purpose or an entirely new application, for example: initial use is preserving an uneaten half sandwich, a second use might be as a wrapper for half an onion. The basic outcome is (in very simple terms) generating 50% less waste. It isn’t perfect however, if we on most occasions reuse an item twice, we save money, and as a bonus we end up long-term disposing of items half as much.

It is a habit. It isn’t necessary to brow-beat people about being more action oriented about conservation. It is often considered a left leaning, liberal agenda item when it comes to anything related to our environment. Yes, it is all of ours, for better or worse. No one owns mother nature. It is for us in the now and successive generations to explore, enjoy and participate in the preservation of wild places.

In reality, the average person on an individual basis is just as likely ready, willing, able and in practice doing their part for mother nature.

What can we do, enthusiasts and skeptics alike, here are a few simple, money saving methods to live a less wasteful life:

1. Reuse a bag, foil, etcetera. Twice. It cuts down on consumption and waste by half.

2. Pause before buying an item, wax paper or foil versus plastic bags. Maybe the product you normally buy (for example — plastic wrap) is more expensive than a similar quantity of waxed paper (or parchment paper).

3. Consider the length of time using a particular item and its degradable nature. The more uses and item has, benefits the environment, the more degradable an item, usually will be the less toxic option to our environment.

There is always a bit of pain involved in changing habits. Whether it is scrutiny from the so called “enlightened” on how to go about being “sustainable”. Not doing enough. Or from peers who just like in youth, mock or ridicule a new or changed behavior. Be willing to take a stand for what is better for the planet. We (for now) only have this one earth. It is a feel-good experience to be mindful of how we individually take care of our surroundings.

One may dive deep into the methods and practices with respect to conservation. How about making a simple first (or second, fifth, tenth) step to incorporate one more positive action for all of us. One less plastic bag in the landfill or sewer, one less cigarette butt disposed on the sidewalk, one less disposable coffee cup in the street may not feel like a real change but, it absolutely is. Particularly when we personalize it. When we take immediate action, hold on to that disposable item and carry it to a trash bin, it is a small change for the better.

Real change is barely noticeable for a long time. Collectively if you, your friends, family and neighbors make a pledge, one more action to live a greener life, whether it is one of the suggestions above, or something different, then make a simple effort to record your actions, share the information, encourage the undecided, over time a noticeable difference will be apparent. Just the same with exercise or saving money. It’s simple to do, difficult to stay with it, particularly early on. When we all participate, it adds value to all our efforts. Each person choosing to put in an effort to be eco-conscious helps build better habits across society for our future and, may it save you some money too.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store