Friday, October 10, 2008

To live sustainably - Be fearless and pass it on

The APLS blog, even now just a few months old, has been hosting a series of monthly carnivals. It's a great way to learn about what others are doing around issues of sustainability. The most recent APLS Carnival topic (October) asked two questions:
  1. How do you educate yourself about sustainable living?
  2. How do you share that knowledge with others?
Having missed last month's carnival (oops), I wanted to be sure to toss in my two cents...

Ten years ago, I knew nothing about living sustainably. Seriously, I just wanted to pay my bills with as few hours at work as possible, while at the same time enjoying the things that mattered most to me. It was all very simple. A little prioritizing, and I was doing just fine. But as I've said before, those first years of simplifying my life brought with it awareness. Awareness of how I consumed; how my consumption affected the environment and my health; and how those choices could make a statement about who I am and what I believe about the world around me. 

So (over the course of the last ten years) I read, and I read and then I read some more - books, blogs, news articles, whatever I could get my hands on. I let it sink in, little by little. But of course educating yourself - well that's the easy part. Somewhere along the way, as I learned more about what it meant to live sustainably, I hit a plateau. Because some changes, as you know, are REALLY  hard to make. And herein, I believe, lies the key to truly living a sustainable life...

BE FEARLESS. 

All these things we identify with sustainability - making our own meals from scratch; growing our own veggie gardens, joining a CSA, or frequenting a local farmers market; buying locally; baking bread; composting; recycling; buying used, borrowing items, or going without to reduce consumption; biking and walking instead of hopping in the car for a quick trip; or all the other things we could name if we took the time. They all require us to make a leap of faith. Faith in ourselves and faith in our communities. Faith that we are no different than the generations before us for whom sustainability was the ONLY way of life. 

The first few changes are hard, but after a few "I don't think I can do this" followed by a few "Gee, that wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be," it gets easier. The next thing you know, there's nothing you can't try. Sure. You won't end up doing it all, but you'll soon learn that you can do anything. Anything is possible if you're not afraid to try.

And as far as sharing what you've learned with others? How better than to live the life? People will notice. Share that homemade jam, the fresh baked bread. Carry your cloth bag to the grocery store. Some will stop and ask while others notice whether you realize it or not. One day, a neighbor stopped me as I was walking. He said that after watching me walk day after day back and forth to the grocery, to the post office and around the neighborhood, I had become an inspiration to he and his wife who decided that they too could get out and walk. And they did. How many similar stories are out there that I don't know about? And here I've done nothing more than tried to live a more sustainable life. 

As we learn to live more sustainably, as we become more fearless in our efforts to try the things we once thought impossible, as we become the change we want so desperately to see in the rest of the world, change will happen. It's beautiful, it's inevitable, but most of all, it's infectious. So be sure to pass it on.
To check out the full blog carnival, visit this month's host, Farmers Daughter on October 15.

11 comments:

fearlesschef said...

Oooh! I like your post! Very well written and full of energy! Hope the energy coming from this post is reflective of how your body is feeling these days!

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Wow Heather, this is an excellent post. Very thoughtful and inspirational. You are right though, after learning, you have to change, and you can do much to educate others just by leading by example - doing what you know you can do, and people notice and sometimes ask questions.

You do have to take a leap and I agree, it's often a lot easier than we thought it would be. Thank you for the great post!

Theresa said...

You are so right! With the little changes comes the faith to try some bigger ones, and then we do get more and more fearless to try the really big ones!

I notice too that when you are out doing these different things, like walking to the post office or bringing reusable bags to the store, people do notice. I have been pleasantly surprised with the reaction of the young grocery clerks to my mesh produce bags. Several have asked me where I got them, and many have said they are "cool." That makes me grin from ear to ear when it happens :)

Abbie said...

You're such a great role model for others!

Heather @ SGF said...

fearless chef - Very perceptive! Yes, I've been having some better days lately. Thanks!

jennifer - Sometimes, I think, it's important to take the initiative and speak out, but I think doing the right thing says more to people than our words ever could. Of course, that being said, I have SO much to learn. You're container garden was a HUGE inspiration for me. If you could grow a garden on your porch, I might could pull it off too! :)

theresa -Yeah! It feels so great. I mean it's good to do the right thing, but knowing that someone has noticed just makes your day. I'm with you! :)

Heather @ SGF said...

abbie - Hi! We must have been writing at the same time. Thanks so much! I'm really looking forward to reading your carnival post with everyone's comments on education. Thanks for putting it all together!

DramaMama said...

Awesome! I like it - sounds like a good slogan. Be fearless. You rock! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

ttammylynn said...

My favorite thing is to pick veggies, can, freeze, peel, prepare or cook with my children. It is sharing small tasks that make life just a little bit better. I've come to find that so many products offered for sale are in fact substandard compared to what I can make for myself. There is such a sense of pride when you pick the vegetables(or have you ever milked a goat? or found a chicken's hiding place for her eggs? made cheese, butter, yogurt, whipping cream, other things?) all the way through preparation and consumption. You eat a beautiful meal that tastes even better because you really made it yourself.

Heather @ SGF said...

dramamama - glad you enjoyed!

ttammylynn - I totally agree. I wouldn't have believed it a year ago, but making jam is one of my all time favorite things to do. Then when I offer a jar to someone else, it's like giving a part of myself. I'm so proud of it. There's something inherently fulfilling about doing these kinds of things. We're providing a very basic need from start to finish...

ttammylynn said...

How about another fearless?
You are willing to try new things in different ways. Buying local and natural means you get what is there, not what you need with regards say, to a recipe. It means that you buy more according to the Farmer's Market than to your preferences...then sometimes you have to clean out the frig into the steamer. I had two asparagus spears and herbs(green onion, basil, rosemary, cilantro and oregano)from my garden, cherry tomatoes from a friend's garden, several squash fron Vicki and the market, potatoes, spinach, onions and sweet potatoes from market, green beans from Vicki and a head of green cabbage from the grocery store. I put it all in my steamer and, wow. I love vegetables, but who would have put all this together? Have no fear...it works, especially if you resteam the leftovers the next time you get hungry.

Heather @ SGF said...

ttammylynn - absolutely! Designing meals around what you can get locally vs. following a recipe is a HUGE fearless step! It takes a lot of effort to play around with recipes to make the fit what you are able to buy at the market (or get from your CSA) and even more to make up your own!

I really liked the recipes in "Animal Vegetable Miracle" as they included ingredients that were available within their seasons.