When Rene, the visionary and inspirational leader of our local citizens’ sustainability group, asked me recently whether my wife and I garden, I swallowed a lump of guilt. Rene, you see, is not only advocating for a sustainable food supply, he’s doing it: taking “get your hands dirty” workshops on permaculture, growing his own organic foods, developing community garden plots, and cultivating native species.
Frig. I was the founder of the very group that Rene leads and now I was caught out. My lifestyle is not 100% green. I am not pure.
All of us who believe in changing the direction of world ecology deal with this challenge every day. How does one advocate for change and strive for a sustainable lifestyle, while living with our own bad habits within a culture of excess?
Because surely our society’s excesses are unsustainable. Whatever one’s response to climate change information, a very strong case can be made for the need for humanity to slow down its consumption of resources. Even if we aren’t responsible for shrinking glaciers and even if the future of alternate energy sources is bright, we live on a finite planet.
My belief is that we should only be consuming the scale of resources that we can actively replace in our lifetimes – otherwise, we are essentially stealing those resources from future generations.
To that end, I have tried to walk the talk.
Examples: my wife and I take our own carry-bins to the grocery store. We buy bulk and eschew overly-packaged goods. We compost. We use reusable mugs. When we can’t reuse we recycle and bring others’ paper coffee cups home from our offices to throw in the recycle bin. We have downsized from two vehicles to one, and instead of driving we often walk, bike or take transit. We try to buy modestly, and buy local.
That, of course, is not enough. And we know it. We sometimes replace repairable products. We drive some days when we could walk. We are currently in a “life transition,” which means many things but includes jetting back and forth between two homes. Hugely wasteful.
Even so, we make an effort. At our new place in Victoria we belong to a great car share program and bike around rather than buying another vehicle.
And that is what this struggle comes down to, in my view. We don’t do everything right. Our lifestyle is not truly sustainable, yet we are moving in the right directions.
So I feel OK with admitting that I don’t grow my own food supply, while also encouraging people to do so. As individuals and as a society, we will never get to green if we allow guilt to overwhelm us.
“Green hearts” Albert Ip @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
“Reduce &…” Pedal Freak @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
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