I have been musing, recently, over lots of environmental words and phrases. Partly because I want to improve my own understanding of environmental issues but more specifically to find words and concepts to motivate myself and effect change in my own lifestyle and home. I keep coming back to “Sustain” and “Sustainable”.
Sustain: 1. support, bear the weight of, esp. for a long time, 2. give strength to; encourage, support; 3. (of food) give nourishment to
Sustainable therefore describes a practice or action to sustain.
Sustainable is a big, impressive, feel good word but I am beginning to wonder whether those who use it have thought about whether it is the right word. And often I think it isn’t. Sustainable is like renewable you can keep it going forever, a cycle, producing the same amount of something at the same rate with the least input and least waste. A thing that happens without intervention.
In my musings I can see how the Earth sustains us (and all life) with food, shelter etc. But I am increasingly conscious that my living on the planet needs me to take action to be sustainable. To take enough but also to put back and complete the cycle. To continue to take, take, take from the Earth means to run out of the things that sustain me. There is no infinite supply – renewable yes but not infinite.
Our culture is one of consumerism. ‘Sustainable’ in western culture often means can I afford to continue to pay this much for something. Can I sustain my lifestyle? Environmental sustainability isn’t about finance, its about whether the planet can continue to replace what I take at the rate I take it………………
- Is the food I eat sustainable?
- Is the energy that I use sustainable?
- Is my water use sustainable?
- How sustainable is my choice of transport?
I think I can use Sustainable as my word of motivation. I will use it to question my choices and influence the decisions I make when I am looking for a better way of living.
By looking at what I consume I can consider if the source is sustainable, whether my use is sustainable and what I, or society puts back into the cycle to complete and replenish the cycle. The more inputs the cycle needs to supplement what the Earth can yield demonstrates how sustainable the practise is. Lots of inputs demonstrates we are supplementing the cycle already to make it produce at the rate and yield we need rather than the natural or seasonal level.
What is your motivation word? What drives you forward to change your consumerism?