What is an individual’s role in cultivating a sustainable society?
Updated: Apr 21
Photo by Durga
What is sustainable living?
Let's extend the definition of sustainable development, to describe sustainable living as a way of life that meets our needs, without compromising on the needs of future generations.
In simple terms, it's making efforts to deliberate our consumption. It means bringing your own bag to the grocery store, choosing to take the train instead of flight when possible, opting to eat local food over imported food as often as you can.
There are plenty of means to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, and I hope to address a few of them in subsequent posts. I am taking this opportunity instead to speak about the mindset shifts that abet sustainable living.
Whether you are inclined to care for nature or not, current consumption patterns are not in favour of our sustenance on earth. If each one of us were to live like an average American we need 4.1 Earths, and if we were to live like the average European, we need 2.8 Earths. Too bad, we have only one, so what say we act more responsible?
Sufficiency over efficiency
If only we get that dress, that bag, that phone, that subscription, that car, we can be content. Just kidding! 🤡 As we get what we long for, our mind is already generating creative ideas to feel miserable and insufficient again.
Efficiency is crucial in our journey towards sustainability. Just not at the cost of sufficiency.
With the culture of overconsumption, it doesn’t matter how efficient the products are, eventually, we will cross limits and dwindle the resources.
Occasionally indulging in luxury, is human nature. But realising that no amounts of products or services can ever lead us to contentment, and espousing an essentialist mindset, can do us more good than we reckon.
What gets measured, gets managed
When we aren't even aware of how much we consume and own, it is unlikely that we moderate it. Observe how much waste you generate, how much clothes you buy, how often you get packaged goods, how often you take the flight to travel. Even if you think you don't live like an average American or European, you might be surprised by the results. You can begin by getting a tentative estimation of your carbon footprint.
Measuring your consumption will give you the perspective required to decide what reasonable changes you can make to your lifestyle.
Empowerment over guilt
I am not a fan of inducing guilt to drive positive behaviour, but living in denial is hardly the right way to go about it.
We can choose this information to empower us rather than inducing guilt. Guilt can serve as the activation energy required to get us started, but over time, it exhausts us. If we want to make this journey "sustainable", empowerment has to overshadow guilt. All of us experience some amount of guilt and that is healthy to initiate change. Beware of the point it starts draining you and pushing you to relapse into your old ways. Let's take it upon ourselves to communicate this message with respect and without morally criticising anyone.
All of these measures are not mutually exclusive from the actions taken by the government and other private organisations.
Does that mean we need to be drastic about it? Not at all. The changes that we make to our life also has to be sustainable, which means we need to take realistic measures. As our mindset shifts, our actions will follow. Our power lies in our agency to make choices. We vote each time we make a purchase (or not).
If you argue for your limitations you get to keep them. But if you argue for your possibilities you get to create them! Kelly Lee Phipps
Let this article empower you and not burden you with guilt. By playing our part in accommodating simple yet impactful habits, we let our collective power as a community, compound.