Tuesday, 3 July 2012

How To Start Living Sustainably

written by Gavin Webber from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese.

Of late, I have been doing a lot of reflection about why I chose to live more sustainably way back in September 2006.  Not because I want to stop living this lifestyle, but because I have been writing a series of eBooks and needed to remember exactly how and why it started the way it did.

As my personal blog is now quite large, with over 1100 posts, new readers to the blog are finding it difficult to navigate particular subjects.  This is what gave me the idea for the subject of my very first eBook, titled "The Greening of Gavin - My First Year of Living Sustainably".

The research was easy enough.  I read through the first year of my blog, and then wrote the main guts of the book.  However, one thing eluded me, and that was the root cause and the real reason that my green epiphany had such a great impact.  It took me about three days of soul searching to figure out why, and another three days two write the chapter about it, which only ended up being a couple of pages long.  It was very hard work.  That said, I cracked it wide open.

I believe that the impact was so great because leading up to that day of awakening, I was a rampant consumer, stuck in the rat race, getting deeper and deeper into debt, with no end in sight.  I was damaging my self financially, my future, and the future of my planet.  I would buy the next latest and greatest electronic consumer item without real reasons or any thought of the consequences financially and environmentally.

I just had to have it, mainly because I had been programmed that way.  Years of living in the consumer culture had altered the way I behaved, acted, and consumed. Advertising was my master and I was its slave.  All that consumption was playing in the back of my mind, and I had this niggly little feed that something was wrong, but I didn't quite know what.  

I had also become lazy.  Whereby I used to make things like my own beer, a little of my own food, and took pride in construction projects around the home, I had slackened off and just paid for things to be done, because I was too lazy to do it myself.   Due to this consumerism, I knew it would be a very long time before my mortgage on my home would ever be paid off.  I felt very, very lost.

Then I had, what I call my green epiphany, which was a pivotal moment in my life.  I remember it as a true awakening, like I had been shaken from a dream state and slapped silly with a big wet fish.  However, it was only because I was in such an abnormal and sorry state before the documentary, that it was the reason that the experience did have such a transformational effect upon me.  Otherwise, I believe that I would have walked out of the cinema, thought a little, shook off the feeling that I should do something about this climate thingy, and promptly put it in the too hard basket.  Just like everyone else who saw it that day did!

Well, the rest is history.  I did choose to act, and act decisively, albeit not quite in the order that I would green my lifestyle if I had to do it over again.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but when I think about it, I probably wouldn't change a thing.  All of my actions have had a purpose, whether it was a large statement, or made our family feel good that we were actually doing something worthy of our time and effort.

So why the title of this post?  Well, I suppose that I am trying to say is that all it takes is one simple action.  Then another, and another.  It doesn't matter what triggers the initial action, all that does matter is that you start.

All of these actions are small, yet powerful steps towards a larger goal of voluntary simplicity.  You are the one that chooses to live simply, without it being forced upon you.  Kind of like beating the rush that many of us see on the horizon.   

So consuming less or consume ethically, and you find that you will live a more happier life a result. It is certainly the only way I know how to start living sustainably!

How did you start your journey towards voluntary simplicity?  What was your awakening moment?


Oya's Daughter said...

For me it wasn't really due to any sense of "green-thinking" but of plain survival. Money was scarce, and I was housebound. I had lived essentially rather "backward" by society standards anyway due to disability, and I needed to find a way to feed myself and my son on very limited funds. When things levelled out, I didn't go back, but kept doing sustainable stuff because I enjoyed it and because it continues to save money in the long term, builds good bonds with local folks and helps keep everyone more community minded. I now run a separate blog for frugal living for people who are disabled and chronically ill as our problems and difficulties with being more sustainable is usually due to accessibility and very fixed income rather than time or lack of knowledge. It's going well however.

Congrats on the book and hope the message goes further!

sl.tudor said...

Well my journey started with a little a little flicker...i had been a bit unhappy for a while..not with my family or husband but how we lived..from wage to wage and never having any money left...
On this GLBD..my husband and i went for a walk..we sat in a wood under a big conker tree and i just blurted out that i wasn't happy..i told him i wanted to change things and outlined my plan to become debt free and turn our back garden in a veg patch..to make my own jams and chutneys.learn to knit and sew...i thought maybe he would laugh or not take me too serious...but it seems he had had the same feelings for a while but didn't voice them as he thought i would laugh..peas in a pod we are.
So that was 7 yrs ago...we have learnt so much along the way..and made some lovely friends who feel the same as us..we make our own stuff and i did teach myself to knit and use the scary electric sewing machine...we have a so simple life now..our garden is a nirvana for us both..our chickens are more like family pets..our 2 littlies aged 6 and 3 don't know any different and help out with planting,harvesting and label jars for me..they know where food actually comes from and not the supermarket.
My older girls are now doing what i do..and its nice that they are..my grandchildren love coming to play as we don't have tv on and actually play..
O and i was totally inspired by "The Good Life"..
Like you say small steps at first but then you realize your actually doing what you set out to do and its great...

Sadge said...

Mine was not quite the normal sustainability path - fictional books gave me my start. I'm a dreamer. When I was a young girl, I read the Little House on the Prairie series and decided I wanted to be a Pioneer when I grew up. Later, I fell in love with Robert Heinlein's writing - in particular his books featuring Lazarus Long, such as Time Enough for Love, in which he writes about the items and skills necessary to colonize a new planet.

So, since my early teens, I've been researching and learning the skills I'd need - sewing and other handcrafts, growing, cooking and preserving food, using hand tools and basic mechanical repairs, small livestock husbandry, fiscal responsibility and management. Marrying a man with complimentary skills, even if not exactly the same mindset, means we are now living a somewhat-sustainable lifestyle together. Childhood dreams can come true.

SARINA said...

I`m still on that path, treading slowly. I`ve always been frugal as money was tight when I was looking after a disabled husband and brought up three kids as well. I started with learning to grow veggies in my own back yard, then began to make my own jams and preserves with home grown produce, also started to experiment with my foods and got quite inventive with meal preparations. After splitting from my disabled husband when he had been sexually abusing my daughter, money was even tighter and the journey towards selfsufficiency carried on. I met a new partner after two years on my own, and still walk towards that goal. He`s not so convinced of it all, but I know where I`m heading. Life is simpler and much more satisfying. He is getting used to my ways and is tolerent, and I just carry on learning more skills as we live together. I have learned to make my own household and laundry cleaning products, saving me alot of money. We managed to set aside some of that money to have a holiday abroad. My partners sister invited us to join her and her husband in a holiday to Bulgaria, where she has a house. We shall have no accommodation costs and can afford this rare treat for once. My normal frugal journey towards more selfsustainability shall resume thereafter.

Gavin Webber said...

Thanks to all for your comments. It has always interested me what prompts/triggers people into living or leaning towards Voluntary Simplicity or Sustainable Living.


Anonymous said...

For me sustainability has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents were, and still are in their late 70's) DIYers from cooking to building and making the things that were needed. Used things were always re-used or re-made into something else. Why buy new when you don't have to? As a child I felt the odd one out because no-one else had a veggie patch as large as ours or had to wear hand me downs like I did. My childhood experiences provided a framework for a sustainable lifestyle. As an adult I have been building on those early foundations learning new skills and forming them into a way of life. I like my life and get huge satisfaction at my ingenuity and resourcefulness. The best part is I am living through a time when a sustainable lifestyle is becoming more and more valued and is no longer considered odd.

Anonymous said...

Late to the party, but...

Both parents and all grandparents practiced various frugal skills, so I was given a good start in life. A few habits stuck, but after I was out on my own, a lot of it fell by the wayside, and I was in the "trap". Not so much the "debt trap", but the "spend it nearly as fast as it comes in the door trap". Luckily savings were on autopilot and didn't make it to the door.

When I was young, I could apply for jobs, get called in for most of them, and just choose. As I got older, it wasn't as easy. When our company was bought out by a private equity group, and later a larger telecommunications company, that uneasy feeling started settling in. Frugal kind of moved up on the priority list to get me prepared for the possibility of NO JOB. So, six years ahead of planned retirement date, the job was gone. Even in this insane economy, I could find some sort of job to make money. Or use my time to make savings. Baring some big emergency, I choose the later.

It didn't so much start as a green thing, but frugal usually leans that way, along with other advantages.

brenda from ar