November 17, 2010

Green, Sustainable, Crunchy and other descriptions for a save-the-earth lifestyle

(I'm working on some posts about the environmental impact and nutritional qualities of grass fed meat, dairy, and eggs that are very research intensive, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I thought I'd share some other types of posts. Even these take a long time to produce! I've gained tremendous respect for all those bloggers I read who have coherent, detailed, and well researched posts.)

I've been thinking about the words and phrases we use to describe a "green" lifestyle. In addition to green we've got sustainable, crunchy, organic, beyond organic, granola, eco, eco-friendly, low impact, no impact, intentional, locavore, and others I've come across and forgotten. 

Each has a slightly different connotation. For example "green" is pretty general and now that companies are "green washing" (usurping the term to market products that are not, in fact, green) I think it's not very useful anymore. Similarly "organic" has lost much of its value. Unlike green it has a specific legal meaning. Most people imbue it with either more or less meaning than it actually has, but for me, organic does not go nearly far enough to describe how I live my life, raise my chickens, or grow my vegetables. 

"Sustainable" is my favorite. I think it's the most useful because it is not a metaphor (green is, after all, a color) and it's specific (sustainable adj \sə-ˈstā-nə-bəl\ - capable of being kept up or prolonged). Its specific definition makes particular sense when we use it to describe systems. Thus something might be environmentally sustainable or economically sustainable. 

So "sustainable" works but it only describes the outcome not the process. It doesn't give any clues as to what specific choices and lifestyles end up being sustainable. I've been thinking about other words we can use to describe the process of living a sustainable life. The words I would use to describe my life and the values that inform our choices are:

Intentional. We think about what we are doing before we do it. We don't just have reactions - we do things by design.

Deliberate. Our actions come from careful and thorough consideration with an awareness of the consequences.

Durable. We construct things that last. We want to live with the things we make and buy for a long time. The systems we set up and the objects we employ are designed and chosen to stand up to use, love, time, weather, and to be useful regardless of the manner, custom, or technology of the day. They might last, they might evolve, they may recycle or upcycle, they may be repaired, or they may soften and wear but they are, if nothing else, Non-Disposable.

Biodegradable. This may seem antithetical to durable but it's really part of it. We try to choose materials that can continue their cycle through our ecosystem when they can no longer be used or upcycled. So we choose things that compost or things that come from the earth and remain unchanged enough so they can return to it. Nothing should ever be so stable that it becomes inert and stops cycling.

Sufficient. We try to carefully consider (and differentiate between) our needs and wants. We aim for an adequate measure of things. We look for balance and variety, trying to take only our share and indulge in the things that are abundant.

Abundance. We choose to see abundance where others see scarcity. We think there is more than enough to go around.

We work towards an intentional, deliberate, durable, non-disposable, biodegradable, sufficient, and abundant life. Those are the concepts that inform our decisions.

We are curious... What words do you use to describe your life?

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