What does it mean to live sustainably?

What does it mean to live sustainably?

A new concept for many businesses and families is the switch to sustainable practices. The word "sustainable" can be used interchangeably depending on what someone is talking about. But the best way to describe sustainability, no matter whether we are talking about the economy, an ecosystem, or one's finances, is having enough for everyone, always. To be sustainable means to sustain the things we need, even after using them. It means setting ourselves up for the regeneration of the resources that allow us to live healthy and productive lives. 

The easiest way to describe this is to imagine that you have a lot of money that has been gifted to you from a relative who has passed away. That money took probably many years of saving and was likely able to grow over regenerative financial practices such as Roth IRAs or high-yield savings accounts. When that money was passed down to the next generation, that generation had the option of either using it all in one place or finding ways to make it last and continue to grow, like its predecessors. Using it all in one place would mean there would be nothing left for the following generation. But using only what was needed, and continuing to allow that wealth to build would mean that everything that your relatives worked for, and everything that you did to keep that money available would continue to multiply. I use this analogy because money is relatable, tangible, and necessary in today's world.

Now apply this analogy to our Earth's natural resources such as coal, oil, and gasoline. And understand that we only have so many of these resources available. It is hard to grasp this sometimes because we can't physically see how many of these things we have available at any given moment. We can hear numbers spoken on the news, or read articles with ambiguous information, but often this is too much for the average person to comprehend. In addition, the information that we get is often unclear and biased. As a society, we must rely on other sources to tell us if we are managing our resources responsibly or not. We trust large corporations to provide us with the products we use to maintain our livelihoods.  However, we often can't see the consequences of using them because they are too large-scale to make connections to our own lives. We then become overwhelmed when faced with this information and find it easier to erase it from our minds and move on with the status quo.

If we apply what we know about money to Earth's natural resources, we know that we can either use them responsibly, or we can cause damage by using them. The way that we use them can either be wasteful, like buying food that we don't end up eating, or it can be responsible by regenerating the wealth that we spend. In other words, you get what you put in. When we think back to coal, oil, and gasoline, we should understand that these resources have a very hard time regenerating, but we use them to provide us with basic needs such as transportation, thermoregulation, healthcare, education, clean water, food production, clothing production, etc. Not only do these practices require the use of these hard-to-access resources, but the consequences of using them involve the introduction of heavy pollutants that take other resources away from us and cause imbalance in other part of the environment. If we are mindful of what we put in and understand that we must be held accountable for the resources that we use, we can live regeneratively and ensure a clean, safe place for all of life's inhabitants. Living sustainably means loving what is around you so that it can love you back. It is something that everyone benefits from. It is something that gives us life. And after all, we are on this earth to live. 

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