Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sustainability in an era of stuff

Sustainability, I’m sure for some people, sparks visions of persons who grow their own food on wide swaths of land, who make their clothing, who can and live by candlelight.

But sustainability is possible in an era of stuff, and it’s achieved one moment at a time.

The last several months, my family has refocused on what’s needed in our lives and what’s not

First came a new baby (and the resulting suck out of the wallet from medical bills, diapers, day care and new clothing seemingly every month.) Then came a personal challenge. Then came unemployment.

So my husband and I have, with growing importance, taken a look at what’s truly needed and what’s not.

We obviously don’t dash to my husband’s work to say hello after I get the kids from daycare anymore, and our kids are less cranky and overall happier than had we raced around in the early evening, squeezing a slice of parental time among meals and bedtime.

For all the times I’d receive a call of “What do you need me to pick up on the way home?” when I’d rattle something off, I can count one few fingers the times when the tables have been turned and I’ve received that call since. Less hassles, less purchases, less things we found we truly needed.

The dinners that we’d eat out? They’ve been substituted with quality time cooking meals and shopping at the farmers market, involving our oldest many times.

The hand-me-down boy clothes, always appreciated, have been washed and sorted by size. And I was surprised by the generosity I’d been the recipient of and of my stash. Who needs 20 onesies in size 2T? Those leftovers found a new home among a domestic violence recovery organization.

The pants I tried this morning with the unhinged hem? It’ll take a needle, thread and time and will be ready to wear. May not seem like “sustainable,” but you’d be surprised how few people these days can even manage to fix a hem or a fallen-out hem.

Yes, sometimes sustainable living takes time, and I'll be the first to admit I'd not truly there yet. In all honesty, many times it takes much less effort than the headaches of shopping for more. Life is a long series of small choices, and our footprint on this planet is marked by the individual prints we make each moment.


EnviRambo said...

So true! I used to run out and buy a new shirt if the button fell off. A button! How lazy/ignorant am I?

I realized at 30 when I decided to become a stay at home mom (to pre-teens, which most people looked down upon) that I had no life skills. I could work like mad, shop like crazy, and make a mean processed frozen meal. WTF?!

It was then that I decided to truly start living. Growing our own food, cooking homemade meals, learning to sew, raising our children, and teaching them to do the same. So they don't wake up one morning at age 30 and say, "WTF"?!

Robbie said...

If it makes you feel better, I had a roommate in college that we had to teach how to make ramen and popcorn in the microwave.

I remember a year or two back a coworker saying she had to go home over lunch hour to make her child lunch. The child was in upper elementary or middle school - can't recall. I was shocked - a peanut butter sandwich isn't tough to make.

I think it's great that you can teach them life skills. Anything is better than just teaching them that every single service - from dinner to cleaning - has to be purchased!

Green Bean said...

Wonderful points here. Living sustainably (or trying - I don't know that any of us are "there" yet) can be a bunch of small changes. And it can lead to a more meaningful life. It has for me.

Bobbi said...

My husband can sew on a button. He takes a little sewing kit with him when he travels on business. These are just basic life skills so you can take care of yourself. I want my kids to be able to handle themselves.

Robbie said...

Bobbi, I agree completely. It's so sad that so many people can't function with basic skills anymore!