Defining Sustainable Journey
When choosing a name for this website I considered many and landed on, Sustainable Journey.
I like the word sustainable, as it combines different aspects of living lightly on the earth, with living well. In order for anything to be sustainable, long-term health must be built in.
One common definition of sustainability is “a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
I’m 60, part of the baby boomer generation. My generation’s concern for our own comfort and convenience has left little thought to the ability of future generations to do the same. This saddens me. I wonder about the world my grandchildren will live in.
Planet, Profit, People
A clean, healthy environment is essential for life, but so is the ability of people to provide for themselves (economy) and to care for one another (ethics). Sustainability must include environmental, economic, and social considerations. These are the three legs of the Sustainability stool and they must be held in balance. When we ignore one the stool collapses. In other words, to be sustainable, a practice must concern itself with more than the environment.
When any of these three: planet, profit, or people are not included a practice becomes unsustainable. A company that exploits and wastes natural resources will eventually run out of those resources. A product dependent on slave labor or unfair practices that compromise people’s lives, health, and freedom will also prove unsustainable. And an undertaking that doesn’t consider financial realities will soon cease to exist.
In order to be sustainable all three of these areas must be considered. This is true for countries. This is true for corporations. This is true for individuals.
It’s a Journey
I have sought to live more sustainably and have struggled to find balance in that journey. That is why I also wanted to include the word journey when I named this site.
Balancing the realities of economics, the environment, and social justice issues is difficult, even in the simple choices I, as an individual, make. For instance, I enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning and I often find my desire to access my coffee in a sustainable way fraught with obstacles.
A sustainable coffee journey?
The coffee industry is known for its use of slave labor. In fact, in June of 2019 it was discovered during inspections that one of the plantations in Brazil that Starbucks purchases coffee from was guilty of slave labor, and this was not their first violation. I don’t want to support slavery in any form, I certainly don’t wish to add to the profits of a plantation employing such practices.
This is why I look for fair trade coffee, a certification that insures workers are paid a fair wage. Purchasing fair trade coffee takes care of one of the three elements of sustainable coffee. I try to keep fair trade in mind, but I still drive through Starbucks. So far, my fair trade commitment is inconsistent.
Additionally, I want my coffee to not have a negative environmental impact. So many considerations here. Where is the coffee sourced? What are the growing practices? Were pesticides used? What is the impact of transporting the coffee across oceans? How much plastic is involved in the packaging and brewing?
Again, this is complicated.
As a first step, I look for organic coffee. Second, I try to purchase, grind, and brew coffee without using plastic. I can buy organic coffee beans in bulk, in a container I bring to the store at my local market…but those beans are not certified fair trade.
Economics comes into play because I personally want my coffee beans to be affordable, but each link in the coffee chain needs to make a reasonable profit. Super cheap prices are likely an indication that people or the environment are being abused.
This is just my quick thoughts on a cup of coffee. Every item in my home has similar stories and every company that provided that item has made choices about people, planet, and profits.
Simple swaps AND complex choices
I found that wanting to live sustainably, in many ways involves simple swaps, taking a bag to the grocery store instead of taking a plastic one home, or remembering my reusable cup when I am hurrying out the door. I’ve also found that living sustainably is incredibly complex and that I will always be learning, changing, and growing through the journey, because it truly is a journey.
Every bit of knowledge has changed my actions a bit, and over the last decade my lifestyle has shifted radically. However, I know that I have a long way to go. This sustainable journey is one that has taught me a great deal about myself.
Individual choices have power and create change
I believe that as individuals we have the power to effect change in the larger arena of corporations and governments. Each purchase we make sends a message about the kinds of products, packaging, and supply chains we want. Companies are listening and changing in response to consumer demands.
Maybe they aren’t changing fast enough, but the more of us that commit, as individuals, to living sustainably, the stronger the message will be.
So, it’s a journey. I’m far from perfect and really perfection is not my goal. Living mindfully, consuming thoughtfully, and continuing to learn is. I hope you’ll join me on the journey.
In many ways, my sustainable journey began as I started to eliminate plastic from my home. You can read more about that part of the journey here.