When most of us think about sustainability we are taken to a fantasy vision of living off the grid in a 3,000 square foot earth ship where our dinner salad is perpetually growing in the southern window optimized for solar gain. Our underground cisterns are filled with rainwater and snow melt that is cycled through several staging tanks during its lifetime before ultimately ending up in our permaculture food forest. The solar panels that run our minimalist needs are supplemented by our wind turbines.
That’s the dream that I’ve held in my mind for the last twenty years. It’s a beautiful dream. Someday I might make it there. Alas, not today.
It’s about available resources.
This morning I was talking to a friend about this trend toward sustainable living, and what that actually means. He said that to him, sustainable means learning to use the resources that are available to you now. He looked out the window and down the street what you see is grass lawn after grass lawn. Available resources wasted. All of the land, water, and sun that it takes to grown those lawns that serve as little more than a barrier to erosion.
I started thinking about what I would consider available resources. The first thing that came to mind was money. Not something that we discuss much in sustainable forums, but it is one of the basic resources that often goes wasted in our culture. We have created a society that leverages a lifetime of paychecks and current assets to get more money to reserve more assets that the bank continues to own until we trade in that asset for something else – usually a bigger better asset.
I went a different direction.
It probably wouldn’t be recommended by Suze Orman, but I took a look at my available assets and what it would take to sustain myself and decided to put myself in a position that I believed I could maintain against most everything that could be thrown at me. I pulled my retirement accounts, took the hit on my taxes, and bought a house in a small rural town for $30,000. My criteria were that it be able to keep the majority of weather on the outside, have a large lot that I could garden, and a grocery store that I could walk to if I couldn’t afford fuel.
Lowering my standards was key.
Lowering my standards put me in a sustainable position. I could have worked a lifetime to be able to afford 10 to 20 acres of land and the resources to get myself off the grid. Instead, I looked at what I had available right now and how I could leverage that into a life that wassustainable.
It took me eighteen months of looking to find the right house in the right place, but it happened. They are out there. You have to be willing to put in the labor, what my father calls sweat equity, on the front end. What you end up with, though, is a home that is very distinctly your own.
I know it’s not for everyone. For some people the dream is much more fun that the reality of sustainable living. I know people that have pretty close to what I envisioned as the fantasy off the grid. What they will tell you is that it’s a lot of work.
Regardless of the path you take to a sustainable life, it is at its heart a life that gives up convenience. Sustainable means knowing how to do it yourself with the resources available. While inconvenient, what you get at the end of the day is a sense of independence that you aren’t ever going to be able to buy no matter how much of your life you collateralize at the bank.
That’s it for Sustainable Saturday! Tune in tomorrow for Silent Sunday where a picture’s worth a thousand words.
Create a sustainable income.
❤ Sasha Lynn