Room to Grow: Fertile Ground for New Strides in Sustainable Living

By Ellen Underwood

As members of this wonderful sustainability house, I see us having a great responsibility. We are the leaders of conscious living, of questioning our actions, growing from our mistakes, and hoping we come out at the end with less impact on the earth. But this is easier said than done. While we represent the dedicated individuals towards sustainability here on campus, we all have our fair share of downfalls. Since our time here, I cannot say that any of us have made any major lifestyle changes in the name of sustainability and the earth. Yes, we take shorter showers and turn of all of the lights, but how much does any of that really mean? These are absolutely important actions that if everyone participated in, it would make a highly positive impact, but I can’t help but feel that if we as members of this house are going to inspire sustainable living, we must do more.

As it is said, it takes 21 days to break a habit, and with an endless supply of homework, jobs, clubs, and dishes, it is hard to focus on major lifestyle changes. But, we’re beginning to do something about it. An initiative we have undertaken is each making a list of 10 things we could improve about our lifestyle habits that would be less of an impact on the plant. We are each going to make two of them a goal per month as well as one goal for the entire house each month. On top of this, four out of five of us are in an Environmental Psychology class where each student was asked to create and implement a mini environmental research project related to encouraging housemates, teammates, etc to participate in an environmentally healthy action. Now we have four separate eco friendly projects assigned to house members for the next three weeks.

Tom has dedicated his project to making us shop as local as possible. This means going to independent stores, finding products that have not been shipped 4,000 miles, buying organic and in season, and overall paying attention to where our food is coming from. Related to this, my project has dictated no food waste on the basis that since industrial agriculture is so damaging, waste of these products, which took so much environmental degradation to make, should be avoided at all costs. Hannah has taken our shorter shower habits to the next level by setting a weekly limit that if we go past, the amount of “water” in our “fish tank” holding “Roger the fish” will decrease as an incentive to keep us under the time limit. And lastly, Aly is evaluating our habits and perspectives in comparison to other houses on campus.

These projects add a new level of participation and dedication to “greening” our lifestyles, and overall we have all changed some habits to accommodate these projects. Tom and I walked to Weis with our reusable bags and examined the origin and production of each and every product we bought, all of us have kept our showers under the time limit, and everyone has been paying attention to their consumption habits. But we still have a long way to go. Our fridge is riddled with food from weeks ago that wasn’t eaten, people are driving to and shopping at Walmart, and our shower times haven’t decreased significantly.

While initially this all seems like just a criticism of our actions, I actually only see positivity in all of this. And this brings me to my main point here. We are all normal people who have grown up and been socialized as regular members of the capitalist lifestyle. Thus, where we are struggling and not changing sheds light on the problems most people will have with greening their lifestyles. This is a tool that we will be able to use – we can see what worked to get us to change and hopefully spread that to our friends, and family, and future families, and coworkers, and more. This experience is one of learning for all of us and we cannot expect ourselves to change immediately or with ease, but that is what this is all about. We will change ourselves throughout this year and we will learn the deep rooted challenges we all face as members of a society whose values are dedicated to reckless consumption and unlimited production. It takes these initial small but hard steps that will hopefully eventually become big steps that spread, and grow, and change the world for the better.

Any thoughts?! Comment below and start a discussion about the challenges of sustainability!

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1 thought on “Room to Grow: Fertile Ground for New Strides in Sustainable Living

  1. bjennings2014

    I encourage everyone to think about the scale of the problem versus the scale of the solution. How can you create a solution that is on the same scale as the problem?



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