As this year comes (sadly) to a close, I only have positive thoughts and hopes for the future. I know the joy and challenge of living sustainably has been a wonderful growing experience for all of us living in the house, and I know I especially feel all the better for it. One of the most striking evolutions of self I have experienced is the ability to critically analyze the manner in which I approach my daily life. Instead of blundering through my day to day, doing things the ways I’ve always done just because that’s the way I do them, I have instead been able to unpack my paradigm and question the forces driving me to make one choice or another. And eventually, this has become natural, a part of my daily routine. This is not to say such a method prompts immediate behavioral changes, but it’s the first step and one of the most important aspects of trying to live sustainably. As I see it, the lack of critical analysis of our daily lives is one of the very reasons we are severely over consuming and thus destroying our environment. When we step back and think about what we’re doing for just a few seconds, we can make small decisions that together make a big difference.
It’s taking the two seconds to ask – whats driving me to act this way and why and how can I do better? It’s as easy as unplugging appliances or turn off the lights, the small sacrifice to switch to fair trade organic coffee or locally grown tea, to buy food from local organic farmers instead of sub-par veggies from the grocery stores. It’s walking instead of driving or going without that over-packaged junk food, both of which are good for your health, your wallet, and the earth. It’s having open discussion with peers about ethics and what we want our future to be and spreading that critical thinking to our fellow peers.
One of the projects Tom and I have undertaken is converting the underutilized and less than aesthetic garden plots surrounding the house into a flourishing native plant pollinator garden. Instead of letting this space pass us by in our minds, we stood outside and asked – how can we do better for us and the earth. And so, we are transforming this wasted space into a haven for Pennsylvanian native plant species and our ever valued pollinators all the while beautifying our home and creating a more fertile learning ground for the students who tour the house.
This year in the house has been a transformative one for us, but it’s also a year that will help transform the sustainability house program as a whole. As only the second flock of students living here, we’ve been charged with the order of working out the bugs to make this house the best it can be for the years to come. Some of the most important things we will be adopting next year is personal reflections, stringent goal setting, and community building so we ensure that month to month we are continually evolving. We’ve also been able to develop more efficient methods of gathering data and are putting together an online handbook so each incoming class of sustainable seedlings will be able to start the year closer to where the last group left off.
My fellow housemates will be moving out of the Sustainability House and into new homes next year to spread sustainable living with our peers while I will be coming back to the house to carry our soon to be long tradition of sustainable transformation. I’d like to send a hearty welcome to Blake, Regina, Renee, and Samantha who will be next year’s residents! I can’t wait to continue this journey with them and all of you readers out there!