I couldn’t help but think watching the usual black Friday riots on TV- what all of our consumerism is doing to our environment, and the quality of life of future generations. What resources are we extracting from the earth so that we can satisfy our children with shiny new toys that lose their luster in a couple of days and wind up in basement? Fortunately, our consumer behaviors can become much more intentional and less wasteful. It is an opportunity to live more “sustainably.”
The concept of sustainable living was introduced to me at a workshop I attended at a national urban Extension conference by colleagues from the other OSU (Oregon State University). I went into the workshop thinking that I was going to be lectured by tree-hugging west coast academics about how damaging my Midwestern lifestyle and values were to the environment. I left the workshop feeling like I had more direction and purpose in life than ever before.
According to Oregon State University, Sustainable Living is defined as “living a life that is deeply satisfying, fulfilling, and appealing – and at the same time, environmentally responsible.” It is NOT living in the woods, eating only berries, guilt driven, not buying anything again, nor gloom and doom. It is deeply personal, intentional, practical, and puts our individual actions in a global context.
Extension offers a free on-line sustainability class at: http://www.extension.org/pages/62201/living-sustainably:-its-your-choice#.Uqdp2vRDspg. The class offers research-based suggestions on how you and your family can live more sustainably (recycling, starting a garden, eating local and organic, etc.). Following the instructions, you will need to create a password and username.
Sustainable living is more than just being aware of our own actions. It is ultimately about rethinking our consumer behaviors so that we can be happier and healthier. When consumerism runs amok we think that we need more stuff to be happy, so we have to work longer hours. As a result, we have less time to do things we really value and end up with junk that only clutters up our lives. During the workshop that I attended, we had to think about what we would save from our living room if our homes were on fire. Such activities really get you to think what is important in life.
Writer: Daniel Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition and Wellness at OSU Extension
Editor: Lisa Barlage, OSU Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences