Personal Action Guide for Sustainable Living

The “Big Five”

  • Consider having fewer children, or none. There is probably no single greater impact you can have on the biosphere than choosing to limit the number of children you bring into the world.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint by conserving energy through efficiency improvements and promoting greater use of renewable energy sources.
  • Choose a sustainable diet: eat less meat (reduce the heavy impacts of livestock on land, water, and greenhouse gas emissions) and promote sustainable agriculture.
  • Conserve freshwater and promote efforts to keep it clean and publicly available.
  • Educate yourself about ways to preserve wild places and the diverse creatures that share our world.

In Community

  • Get to know the place where you live as a bioregion, not just as a political jurisdiction. For example, where does your water originate? What are your local food sources? How has the landscape changed over time?
  • Meet your native plants and animals—appreciate the roles they play in your health.
  • Support policies that curb road-building, sprawl, loss of open space and destruction of native habitat.
  • With your income, instead of buying more, bigger or fancier things, reward yourself with less stuff and a simpler life that allows more freedom, and more time for family, friends and building community.

In the Home

  • In summer, close curtains to keep sun/heat out. Rely on fans more than air conditioning.
  • In winter, open curtains during the day to let sun in. Put on a sweater instead of turning up the heat; use an extra blanket on the bed.
  • Heat, cool & light only those rooms in use.
  • Use energy efficient lighting, such as LED light bulbs. They initially cost more, but last many times longer.
  • Save water—turn it off! Repair dripping faucets; install low-flow devices on taps, showers and toilets.
  • Recycle. More importantly, buy recycled.
  • Use alternatives to toxic cleaners, such as vinegar and baking soda.
  • Avoid processed foods; eat in a way that benefits your health.
  • Eat lower on the food chain—especially eat less far-traveled beef and seafood.
  • Check into household solar, utility-based wind, and other renewable energy systems.
  • Extra insulation saves money.

When Shopping

  • Ask yourself, “Do I really want to keep this forever?” Every purchase planned, needed and cared for.
  • Take your own shopping bag.
  • Avoid products designed to be used once and thrown away.
  • Avoid excessively packaged products.
  • Demand recycled-content products, such as recycled paper products.
  • Support local farmers. Buy locally grown and organically grown produce.

Transport

  • Support public transportation initiatives and funding.
  • Reduce individual use of your car—walk, bicycle, use public transport, carpool.
  • Live near your work and/or activities.
  • Buy a car with low fuel consumption. Rent on those rare occasions when you need something bigger or more powerful.
  • Recycle your engine oil. Never pour it down the drain or on the ground.

In the Garden

  • Plant trees, particularly native trees.
  • Grow (preferably native) plants that are appropriate for your place and climate.
  • Grow some of your own fruit, herbs and vegetables. Green is the basis of life.
  • Start a compost pile and/or a worm bin. Compost is great fertilizer and mulch.
  • Mulch to reduce water needs; install an irrigation system that puts water where needed.
  • Avoid chemicals, herbicides and insecticides. Use natural nontoxic alternatives. Host helpful insects.
  • Join or start a community garden whenever possible.

At Work

  • Start an office conservation committee; practice energy efficiency, recycling and buying recycled.
  • Work toward a paperless office: use email.
  • Encourage your employer to carry out an energy audit, and implement the recommendations.
  • Ensure your office air-conditioning and heating are set at realistic and comfortable levels.
  • Install timers to turn off lights and heat (or air) after a certain time at night.
  • Consider whether a business trip involving distance travel is really necessary, or if the business can be conducted by electronic means.

Population

  • Every child planned, wanted and loved.
  • If you want a large family, adopt.
  • Don’t put pressure on your children to have grandchildren for you.
  • Love other people’s children; become a mentor, tutor or coach.
  • Promote population and environmental education in your schools. Encourage schools to invite speakers and show films on sustainability issues.
  • Support family planning: urge your legislators to fund family planning programs in your community and abroad.
  • Elect officials who support family planning, environmental protection and conservation.
  • Talk about population and sustainability issues—engage in social discourse that explores complex issues, avoids stereotyping and extremism, and searches for solutions.

Principles for Action

  • The planet Earth does not grow.
  • Without population stabilization, there is no hope for a sustainable future. Human population and lifestyle consumption can not exceed nature’s carrying capacity for long.
  • Recognize the moral and civil obligation to care for other people and other forms of life.
  • Humankind must maintain ecological processes that keep the planet fit for life: protect and encourage biodiversity; do not use resources beyond sustainable renewal rates.
  • Halt dependence on oil and coal, transition off of gas, and switch to renewable energy sources.
  • Cultivate a culture of sufficiency to accompany an economy based on efficiency.
  • Economic growth cannot be the only aim of development. Economic incentives should be provided for sustainable behaviors.
  • Citizens should be truthfully informed, and then empowered, so they can make decisions for genuine progress.
  • Secure as many opportunities for future generations as we have.
  • All countries will gain from worldwide sustainability and are threatened if they fail to attain it.


What is a Sustainable Community?

Blue Planet United is dedicated to promoting an agenda for sustainable living and sustainable communities.  But what do we mean by sustainability?

The term is often defined as having an equal balance of the three Es: Environmentalquality, Economic vitality, and social Equity.  Building sustainable communities requires careful integration of environmental, social and economic strategies. If we can focus on all three – not just one – these strategies create a sense of place, personal responsibility, and social well-being that together foster improvements in quality of life.

Sustainable communities are healthy communities where natural resources are preserved, jobs are available, sprawl is contained, neighborhoods are secure, education is lifelong, health care is affordable and all citizens have opportunities to improve the quality of their lives. Who doesn’t want to live in a place like that? Who doesn’t want clean air and clean water and tasty local food and safe playgrounds for children? We can achieve those goals by changing our focus and our behavior.

To sustain is to support without collapse. As the 21st century lurches forward, sustainable communities will be the ones that become more resilient. Pandemics and the climate crisis will require rethinking how we live. For example, in order to avoid pandemics, the world needs to shut down wild animal markets, which are cruel and unsustainable anyway. To avoid worsening climate disasters, we need to transition away from fossil fuels as soon as possible, fossil fuels that are not good for our health in any case.

In this respect, the current pandemic has produced some unexpected and thought-provoking consequences.

  • People have noticed and appreciated bluer skies and cleaner air as a result of the declining use of fossil fuels. Waterways are cleaner too!  The shift to renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind, has accelerated, supported by changing public attitudes.  
  • People have seen that disadvantaged communities, minorities, marginalized groups and low-wage industries have been disproportionately affected in the pandemic, highlighting the increasing inequality of the social order that has attracted widespread attention.  It is a reminder that a sustainable community is also a just community that guarantees the right to equal treatment and equal opportunities for everyone.
  • People have experienced a dramatic change in the relationship between work and home life, raising questions about the emergence of new and better ways of living and working.   

If nothing else, we have learned that people can make substantial daily lifestyle changes very quickly when required to do so.  To live sustainably we must endeavor to be civic minded, to treat ourselves and others with respect, and to create innovative solutions to our current problems. 

To be sure, the problems we face are complex, systemic and multifaceted.  But to get started, individuals can take steps on their own, such as:

  • Get to know the place where you live as a bioregion, not just as a political jurisdiction. Get to know native plants and animals. Appreciate the roles they play in your health and well-being.
  • If your income rises, instead of buying more, bigger, or fancier things, reward yourself with less stuff and a simpler life that allows you more freedom and more time for family, friends and community.
  • Engage in social discourse that explores complex issues, avoids stereotyping and extremism, and searches for creative solutions.  

As we work together to make a more sustainable world, we must be kind to ourselves and others, and creative in envisioning solutions for a better future.  

COMPASSION and EMPATHY
As things are now, it may well be that our ability to change the way we live will depend not only on the capacity to be flexible and creative, but also on compassion. In the alchemy of the human soul, almost all noble attributes—courage, love, hope, faith, beauty, loyalty—can be transmuted into ruthlessness. Compassion and empathy alone stand apart from the continuous traffic between good and evil proceeding within us. Where there is compassion, even the poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless.

Paraphrased from Eric Hoffer

CLIMATE CRISIS: The Really Big One

From the Executive Director

The global—and local—response to the pandemic is in a sense a testing ground for the capacity of communities to deal with the biggest and most complex challenge of all—the climate crisis. It has not gone away.

In terms of recognition of the danger, and co-operation for the common good, the Covid-19 experience so far yields a very mixed report. And the tensions that are likely to persist in the post-pandemic world will complicate things greatly. 

The question remains: How and when will we change? Will there be a renewed sense of urgency and purpose? Will there be a new global order? Will that allow for rapid progress on this hugely complex issue? 

In order to slow lurking climate disasters, we must greatly reduce our use of fossil fuels. What can we do as individuals? The chart below gives us a start.