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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.


  • 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.

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.


  • 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.

2 responses to “Take Action

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  2. Malcolm Read

    A very good read. Stimulates me to take action to reduce population.