Leaf & Small Earth

Sustainable Living

by SustainableLiving on February 7, 2011


Sustainable living is an amalgam of lifestyle choices made with the intention of adapting world sustainability models to the scale of a household or family. Many individuals who practice sustainable living have formed communities and neighbourhoods of like-minded individuals who support each other in their efforts. The goal of sustainable living is to reduce the vast carbon footprint left behind through modern life. While some see sustainable living as a step backward technologically, the fact is that many who practice this lifestyle do so through the use of some of the most advanced technology available.

Defining Sustainable Living

The basic philosophy of sustainable living is to lead a lifestyle in tune with the symbiotic nature of life and the Earth. Those who practice sustainable living ultimately seek to use the natural principles of ecology to live in the environment without taking anything from it that can’t be replaced. Adapting the more general tenets of sustainability to personal lifestyle choices is seen as a small but important step in developing a larger society that can live in harmony with the Earth so that the human race and all life can continue to survive together into the indefinite future.

Factors of Sustainable Living

Three basic, yet critical, factors exist and are necessary for sustainability to work: social, economic, and environmental. Of these three factors, environmental is the most encompassing. Social and economic sustainability rely on environmental stability. Social sustainability relies only on the environment, while economic sustainability relies on both social and environmental stability.

These factors can also be represented by a Venn diagram whereby each meets with each other and all three meet in the centre. When social and environmental factors come together, bearability is achieved. When economic and environmental factors come together, viability is achieved. When social and economic factors come together, equitability is achieved. Only when all three factors come together is true sustainability achieved.

History of Sustainable Living

Sustainability has been a part of human knowledge since the first days of agriculture, thousands of years ago, when it was noticed that crops depleted the soil. As cities grew, examples of the depletion of natural resources presented themselves, and practices of sustainability grew. Sustainable living as a personal lifestyle choice is thought to have originated in the 19th century.

In the early 1800’s, as the industrial revolution began in Britain, the Luddites posited that some forms of technology were inherently bad because of the drawbacks witnessed.

In 1854, Henry David Thoreau, American naturalist and author of Walden, became the first person to write directly about sustainable living.

One hundred years later, the modern sustainable living movement was spearheaded by Scott and Helen Nearing, who published the persuasive book entitled Living the Good Life.

Another book, The Limits to Growth, written in 1972 by Donella Meadows, pushed the need for sustainable living and reached more people than any other work before it. The book was translated into 28 languages and sold several million copies worldwide.

Early in the 21st century, several government committees and United Nations conferences focused on promoting sustainable living through practical lifestyle choices.

Lifestyle Categories for Sustainable Living

Because sustainable living is about making lifestyle choices in the modern world, it is more easily accomplished by breaking down the requirements of living and living in society into six separate categories. These categories represent all of the areas in which sustainable living lifestyle choices must be made. The lifestyle categories for sustainable living include the following: shelter, power, food, transportation, water, and waste.