I’ve started trying to look at my life differently lately. Knowing that my brain will look for things to get worked up over, and knowing that I spent close to 2 weeks unable to get myself back on track after the conference, I have been really focusing on treating my day-to-day life as practice.
Instead of freaking out because I scorched the baby’s eggplant last night, I reminded myself that it was my first time making eggplant. Hell, I only just started making baby food a few weeks ago (and cooking at all last year) and it was the first thing I’ve ever ruined. Instead of panicking because the electric bill spiked to double what we normally use last month after a weekend of running the a/c, I’m trying to keep a better handle on the stuff I normally let slide, the chargers I might sometimes forget to unplug, or the kitchen light that I often don’t feel like getting up to go turn off.
For the past year, I’ve been trying to sometimes drag, sometimes nudge my household into living more sustainably. I’ve gone through scores of checklists and books and blogs, and we’ve done everything from turning off heaters to cloth diapering, joining a CSA, making baby food and cooking more at home. We’ve changed cat litter, cleaning products, and cut out damn near everything disposable. Even Lucy is conscious of how the decisions we make can impact the earth and is the first to remind me that it is bad for the environment to waste food, often leading to miniscule amounts of food left in the fridge for ‘tomorrow.’ When I get down about the progress we make, C is there to buoy me up and remind me that I’ve made great progress whether I recognize it or not.
I’ve been kicking around the term ‘sustainable’ since I read about the APLS Blog Carnival, and wasn’t really sure I could classify our way of living as sustainable. After all, I still have that roll of paper towels hanging in the kitchen, and I still buy most of my clothes new, and a fair amount of our food is non-local and processed. I realized this morning, though, that the important part of trying to live sustainably is remembering that it is a practice, not a competition.
It is very easy to get discouraged on the path to sustainability. It is easy, especially in this movement, to set the bar quite high and to get discouraged when you don’t reach it. The danger in that is that the act of living sustainably becomes rather unsustainable as soon as it is causing you stress and grief. By practicing to live sustainably, we remind ourselves that it is a skill we are learning and we give ourselves room to stumble. As our confidence grows, we are better able to teach others the practice. And in the times when our confidence is low, we are better able to be taught ourselves.