April Fool's Day is a great day to talk about the word "sustainable." I see it everywhere I turn these days; it's laughable. I fully expect the gas station tomorrow to have a sign up saying "Fill up here: sustainable gas from organic oil wells!" It has been overused to the point where it's unclear what it's even referring to anymore. (This is ironic since the definition includes "allowing for continual reuse.")
But sustainability is no joke. The idea is to live in such a way that you can keep at it. To treat this earth in such a way that it can last a long time. To care for your belongings in such a way that you get the most out of them. In effect, to tread lightly so that you can keep treading.
I interviewed farmer Jesse Straight from Whiffletree Farm (in Warrenton Virginia) about his take on the term. I loved his answer!
“Sustainable farming is beneficial to all of the parties involved. It’s beneficial to the animals’ health, the land’s health, the eaters’ health. It’s beneficial to the farmer in terms of giving them a noble and sustainable way to live and to support their family and it’s beneficial to the community.”
I don't have a farm but Jesse inspired me with his response. (To be further inspired, listen to his podcast interview: Straight talk from a farmer.)
I want to live sustainably, according to his definition, don't you? I want to live so as to benefit everyone around me (including me)! I want to be ready for continual re-use! How can I be an asset at home, at work, at church, in the neighborhood, the city, and the world? It's a big list, a tall order. The only way to be of any use, anywhere, is to find balance in my own life first. A hectic pace, a frantic lifestyle will lead to my being worn out and unable to live a life in the plus column, that much I know.
So like a runner in a marathon, I try to pace myself so that I can best meet the day's demands. I eat well and exercise often. I pray, sing, and connect frequently with friends and family. I keep my house clean (more or less) and make decent meals for us and our guests. These activities keep me afloat and are generally a part of what sustains me. But there are other areas of my life that threaten to drag me down and wear me out. I tend to work at a rather constant pace, so I have to discipline myself to turn off the computer an hour before bed. I struggle to hit the hay before the clock strikes midnight. And I know I need more time outside to get refreshed and re-energized.
My short-term sustainability goals almost certainly looks different than Jesse's (and probably yours) but our long-term goal is the same. We want to be well, balancing our work and play, rest and service, so that we can benefit the lives we touch. Instead of being labeled "good for nothing," we are all aiming to be good for something!
What does a sustainable life look like for you? And what do you need to work on, to get there?