Welcome everyone to this the 9th episode in the series and today we will look at Personal Sustainability – what this all means for each of us as individuals and some of the terms involved such as personal resilience, conscious consumerism and others. I am delighted to have Catherine with me to help explore this exciting topic.
Hello Everyone, When we think about sustainability it is often as a professional or business idea – the supply of electricity, recycling resources etc. and less attention is given to how it might relate to our personal lives. However, if we are to make real change happen across all sectors of society we need to understand how to make change in our personal lives also. We can’t do sustainability between 9-5 at work without practicing it also between 5 & 9 at home. Victor, Can you outline the ideas behind making sustainability personal.
Personal sustainability is about the ability to sustain ourselves over the long term and this involves developing an understanding of our own strategy for or philosophy around sustainability. It’s a process of reflecting on your own current practices and decisions and deciding what behaviour changes you are ready to make. This can be as simple as cycling to work, eating locally sourced food, and engaging better with your community or friends.
Alongside the three R’s of reduce, re-use, re-cycle there is another R and that stands for Resilience which refers to the ability to deal with setbacks. Making sustainability changes in an unsustainable world requires a personal resilience
Personal resilience is our ability to adapt, deal with and bounce back from stress and adversity in our lives when it happens. Resilience is a skill set that can be practiced and strengthened over time. Components that contribute to our own level of resilience are things like our stress management skills, our work life balance, our sense of personal empowerment or disempowerment in our lives, our support network and ability to use it and our level of self care.
The journey towards more personal sustainability begins with understanding what sustainability means to us as individuals. There are two supports that can help with this process.
Personal Sustainability Audit expands our understanding of personal choices to ensure that they are values led – are you living your life in line with your values. Rather than just measuring your transport, energy and buying habits to establish carbon footprint involved a personal audit might explore issues such as Time, Relationships, Health and how we use your gifts such as intelligence or creativity.
Personal Sustainability Plan – is a good way to start making changes. It focuses on setting achievable goals for change that can be repeated, are motivational and enjoyable as well as being sustainable. The chances of making real change is increased if we want to make the change rather than ‘have to’ or ‘should’ – making change because you want to is always more effective! The emphasis of such a plan is about taking care of yourself, reducing the various impacts your choices have and also about focusing on what you really want to do, what is your vocation or calling.
Perhaps it would be useful at this stage to distinguish between carbon footprint and ecological footprint. Carbon footprint measures the total greenhouse gases used by our behaviours and is measured in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide. Ecological footprint measures the biologically productive land and water required by an individual (or community or country) to support their current levels of consumption and waste production. This is measured in equivalent hectares of land.
Much of the ecological stress the planet is experiencing is a result of the rampant consumerism and what is called the Take-Make-Waste economic model that is so prevalent today. This has led to the rise of what is called Conscious Consumerism which promotes ethical choices based on environmental and social principles when making purchases. The aim of conscious consumerism is to increase the demand for ethical and sustainable products and so influence industrial production. Another related is term Voluntary Simplicity which refers to an approach or philosophy that considers carefully the long-term and collective impact of your lifestyle choices and not just buying decisions. These movements are not just about rejecting or giving up things you want but are more about re-appraising what is important to you and your long-term contentment. Unless these choices are based on a personal philosophy they just become a burden, causing a different kind of stress.
Let’s look at some of the common sustainability terms as they apply to personal sustainability.
If you think of Pollution in terms of excessive information and distraction, you can consider turning off the phone and reducing time spent on social media, for example.
Supporting wildlife is not just about animals in the wild but can be conceived of as connecting with your inner wilder self – so dancing, laughing and being in nature.
Conserving energy is not just about saving electricity but also about getting better sleep, doing yoga, enjoying massage as ways of managing our own energy.
Being innovative is not just about new product design but also about being creative in your daily life – making something instead of buying it, painting, drawing or writing a poem.
So we can see that personal sustainability is focussed largely on our vision, values, ethics and attitudes. It is more than just about calculating the resources we use. It is about using your life energies wisely in order to be creative, to be considerate of your emotions and mindful of how you choose to spend your time and other resources. Personal sustainability is about developing your very own Happiness Index. Recognise the elements that make you happy and plan how to resource and nourish those aspects of your life to increase your overall happiness and as the saying goes to be the change you want to see in the world.
That concludes this episode of the series which we hope you have found informative and helpful. My thanks to Catherine for her help and to you for listening. We do hope you can join us on future episodes of the series.