I love the concept of Green Living. For me, it is a simple, common-sense approach to life that improves our daily lives while acknowledging and addressing major issues like climate change and the overall sacred balance of life on Earth. Glancing back over this year’s past columns confirms that it is a topic with great diversity. There are a few recurring themes such as green building, renewable energy and resource efficiency since they have so much potential for everyone, but there is really no limit on the way we incorporate Green Living into everyday life.
My experience has been evolutionary, changing over time as circumstance and opportunity allows. I call it “Learning to live lighter on the planet,” and I plan on being a life-long student. The process has led to a deepening respect for the world we share and an increasing sense of responsibility as an active participant in its health. One way or another, we are all active participants. Every choice we make makes a difference.
Our purchasing decisions are certainly important and voting with our dollars can be a good way to create change, whether choosing organic produce, a hybrid car or creating a net-zero energy home. These are all meaningful, but I think the deepest, most beneficial change is behavioral. It is a mindset that causes us to joyfully change the way we do things because doing them the old way just doesn’t make sense anymore.
For example, we have all grown up in the Age of Oil. Like most Americans, I had a love affair with the internal combustion engine that lasted for years. I’ve been trying to break up the romance, but it is difficult. We’ve put engines on just about everything, often with spectacular and entertaining results. The overall result is not so good however since burning all that carbon is causing undesirable change to our atmosphere. This understanding has become a part of my mindset and my choices are changing.
Rather than wring my hands about everything I have to “give-up,” I am choosing to embrace the concept of Home and my sense of Place. As I strive to leave my old “flame,” the internal combustion engine, I’m learning to love something even better: right here. No matter where one is in the world, there is magic to be found. I’m cultivating a greater appreciation for my immediate surroundings and to let go of the lure to hop on a plane for some distant but temporary carbon-intensive gratification.
This kind of behavioral shift may take some time, but since fossil fuels are both inherently finite and dangerous, it makes a lot sense to me. I have family on both coasts and friends all over. Of course I would love to see them often and there’s nothing like a warm, in-person hug. In his book “Heat,” George Monbiot called the millions of airborne trips to visit family “love miles.” I’ve replaced most of my “love miles” with a much greater quantity of “face time” by using Skype to video chat with my family and friends all over the planet. We communicate more often and are closer than ever before, with an almost 100% reduction in carbon intensity.
I’m not saying I’ll never fly again, but I am committed to living lighter and there is much satisfaction in living a low-carbon lifestyle. It will be different for everyone but the New Year is bound to bring opportunities to all. Please choose consciously.
George Monbiot talks about the concept of “love miles” in this brief video: