Learning to Live in Place

Not everyone can travel everywhere. 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:



  1. “Being a lifelong student” is a good thing to be. I think it is how humans thrive. Learning to live on the planet aligned with its reality (nature check in!)will be a great adventure. So far we are merely at the physical, material perspective and yet quantum physics and other studies show that there is far more to reality than new “stuff.”

    The economic re-do is the real issue. It needs to expand to a paradigm that encourages everyone’s potential. This we can barely imagine, the possibilities appear boundless. This is the ‘more” we will be able to embrace once free of the dinosaurs that are dragging us into the tar sands. Really Boeing is building new planes, row houses being force fed by “baby push” consumer model….

    No matter how “green” we really need to face our elephants and recognize our relationship to this living universe.

  2. wow and here is the proof


    Corporate Monopolies ‘May Dominate Green Economy’

    the narrow choice of necessities as we face 200 jelly bean flavors.

  3. Connie Snyder says

    I want everyone I love to read your December 29th column, Steve. Bravo!

  4. Great column, Steve! I cancelled what was going to be a 16 hour(round trip) holiday solo drive to my Uncle’s house on the central coast of California. Instead, we are planning a huge family get together (with car pooling) in the spring. I saved money during the holidays, will be reducing emissions through carpooling with other family members, and will get to see my Dad’s whole side of the family at one time.

    One of my New Year’s resolutions was to follow a budget but I’ve been thinking about creating a carbon budget as well. Giving myself a certain mileage to work with throughout the year, along with other things…

  5. Deborah, Connie and Lauren, thanks so much for your kind comments. Each of you has taken direct responsibility for the health of our world and I appreciate your leadership more than you know.

    Lauren, thanks for sharing your inspiring story. It is a perfect example of making a conscious change that not only helps address some big problems like climate change, but actually leads to a more satisfactory personal experience as well. Way to go!

    Creating a Carbon Budget is a great idea. My approach was to find a base line and then continuously work on reducing CO2 emissions every year. So far, since our baseline in 2000 where our emissions were pretty typical, we’re down about 85% with no downside at all.