There is a lot of talk about sustainability in the past years. What is sustainable? And how do we measure it? Is it really only about nature and endangered species?
As a forester I am following the discussion about sustainable forestry for more than 15 years.
A core question is: How can you responsibly use wood for construction, woodworking, furniture and even paper products, without damaging or destroying valuable ecosystems?
Wood is one of the few building materials that can grow back providing beautiful forests (unlike concrete, steel, Aluminum, plastic). If used locally, it has one of the lowest carbon footprints. And finally, if wood is not treated with dangerous chemicals, it can be easily reused and recycled.
Independent from the question of how to provide a reliable system that guarantees sustainable forestry it’s interesting to note that most people in our society are not directly connected with this subject. It’s about wild animals, swamps, nice mountains but not about daily life. I want to discuss here, how sustainable living has an influence on most people every day, no matter if they live in the city or in the country.
According to the Sustainable Living Handbook, published by Oregon State University in 2011 (http://brevard.ifas.ufl.edu/communities/pdf/SF_Sustainable_Living_Handbook_2011.pdf),
- The average American family has 9,918 pounds of belongings (according to the American Moving and Storage Association.)
- The average American house size went up from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,414 square feet In 2005
- About 43 percent of American families spend more than they earn each year.
- Americans work an average of 47.5 hours per week at their paying jobs. That’s approximately 163 hours more per year than in 1969.
- 40% percent of American workers report that their jobs are very or extremely stressful.
The journalist Ellen Goodman sums up these findings in the statement:
“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car, and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.”
Sustainable living is also about our personal life. We can make choices, even small ones, that improve both the quality of our lives and that of the planet for future generations.
The Center for a New American Dream’s national survey, conducted a survey in 2014 in partnership with Policy Interactive, that showed that Americans who have chosen to work fewer hours report an overall improvement in quality of life, indicating that this shift has positively affected their lives by allowing for more free time and reduced stress.
In considering to reduce the personal consumption, to reuse things we already have and recycle the things we don’t need any longer we receive instant gratification:
- Spending less money
- Saving more money
- Experiencing a better quality of life
- Having improved health
- Strengthening communities
- Building a more just world
- Creating deeper connections among individuals, communities, and nature
- Minimizing climate change impacts
Live is great!!! Lets make it even better.