I find a common misconception is in the ideas of green vs sustainable. The two terms are often used interchangeably when they actually mean two different things.
Green doesn’t always mean something is sustainable. And sustainable may not always be the best choice.
Green, Greener, Greenest
“Green” is best thought of as a spectrum. Yes, there are “green” products, and then there is greenwashing which may be “greener” than conventional products, but not exactly the best choice. And then there is the “greenest”, or what is actually sustainable. (And even sustainability has a spectrum.)
For instance, conventionally grown agriculture is neither green, nor sustainable. Organic foods that come from across the nation or across the world are “greener” (or even greenwashed), but growing that food yourself is what is most sustainable.
But then, sometimes that sustainable choice is not sustainable at all.
You see, it comes down to the actual meaning of the word “sustainable” -something we can sustain.
So when does a sustainable choice (of growing your own food) become unsustainable?
When the person trying to make the sustainable choice cannot sustain it.
For instance, if this person hates to garden, or isn’t good at it, they will not want to (or will be unable to) sustain those actions.
Way too many people look at this as a cause for judgment or a need for sacrifice on the part of that person.
But is self-sacrifice and unhappiness sustainable?
Assuming everyone can or should make the same choices to live sustainably is just a form of judgment, condescension and ignorance about the fact that we are unique, diverse and interesting individuals who should be honored for Who We Are and what we excel at, not for how we conform.
When it comes to what is truly green vs sustainable, it’s important to ask these two questions:
- Am I actually able to sustain this?
- What are we actually sustaining here?
If we’re making green choices that are making us unhappy we’re not creating a sustainable future, because as a culture we will end up unfulfilled, burnt out and ultimately unhealthy. Is that what we want to sustain?
Creating a sustainable future means creating a life that’s actually worth sustaining.
This means an emphasis on the things that deeply fulfill us, such as our relationships, our passions and interests, our sense of peace or fun and most especially our ability to enjoy ourselves and one another.
If we aren’t doing something we love, we will not be able to sustain it. It’s our human nature to gravitate toward things we love and away from things that are harmful to us (whether that’s physically harmful, or emotionally or spiritually harmful).
So, what’s the truly sustainable solution?
I see it as connection – both to Who We Are and to others in our life and community.
Don’t want to grow your own food? Get connected with the neighbor or the local farmer who finds great joy in the process.
Want to decorate your home with things that inspire you and bring you comfort? Buy art from artists, rather than stores, paint your walls with No-VOC paints and DO create a home you actually WANT to live in.
Being green or sustainable should not mean going without, sacrificing your well-being in any area of your life or making yourself miserable trying to be someone you’re not. That’s not sustainable.
Source: Sustainable Baby Steps