Sustainability is a way of life. We can change little things in our lives and pretend that they are good for the world, but even that isn’t enough. Sustainability is literally the ability of a system to be sustained. If we continue to use resources faster than they are regenerated and pollute the earth faster than it can clean itself, then the system will fail. There is a balancing point at which the system will continue. When protecting the ability of the system to sustain itself becomes a way of life, we will succeed in our goal to leave a healthy planet for future generations.
Coming into this course, I thought it was going to be all about how to repurpose old things into new things. And some of it was. We talked about upcycling, turning old products into new ones with greater value, and rycycling, breaking down the components of a product and reassembling them into new products. But this course also shaped the way I thought about sustainability. Sometimes you just have to bring people’s attention to something. I didn’t know about a lot of the problems and causes. It wasn’t because I was stupid or in denial. I just had never heard some of it before. This showed me how important it is to communicate and share these issues with others. This course also exposed me to a number of great TED Talks. I wrote a quote from one of them on a sticky note on my computer. It reads “Pick battles big enough to matter and small enough to win.” It is easy to get overwhelmed and be paralyzed by fear. But it is also easy to just make small changes that won’t matter in the long run. The art of the matter is to find what you can do that will make a difference. It might be starting a recycling program in your community. It isn’t world changing but if just one person in every community took a stand, then the world just might change. And lastly, this course has changed how I think. I now reevaluate the everyday choices I make. Should I run to the store now, or wait till my friend and I can go together? Should I use paper or plastic? Instead, I found myself bringing my own bag into the store when I remembered. Lifestyle comes from your habits. Your habits come from your beliefs and your beliefs stem from what you think. Therefore, changing how I think is the first step in changing how I act.
As I head out into the real world, I want to continue to keep my eyes open to what is around me. I want to see how we can be better stewards of the earth, and what I can do to improve my world and leave a better one for those after me. Maybe this means using renewable energy in my home or supporting legislation that protects the environment. Whatever it is I want to remind myself to be aware and look for opportunities to grow.