Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sustainable Superheroes

When I started gathering up APLS for The Bushel Basket, I was met with two strong reactions. Both involved the acronym APLS - Affluent Persons Living Sustainably.

The first was an objection to the letter A, which stands for Affluent. Many of you weren't sure you qualified as "Affluent" - even when viewed under the Global Rich List or in a non-monetary sense. I wasn't surprised by those comments. A for "Affluent" has been and will continue to be the subject of much debate both in blog land and over at the APLS Facebook Group.

The second reaction, though, caught me off guard. Many folks didn't blink an eye at the controversial "Affluent" but balked, instead, at "Living Sustainably." They argued that, while they very much wanted to live sustainably, they weren't doing it yet. They were trying but hadn't achieved that elusive goal. They couldn't qualify, they thought, for the APLS designation.
If these people - who read eco-blogs daily, who comment or write their own "going green" blogs, who strive to live lighter, who drag spouses and children into a world with more compost and less toxins - didn't consider themselves APLS, how could I?

I make enviro-mistakes daily. I forget and leave a light on. I run out of time and drive instead of bike. I am too tired to make lunch for my husband so he buys something to go - complete with disposable containers and non-local, conventional food. I am not perfect. I have not achieved the nirvana of "living sustainably" and yet I considered myself an APLS. Heck, I scream my APLS-dom to the world with a green superhero as my "photo".

Then I realized that I do those things not because I live sustainably but because I try.

The APLS moniker points to the dichotomy of living sustainably in an affluent society. There is something special about those of us who want to live with less in a society that urges us to live with more. There is something unique, extraordinary about that quality. And it is an attribute shared by virtually every person who purposefully reads my blog or any of the blogs listed in the Bushel Basket.

Am I living sustainably? I do my best. I live with less even though I can afford more. I shop at thrift stores and love it. I buy from the farmers' market and adore my friends there. I ride my bike and soak up the sun and wind. I give to others instead of buying things I do not need. I organize carpools. I plant a garden. I make cucumber relish. I work to build a community and sometimes I even succeed.

It is not perfection that makes us sustainable superheroes. In fact, perfection is not sustainable. What makes me and you a superhero is our desire to live sustainably. Our ability to see the impact of our actions on others and on the environment. And our vision that extends beyond what is good for us next week to what is good for the planet in twenty years. If we stumble, we can't fly, we've lost our cape or can't find a decent phone booth in which to don our costume - those things are irrelevant.

What does matter is the desire and the effort. For those of you who woke wondering what you could do to lessen your footprint, pick up a cape, slap on your mask, and grab an alter ego (you don't think I go by Green Bean all the time do you?). Embrace your inner superhero. Try to live sustainably.

Enter the APLS Carnival by submitting your post on What Living Sustainably Means to You to aplscarnival (at) gmail (dot) com by August 12. Check out The APLS Blog to find out which superhero was the first to step up and become a regional organizer.


ruchi aka arduous said...

It's because we're not perfect that makes us interesting, that makes us human superheroes.

I really wish there was a Green Bean superhero comic. I would read that every day!

Woman with a Hatchet said...

You can count me in! I'm weeding, over at my place. As a matter of fact, I think I'll submit it to you!

Bobbi said...

I realize my family is not perfect, but at least we are trying to live sustainably. We still have a long way to go, but we aren't giving up. I want to set an example for my children so they won't take our environment for granted when they grow up!

Alana said...

I think that it's important to not think that we're perfect, or far from it. It's that humility that keeps us trying.
I also think that us recognizing that we're affluent, even if we don't feel like it, to realize that we can "vote" with our money and are capapble of doing so.

Abbie said...

Just chugging along, making the changes, doing the work, spreading the word. That's what makes it sustainable. Nobody's perfect! We're doing the best we can with what we have.

Beany said...

I was one of those that balked at the idea of being affluent. I thought I had too little money or assets to qualify. But then again I was measuring myself to a standard that exists only in some countries, not in the majority of the world.

As for living too I measured myself against my living environment. I didn't drive, barely flew and didn't eat much meat. So I thought of myself as living a sustainable lifestyle, even though all my other habits (such as living in an urban environment) was proof that it wasn't.

The fact that its a goal is what appeals to me. I do plan on reaching a point where I am satisfied with my lifestyle choices.

Great post!

eco 'burban mom said...

Right on! You can be living sustainably through your efforts and learning from your mistakes. It's SO important to remember that you might not be perfect every day, but always trying is what makes the difference!

Robj98168 said...

I would be bored with you if you were perfect.Nothing would change and nothing new would be around, How the hell am I to learn anything if no one tried anything new?

Bobbi said...

Every little bit helps. That's how we grow.

Last night I made pesto with my own basil and seasoned squash from the farmers' market with my own oregano and marjoram. I couldn't believe it. It was almost like I thought it wasn't food unless it came from the supermarket. What a revelation! Bobbi from SoCal

Green Bean said...

Ruchi: How fun would that be to have a series of green superheroes, saving the world one piece of plastic at a time.

Hatchet: Really lovely post. Please do submit it.

Bobbi: I'm hearing your roar loud and clear!

Alana: So true. That is why, despite the controversy of Affluent and some discomfort around Living Sustainably, I think that acronym fits to a T. It not only sums up who we are but guides us on our journey.

Abbie: Chug chug. I loved your role model post, btw.

Beany: Interesting point about measuring both Affluence and Sustainably Living against the current environment - our society. I'm not sure where I go with that but I'd never thought of it. And yes, the goal appeals doesn't it. If we had already achieved all this, where would the journey be?

EcoBurbs: I can't remember who it was but some person was famous for saying "I will never give up." That always struck me as far more important than being wealthy, or smart or otherwise gifted.

Rob: So true. The great thing about the blog-o-sphere is that we can learn from others' trials and errors as well as our own.

Bobbi (in So Cal): How wonderful. I thought like you a year ago. What a wonderful adventure the farmers market has become. And I have yet to make pesto and my backyard basil is calling my name.

CindyW said...

I don't know about you guys, but I am perfect when it comes to live sustainably, because I set the definition of living sustainably :)

Kidding aside, I read a while ago about this family of four that lived in a 1000 sqft house. They didn't own a car, did not have the habit of shopping, bought food at farmers' market, etc., etc.. Yet their per person carbon footprint is still 4x higher than an average person in a developing country. I realized then that I could not be perfect.

But to me (as GB said so eloquently), it is all about doing one's best. I may not be able to abandon my dryer yet, but I can recycle and compost. I can put all my money on a bet that if we all just tried our best, the world would be a better place.

Abbie said...

Thanks GB. All of you folks blogging about your experiences are role models for me. I get so many great ideas and encouragement from you all. I don't know how I was carrying along alone before I found you all!

Going Crunchy said...

I rather agree with Beany's thoughts. Just kinda ditto that.

I do feel like I may be doing a little bit mpre then some, but not as much as most everybody else. I rather like reading all the blogs about it because you guys motivate me to do more.

I do feel like I have so much more to do on the sustainable end.

I also feel like I need more "follow through." Is there a cape for that?

Stephanie said...

I think all I can do in response is smile to that.

It definitely is a journey, and I'm amazed at how far even I've come in just a few months. Since I go to college in another state, I feel sort of like an outside observer in two states, rather than a resident in one or the other, and over the summer I've been trying to work my family to make some changes in our life. Now it amazes me when someone else uses cloth bags to get groceries, and I haven't reminded them, and I realize: we're getting better. I was really heavy-handed about it in the beginning, but now we're all starting to "get it", and it DOES feel like a journey–a great one.

Is that too much? I don't know, I am just so glad to see that each small step is leading up to more steps and more changes in our own lifestyle. It's not like we were awful to begin with, but I'm glad we're doing more.


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