Our Sustainability Story: The Real Cost of Unconscious Living
Living sustainably and the things we write about on this website have not always been on my radar. Millennials are often criticized for growing up with an abundant amount of comfort and convenience, and for me it was no different. In fact, we had not just one, but two microwaves that often ran simultaneously to get everything needed for a meal adequately heated at one time. My closet could have housed a family of three in some parts of the world and was still brimming with clothing and other items that built up over the years. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great childhood. Everything was secure and abundant so why question any of it. All of it was normal.
Life essentially carried on this way through college and into our early married life. We lived on a tight budget so I began couponing for our basic food and household items and could buy them for next to nothing. I didn’t think much about quality or where things came from or why these companies wanted me to buy their products so desperately to basically give them away for free. They were cheap and that’s what mattered to me at the time.
Fast forward to the spring of 2012, this is when things began to change. A poor diet and lifestyle habits had caught up to me resulting in symptoms tied to hormone imbalance and infertility. I knew that in order to restore my health, I needed to change what I ate. This is how I was introduced to the idea of eating “real food.” Being a black and white thinker, this made sense to me and I jumped on board immediately. Within a week, I purged our cabinets of egg beaters, fat free yogurt, and 30 calorie bread and replaced them with food that actually resembled food that you could grow and harvest yourself. I immersed myself in studying exactly what I needed to do to balance my hormones. This led me down a path of exploring what were totally new and foreign concepts at the time like pasture raised meat, organically grown produce, and even more unconventional things like consuming organ meats and fermenting things. The idea of eating like people have for generations and generations preceding us made sense. Over the course of the following few years, my health was restored and I felt better than ever. Where doctors had misdiagnosed and prescribed intense drugs, eating rightly, put simply, was the cure.
Food, as we would soon find out, became a launching point to so much more. I understood the basic concepts. Organic was better than conventional. Supporting your local farmer’s market was a worthy cause. But a mindset of cheap and convenient was ultimately still what stocked our fridge each week in my pursuit to keep myself and my family healthy. However, at some point this past year (2016) something bigger began to emerge.
We started asking why.
Why should we buy food locally? Who’s affected when we buy conventional produce at a grocery store? Why do I need a stroller to push my baby around? What did people do before strollers existed? Why do I need a large home filled with stuff? How did our ancestors survive with so little? Why do we work a 9-5 job yet pay others to do much of the work that people used to do themselves?
These questions moved from mere fleeting thoughts to real life ponderings we couldn’t escape.
Each time I buy cheap food, electronics, clothing, etc… who is being underpaid and harmed?
What is the cost of our convenience based lifestyle to our health, the health of others, and the health of the environment?
We began to see that we were culprits of shutting our eyes to the real conditions all around us and hopping on the conveyor belt of hyper consumerism at whatever the cost. Each layer that peeled back continued to point us in this direction as we gradually became more conscious consumers considering the deeper social and environmental ramifications of our current lifestyle.
We are still very much in process about how to address these issues in our own life. When we posted our previous post, “Put a Face On It” a friend commented on how hard it was to lose the mentality of trying to find everything as cheaply as possible. We recognize that and experience that tension everyday. Things that I have always felt great about buying previously (Aldi’s $1.50 organic tomato sauce which I just bought last week, for example), I now question who and what is being hurt so that I can buy this product so cheaply. How is it possible that Aldi can sell it for $1.50, while the tomato sauce I bought from a local vendor at a farmer’s market cost $8?
All this to say, these are new concepts for us that we are just beginning to explore. Convenience will always come naturally to us as it does for everyone and we will need to fight and stare it in the face each day. We are in the middle of this tension and are excited to process out loud with you here as we learn.
A few people and resources who helped get us here…
We wanted to mention a few of the many resources that have inspired us on this journey to simple and sustainable living.
- Radical Personal Finance, by Joshua Sheets – You will be challenged in so much more than just finance. We especially enjoyed many of his early episodes.
- Katy Says, by Katy Bowman – She is a biomechanist who examines movement in our sedentary culture and has completely rocked our world.
- Sustainable Dish by Diana Rodgers – She is a fellow Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Dietitian, and organic farmer passionate about sustainable living.
- Livin Lightly – Learn to live intentionally, live with little, and value what you have.
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan – Consider how your food came about and what it’s made of in an unbiased and tastefully documented journey.
- Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell – A great resource for learning about how generations past ate, how things have changed, and tons of recipes for traditional cooking.
- Food Inc. – A great starting place. Joel Salatin will soon become your hero.
- The True Cost – A deeper look into where our resources, specifically clothing, comes from and the cost of our consumption.
- Minimalism – “Love people. Use things. Because the opposite never works.” A documentary about the important things.