Do I have to work hard to be sustainable? This is the question that people have been asking since the dawn of time or in my case for the last few years.
The short answer: it depends
The long answer: it depends on your frame of mind. With the right frame of mind, clearly fixed on the big picture, sustainability is effortless. The right frame is like the difference between the special theory of relativity and the general theory of relativity.
The 3 Rs of sustainability
When I use the word sustainability, I am trying to compress a massive amount of meaning into one word. One frame to define sustainability is: use resources thoughtfully in the present moment in order to have an endless supply cycle of high quality resources.
The holy grail of sustainability is the 3 R framework, to wit
The order of the 3-Rs are very important, they are in the descending order of preference. The most important goal is to Reduce; think carefully about our consumption of resources and reduce sensibly.
The next R is Reuse, which means once something has been produced, it is a resource when reused, reduces the load on further production.
If all else fails, recycling is also a noble option. When we recycle, for example an old cell phone, we can extract a fraction of the original resource. That is better than just trashing the old cell phone to a landfill.
The 4th R : Replace
This brings me back to my original question: Is sustainability hard work?
Not if one takes care of the basics; which is having fun and enjoying the process. As things stand today, sustainability is vaguely about the environment and about saving the planet in some distant future. There is no accounting for individuals having sustainable fun right here right now.
This is an important reason why it is difficult for most of us to start taking any action on the 3 R framework however well we may understand it in theory.
Which brings me to my 4th R: Replace
Start with replacing things that are important to you on an immediate daily basis with more sustainable choices which surprisingly are also more fun & the other 3-Rs will soon fall into place.
For example I have known for some time now that regular coffee is grown on unsustainable plantations with absurd pesticide levels and often dubious labour practices. I have replaced that with fantastic shade grown, organic, fair trade coffee from a farm close to my city. And it has made all the difference. I have a unique coffee experience everyday & I know that my coffee is great for me, the environment and the coffee growers.
All I did was replace the old product with a sustainable alternative to make an immediate, direct contribution. And I am quite happy to pay about 4x the cost of regular coffee.
This single act of replace is a great starting place to start thinking about the other 3-Rs. Suddenly remembering to carry a bag every time you step out to the store (Reuse) is not so much a bother, nor is it about some vague benefit in the distant future.