Sustainable living isn't a bummer.

Hello! I hope you’re having a wonderful day, wherever in the world you are. I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability lately, and the importance of caring for our oceans. I love the sea. I love looking at it, swimming in it, walking along it’s shore, paddling on it, snorkeling in it, listening to it, and more. Our oceans are an endless source of inspiration and joy for me, but they are so much more than that. Whether you live near an ocean or not, your life is directly impacted by the health of our world’s oceans. The famous marine biologist, Sylvia Earle, beautifully said it this way: “Even if you never have a chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume. Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.”

The thing is … most of us are aware that humans have severely damaged our environment. There is a climate crisis causing extreme weather events all over the world, disrupting people’s lives and costing families and businesses enormous amounts of money. Our oceans, sadly, are filled with plastic. We know there’s a problem, and if you’re wondering how bad it is or why it really matters, I’ll refer you to NOAA. For accurate facts about our climate and our oceans, I rely on the National Ocean Service Ocean Facts section of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website. I’m not here to give you facts, scare you, or leave you feeling hopeless or depressed. Far from it. Our planet is truly in distress, AND there is plenty we can do about it. It can even be fun to do so.

While it’s easy to find bad news about the environmental crisis, there is also good news to be found every week. There are many people, businesses, and governments making moves that protect us all. We can join them, and it doesn’t have to be a bummer. You don’t have to move to an Earthship commune in the desert to make a difference (although that might be interesting!). As Jane Goodall said, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” What an empowering world view!

My husband and I have spent most of our adult lives living near various seas and oceans. This prompted us to begin looking for ways to reduce the harm we do to the environment, and we’ve been on a sustainable living journey for over 10 years. Does that sound scary to you? Or miserable? It’s not, I promise! It has been 10 years of joy and shared purpose and successes and mistakes. Most of our changes start with us saying, “Huh. I never really noticed …” or “I never thought about it that way …” It’s so exciting to learn something new and have the opportunity to put it into practice right away. It’s even better when it’s a new habit that benefits every living thing on the planet.

I bet you’re wondering if we’re “those people” or if our sustainable lifestyle makes us social outcasts. Nope! If you came over to our house for a party, we would serve you a delicious drink in a reusable cup, and instead of throwing your utensils in the trash after you eat tacos or barbecue, you’d stick them in the dishwasher. If you went to reach for a paper towel, you’d see a glass jar (which was full of peanut butter when we bought it) sitting on the counter with reusable rags (cut up tee shirts that the kids have outgrown) inside. You might not really notice that we’re doing things differently than most. It’s actually a fun challenge for us to think of simple ways we can reduce what we buy and reduce what we put in our trash and recycling bins.

As you gradually adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, you’ll realize that it’s really not a hassle. Honestly, the habits we’ve formed over the years are just second nature to us now. Once you notice an unsustainable habit, you can change it to a new, more sustainable one. When we were living in Oahu, a new law banned the plastic bags that you see in most stores elsewhere. Considering how prolific they are in most parts of the United States, you’d think the ban would have caused outrage and panic. Not at all. It was really a non-issue as everyone simply adopted new habits. Shoppers remembered to bring their own bags or carry the two items they bought to the car in their hands. Grocery stores began offering paper bags. Really, no big deal. On the bright side, we didn’t see any more of those plastic bags drifting down the street or floating in the Pacific Ocean. Also, those reusable bags were a great way for people to advertise their businesses or show off their personal style. It was lovely, and it felt good.

My husband and I are middle-aged, and we’re truly excited to see how much more informed and aware younger generations are about sustainability. We have learned so many of our good habits from adults who are younger than we are. As for our kids’ generation, they’re amazing! We’re excited to be raising children in a generation that will run the world in a way that works better for everyone. Our kids are lucky, because they won’t have to battle against years of bad habits and a longtime lack of awareness. They refuse straws and Styrofoam items without even thinking about it. They reuse everything instead of buying new because, in their eyes, that’s just the way things are done. Reusable insulated water bottles are the only way to drink water on the go, as far as they’re concerned. It's going to be fun seeing where they go. 

So, I hope you’ll try some new sustainable habits and have some fun with it! It really is a great feeling to trade hopelessness and lack of awareness for empowerment and informed choices. I’ll be sharing some ideas in future blog posts, so please join my VIP email list and stay tuned. And if you're a painter, you can click here to get my Top 10 Sustainability Tips for Painters right away. You don’t have to live an extreme lifestyle or be a zero-waste guru to make a big impact. Don’t worry about being perfect. Sometimes you’re going to mess up. Just move on, and try again next time. And let’s all do it with a supportive, positive attitude. Instead of criticizing others for unsustainable habits, you can model better ways of doing things. People will notice. And if you see a “sustainability expert” doing something that’s less than 100% sustainable, give them the benefit of the doubt. Leonardo DiCaprio may have lounged on his friend’s yacht, but let’s be honest - he’s also done more than most of us to help our planet. Let’s not demand perfection. Every step in the right direction is a good thing.