Working towards a more sustainable life

From a lovely booklet produced by a group in Moray, Scotland – “Traditional economics, regardless of politics, identifies two types of resource in society: Capital and Labour. In contrast sustainable development encompasses three resources: economic capital (roads, rail, mines, factories), social or human capital (labour, skills, community spirit, local knowledge. culture), and environmental capital (landscapes, habitats, plants, animals). Economic growth has traditionally been made at the expense of social and/or environmental resources. Therefore we need a different kind of development which tackles poverty but does not damage the environment. This is sustainable development.”

I’ve been downsizing my life since 2003, when I moved to India – that was the easiest transition, as living in the ashram is simple living at its most focussed.  We did have electricity, and we did have cars/people carriers, but everything was used to the minimum – lights out early and get up with the sun, no hot water (in tropical Kerala, who needed it!) and staying in the ashram where there was plenty to do and people to talk to, rather than rushing around in a car to go to work.

Coming back to Europe it hasn’t been quite as obvious how to make the most use of local resources.  I’ve moved close to work but still use a car, although I can walk to work and have done.  A Bicycle is next, and my business partner uses one to travel to work all the time.  Giving up air travel is not yet an option for me, although I don’t travel much, but with all my lovely family in South Africa its going to be a long term cost I’ll have to cover.

I’ve been vegetarian for years and that completely makes sense to me, luckily for me giving up meat was never a problem.  I eat healthily, and mostly at home although Starbucks does tempt me to have a completely unecessary and overpriced drink in great surroundings – I’m working on that one with really top quality coffee and soymilk frother at home, but the company is not as diverse!

I live in a shared house, its not very big, we keep the heating down (its summer now but been a slow warmup this year!) and hang clothes out to dry, open windows for fresh air and everyone showers rather than bath.  We wash each other’s dishes in the sink when there’s a small stack so I’ve never seen the built-in dishwasher in use.

Our garden is a temperate jungle full of spiny and obnoxious weed due to a lack of vision by our landlady, so there’s not much option of growing vegetables although I am tempted to put down wooden pallets on top of the mad grass out there, and pots on top, and grow some herbs and leafy greens for the table!

Due to the nature of my job, I am very healthy, teaching yoga everyday has changed my body so its more resilient and bugs don’t often get to me.  I don’t take a lot of medicines – a couple of vitamin supplements and the occasional painkiller.  I haven’t taken an antibiotic knowingly for some years now.  I try to walk an hour or more a day, which is easy where I live, a large park on one side of the road, and country lanes stretching across Surrey at the end of my street.

If I travel to London to see friends, I only take my car if there’s a lot of different visits involved and I’m staying overnight or carrying a lot of stuff, otherwise the train is fairly close and I’m happy to take it. My big issue with trains is I need to drive to the station as there is no easy way to get to it unless I pay the price of the train ticket to take a taxi – and again to get home!!!  More public transport options or the possibility of storing a bicycle safely at the station would be good!

I’ve given up buying things mostly.  This year I’ve been tempted (and gave in!!) by a new camera but I’m in the process of selling the two I had before, and hopefully I’ll be taking some commercial shots so can justify the purchase as part of business expansion!! I almost exclusively shop for clothes in charity shops, and am quite well known locally as we have some great charities here, and well-stocked by the generous local ladies!  I would say my wardrobe is a very eclectic mix of good quality dresses and tops, and loads of bright t-shirts and jeans, and possibly a few too many coats but I find the weather in England on average colder than I would like – too used to the tropics!

I do have to buy shoes new, as I have quite large feet and can’t often get my size, but I’ve narrowed that down a lot too – two of each kind of shoe and thats IT – so I have two pairs of smart boots, two hiking boots, two sandals, two dancing shoes, two pairs of work shoes.  They all fit into two baskets at the front door, so if I’m tempted by something cute and new, I remind myself that I’l need to throw another pair out to make space, so rather not get more!!

I have piles of books and often get new books or at least, stock up on books from the charity shop – I very rarely buy them new. But I love my books and I do share them – and I certainly return any I’m finished with, to a charity shop to pass onto someone else!!  I make clothes, knit, and do quite a lot of craft like make my own birthday cards with photo’s I’ve taken, so I really try to avoid spending money on “stuff” although I’m still as susceptible to a pretty window display and a Sale sign as the next woman!

Mostly the different aspects of sustainable living are covered, I’ve also reduced almost all my costs to the point where I currently only work part time and don’t earn much (in theory, in practise of course my friends will point out that I am spending all my time supporting the Yoga centre, but I’m not actually paid for that). I’d like to do more and reduce more, perhaps growing my own food more but will need to move to enable that.  I do try to support local sustainability intiatives and charitiesas much as I can.



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