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Personal Sustainability – Start Here

By Alison Mitchell, Friend of Willow Park

I’ll admit it – I’m a sustainability nerd.  You’ll find me either reading about sustainability issues from one of the many newsletters I subscribe to, learning how and practicing living lightly as much as possible, or working with my wonderful community to enhance our social and natural capital whenever I’m not sleeping.

Sustainability is a very ‘broad church’ and I am yet to come up with an issue or thing that can’t be viewed through a sustainability ‘lens’.  I really like that I’m becoming a sustainability jack of all trades despite being a master of none.  I know a bit about food security and agro ecology; a bit about conflict minerals and technology; a bit about land clearing and conservation efforts; a bit about Corporate Social Responsibility and greenwash; a bit about waste and recycling; and much more.

But there are consequences to all these bits of awareness that I know others feel also and that is: it can become outright depressing to be and stay informed on any or all of these issues.  Not surprisingly, research has shown that youth can become depressed and anxious when they have too much education/information about an issue, with no time to consider the solutions, and consequently feel paralysed with respect to any impact they may have to improve a situation.

I know people who express deep concerns and paralysis i.e. what can I do?  Even as a country we have expressed the view that we can have little impact, particularly with respect to climate change.  However, I don’t believe this and, not surprisingly, research has also shown that lots of little actions add up to something of consequence.

But we need personal sustainability to remain active and I use and suggest three key tools: 1 – spend quality time with family and friends and turn off the technology; 2 – watch the six-minute film of Paul Hawken’s ‘Blessed Unrest’; and 3 – spend time in nature.

That last point, the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature, is now overwhelmingly supported by evidence.  Like charity, sustainability begins at home and personal sustainability must be our starting point if we are to live and help others live more lightly on this amazing planet we share.  So, go spend some time in nature and enjoy!  You know it’s good for you and the planet and you can always say ‘I’m working on my personal sustainability’.