What is Sustainable Living?

Jessica Hobby

Sustainable living has become the new trend in lifestyle choices that involves a person’s relationship to the Earth and the natural resources used by that person. Sustainable living has a different definition for each of its adherents, but the basic concept is living in way that leaves natural resources for future generations. To accomplish this goal, people must not demand to consume more resources than are available and, in some cases, even have a positive effect on natural resources by helping to replenish them. By not overusing resources, they are given the opportunity to naturally replenish themselves.

Rooftop gardens are a popular component of sustainable living.
Rooftop gardens are a popular component of sustainable living.

Supporters of sustainable living often refer to a person’s “carbon footprint,” as the effect that their lifestyle has on Earth. One of the main tenets of sustainable living is reducing one’s carbon footprint. This is done by through changes in diet, transportation and energy consumption. Practicing sustainable agriculture, choosing to use public transportation, driving a vehicle that gets good gas mileage, bringing cloth bags to the grocery store, instead of using paper or plastic, and showering, instead of taking a bath, are all ways to reduce someone’s carbon footprint.

By not overusing resources, they are given the opportunity to naturally replenish themselves.
By not overusing resources, they are given the opportunity to naturally replenish themselves.

Strict advocates of sustainable living reduce their carbon footprints through sustainable living practice called permaculture, which is an ethical design system. The first of the three core ethics in permaculture is caring for the Earth so that nature is not disrupted or damaged. Secondly, there is a concentration on sustaining people’s needs without damaging the Earth. Finally, adherents to permaculture must accept that they must limit consumption in relation to population growth.

When practicing sustainable living through a permaculture system, there are seven principles that are followed to hold up the ethical core.

1. Conservation - only use the resources that are needed.
2. Stacking Functions - use one thing for as many uses as possible.
3. Repeating Functions - meeting needs in as many ways as possible.
4. Reciprocity - using the outputs of the system to meet the needs of other parts of the system.
5. Appropriate Scale - only produce things at a scale that is conducive to its use with the intention of causing the least amount of disruption to nature.
6. Diversity - utilizing a variety of different elements in the system helps to create resilience.
7. Share the Surplus - give away the abundance in your system to help others sustain.

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Discussion Comments


Thanks for the info. I'm currently working on Self Sustainable Living myself. My goal is to help individuals start producing their own food, water, energy and wealth from their homes then plan to start with community projects and vertical farming. Lots of love and respect to those who are doing their part.


@ GiraffeEars- You are right about your last statement. I know plenty of people who live completely unsustainable lifestyles, but buy things like Priuses and the likes to simply fit in with a group of people. Sustainable living is more about your lifestyle than about what you own.


@ Georgesplane- You highlight the point that most modern definitions of sustainability include provisions that cover the environment, economic development, and an equitable social development. The thing about sustainable living is it is not only about the type of home you have or the things you buy. Living sustainably is about the total impact that those things have on society, the economy and the environment. Someone can drive a Prius and live unsustainably, while his or her neighbor drives a truck and lives sustainably.


Sustainable living also refers to a person or families economic livelihood. Someone who is living sustainably is only living within his or her means. This person is not spending beyond their means, putting him or herself into debt. Their personal balance sheet would at least be equal, having yearly savings that would cover their entire debt load for the year (not including mortgage). Ideally, a person would want to have much more short-term savings than debt to be living sustainably economically.

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