Since starting my journey to living more sustainably took off in 2017, I’ve slowly come to realize how easy it is to get lost in the sustainability and green “fads.” It’s the same sensation you get when you see ads for new clothes only with the end goal of being “sustainable” instead of fashionable. But, just like everyone has a different body size so is everyone at a different place mentally, emotionally, financially, spiritually etc. in their lives. One size does not fit all.
If you’re not vegan, does that mean you’re not properly pursuing sustainability? If you don’t compost, are you failing? If you recycle, are you contributing to the broken system or helping keep items from the landfill? Not every woman wants to (or can) use period panties or a diva cup – does that make their commitment to a more environmentally in-sync world less so? It’s all relative, truly (and I don’t mean that in the way that everyone is throwing around relativism these days). These things depend on our health, where we live, our resources…this isn’t to say we shouldn’t strive for them but they shouldn’t be the criteria by which someone is judged as to whether they are improving the world or not.
Living intentionally is more inclusive to our whole being than just focusing on being low-impact, zero-waste, green, environmentally-friendly or any other moniker that has been thought of to describe all the same efforts.
There is so much more to the conversation surrounding sustainability than just recycling, reducing, reusing, zero waste, etc. Living with intention encompasses living sustainably and intersects with the rest of our being – it is holistic. If you’re religious or not – it touches on that. If you’re able-bodied or not – it includes that. If you’re living on a tight budget or have money to spare – it encompasses that. It forces us to reflect on all areas of our life: financial, mental, emotional, physical…to figure out what our next best steps moving forward in our lives should be.
Our culture today is fast – our food, our technology, everything. To the point that it resists the pace and inherently perfect design of nature. We can eat produce that naturally is not found in our hemisphere and even then, still choose to buy the $3 meal made of mainly grains and sugar. We can buy clothes that were made in a blink of an eye with fabrics made with who-knows-what produced by strangers who may be dealing with exploitation, no pay, and/or horrible work conditions. What’s worse is that our access to the “better” options: the ethical clothing, the organic foods, the healthier lifestyles are generally more expensive. We’ve become so out of touch with the rhythm of the natural world, our natural bodies, and the cycles that have always worked well on their own that we have put a price on the supply chains that can help us get back to those very things. The irony is palpable.
This type of living slowly wears on the soul. Do you ever catch yourself wondering why you buy the things you do? Balking at your credit card bill after a splurge at Hobby Lobby or Target? Do you know the people who made the clothes you wear or the decor you arrange on your nightstand? Do you know what your body needs? Your mental or emotional health? Perhaps, even spiritual? When we steep ourselves in this constant flow of just buying things and doing things without considering “why” we do them, or how they affect others, we live a life on a superficial level.
So, living intentionally – it’s radical. It is actively choosing to meet yourself where you are at, do what you can at this moment to do better and live out your ethos in every breath you take. Simple, right? (That was rhetorical and sarcastic). It does take more time, more research, more pauses, and more sympathy. But at the end of my life, I would rather be surrounded by people, my home, and memories that I built consciously and slowly over my lifetime with love than being buried alive in knick-knacks being forgotten by people who I only have superficial relationships with. Living intentionally should extend to every aspect of your life. Not just your waste or recycle or compost.
It extends from your interactions with people every day to your presence on social media. From your diet and groceries down to your health and finances. From your belongings and clothing to your idealized self and purpose. Choosing to live intentionally should infuse every aspect of your life because to live intentionally you infuse every decision and action you take with yourself. If you don’t know what it is you want your life to be about or purposed towards, then naturally you would find this concept overwhelming. Here’s the thing though…
I’m not saying you need to have a life plan or even a 5, 10, or 25 year plan. That’s not what I’m talking about. When I say “know what it is you want your life to be about or purposed towards,” I’m talking about macro-level impact here. Do you want to cause harm or peace? Do you want to be efficient or wasteful? Do you want to be resilient or fragile? Do you want to do good or bad? These questions can be answered simply with “yes” or “no.” The hard part is distilling these decisions down to our actions and thoughts. That’s where the work begins. Intentional living in a world that now thrives off of superficiality and quantity over quality is going to be difficult. Thankfully, it also encompasses our “failures” as well as our efforts to do better – both of them matter. We learn from the failure and seek to do better. This. is. intentional. living.
This type of living takes time. It won’t happen overnight. But it will be worth it.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.“
Intentional living is for everyone. There is no contest or scale – just the slow progress towards a better self and world, which will look different for everyone…but imagine how different the world would be if everyone embraced just that.