Moments after tossing that fateful ICEE cup, I knew I was in for some major discernment. Beyond weighing the implications of this encounter with God, I knew my day-to-day lifestyle was in for a change.
As I drove around town, purchased groceries, and even got dressed in the morning, I became increasingly aware of how deep and how far that change was going to have to go. How very distant from the rhythms of the earth our society has become, I thought. How very fueled and packaged and polyester. It was a sensitive time. I flitted between anger, despair, disgust, and fragile hope. I landed at something like resolve.
Very aware that God wanted me to keep the earth and very aware of the hard work that would entail, I needed to conceptualize a way forward. I needed practicality. Lists. How to’s. Calendars and timelines. Have I mentioned that I am an ENFJ?
The following is what I came up with after a lot of practical talk and figuring. It is a simple framework that works for me, and I offer it as an encouragement. It may not work outside my context, but then again, it might help someone.
The Thing, Part Two: A Plan of Action
Objective: Begin a concentrated and continual effort to keep the earth.
Step 1: Rhythm – Establish a baseline.
Take stock of your day-to-day rhythm of living, your normal. Test your sustainability pulse. Take a deep breath, turn for a moment from all you feel you need to do, and notice where you are. Be honest with yourself. Get to know the contents of your trash can and the chemicals under your sink. Find out where your food comes from. Audit your energy usage.
Also, get in touch with yourself. How does your body feel? How much time do you get to spend outdoors? Do you feel cluttered and smothered by stuff, or are you in need of something? Are you rushed or rested? Where are your creative outlets? Creation care means self-care, too.
Establishing your baseline, knowing your normal rhythm of life, is important because the process builds on that data. Record and reflect on your findings in a special journal. This will become an invaluable source of encouragement and information as you take steps toward sustainability.
Step 2: Plan PROJECTS that will help you make immediate, significant, and positive changes to your rhythm.
Working from what you now know of your rhythm and creation’s needs, identify some areas of opportunity. What changes are within your reach?
For example, say your normal rhythm produces a level of waste that makes you uncomfortable. You might decide your first project is to stock your car with reusable grocery sacks and a stash of tumblers so there is no need for disposable items. And then maybe you take it further and make your own yogurt, bread, or cereal to avoid packaging (and unnecessary chemicals, I might add).
At any rate, I found actually calendaring these projects to be incredibly helpful. Make sure to keep record of what works and what does not. I sometimes even include “How To’s” in my log. Also, it helps in the beginning if some of these projects can be quick wins. Making major behavioral changes is hard, so do something immediately gratifying and celebrate!
Step 3: Challenge yourself to do an EXPERIMENT for a defined period of time to expand your knowledge and understanding of sustainable living.
Experiments are time-bound explorations toward a certain end. Experiments in The Thing are time-bound explorations of sustainable practices—even those that freak you out.
Ever wondered what it would be like to be vegetarian, live waste-free, attempt minimalism, or make all your meals from scratch? This is your chance to give it a whirl, for scientific purposes, of course. Give yourself a window of time—a week, or maybe a month—and just go for it.
Continuing with the example above, you might be curious to know more about a zero-waste lifestyle. Thus, you challenge yourself to a Waste-Free Week. You decide that for one week you will literally make no trash or recycling. As you plan for this experiment, you know that you will need to complete several projects (research the zero-waste lifestyle, plan meals for the week, etc.) before Waste-Free Week kicks off. During the week, however, you get a deeper understanding of both the obstacles and rewards of living waste-free and jot this down in your log for further reflection.
I found recording my experience during these challenges to be especially fruitful.
Step 4: REFLECT on experiences and INTEGRATE the best practices into your rhythm.
After finishing a good project or experiment, I take a few moments to reflect on what the heck I had just done or gone through. Through that reflection, I attempt to decipher which practices are important to a livable rhythm of sustainability. And then I integrate those things into my life.
Step 5: Repeat.
“The number one thing is to do one more thing. Let’s [take] one more thing that isn’t sustainable and change it to sustainable…and then just don’t stop.” – The Clean Bin Project
Lastly, I submit to you the doodle that sealed the deal for me. When I was working to conceptualize this Thing after watching Noah, it was a just a bunch of lists until this image popped into my brain.
I know it looks crazy, but it helped me. The continual spiral forward represents our rhythm of living. The idea is that with each step we take on this journey to sustainability, our rhythm becomes more focused. For many of us, there is much to learn as we take up our posts as keepers of the earth. However, this image helps me remember that, though my efforts may seem wide and unwieldy at times, it is all a part of a cyclical process of healing and clarity. As I journey, the path becomes tighter, straighter even, and more easily defined.
Again, I share this simple framework as one way forward. The Thing will look different for everyone, of course, for we are all in different places along the path toward a more holistic life.
How do you propel yourself toward a more sustainable lifestyle? What resources or frameworks have been helpful to you in this journey?