3 B’s of Sustainability

The eponymous 'Three Bees of Sustainability.'

I think most people want to be more sustainable.

I’m not talking about the 1% who achieved total sustainability, and I’m not talking about the 1% who don’t care about sustainability. I’m talking about everyone in between.

I’d prefer to not let the question of need get in the way of living, either. I don’t want to go without, just because it’s the sustainable thing to do. Because you can always be more sustainable than you are. You can always use less water, walk more, drive less, grow more, recycle more, buy less, consume less, and be more aware of your carbon footprint.

I think those concepts, the idea of doing more, creates a lot of guilt around being sustainable. If you tell me that I’m not doing enough, that my back yard garden isn’t enough, that my gas-powered Honda is killing the polar bears, then I’m likely to do nothing. I was raised Catholic. I’ve had enough guilt for a dozen lifetimes.

Which leads me to the question, and why I started down this path. I want to be more sustainable, I want some principles that will help me make better decisions in my day-to-day choices.

And then it hit me one day while I was driving, and thinking about how I could be more sustainable.


The three B’s of sustainability:

Had I really just stumbled on a way to guide my purchasing decisions into a more sustainable place? I was feeling good about it. This was the sort of stuff I wanted to do, this was a way I could think about living more sustainably that was fun, easy, and broad enough to cover, well, everything.

Here’s how it works.

Borrow it , Build it, or Buy Locally

1. Borrow it: So, I’m building a planter box. Let’s say I’m committed to doing just that. I need a saw, some screws, maybe a drill.

Do I need my own drill? Certainly, one of my friends must have a saw I can borrow. If I tell them about my journey to borrow (and reciprocally, lend) more things, certainly they’d be supportive of that.

How often do we go to the store and buy our own thing, just to have that ownership, to be afforded the convenience of any-time use? I think too often. And then the thing just sits there, having been used once, doomed to collect dust and be a reminder of “remember when.”

Borrow it , Build it, or Buy Locally

2. Build it: Let’s say I want something. Like, oh, I dunno, drip irrigation for my garden. I can buy the kits from Lee Valley, and they’re pretty cheap. And drip irrigation in and of itself is sustainable, so I’m ostensibly doing enough by just buying the kit.

But what if I could build a system, and what if I could do it more cheaply, and the only sacrifice was time? Can I build a drip irrigation system?

That’s the idea, anyway. I think the question needs to be asked. Sure, it would be easier to buy the system. And cheap. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? We get sold on easy and cheap, taking the easy way out. At least, I often do. So, this makes me think about my decisions. If I can build this, or a planter box from recycled wood, or a picture frame. They’re easy enough things to build, so I should definitely build them.

3B-BuyItLocal3. Buy it: If the above fail, and I want the thing (notice we’re talking about want, not need), then I go out and buy it, without shame or guilt. I work hard. If I want a thing, I deserve it, right? Right. I think what’s important is not that I don’t ever buy things, but that if I do, I do so responsibly. More on that down the road.

That’s it then, some new rules to live by, or try by. They’re not all-encompassing (Lisa asked me where driving electric cars fits into the three Bs, I couldn’t answer). And they don’t make me 100% sustainable.

But that’s fine. Lisa had a great point, personal and social sustainability isn’t a thing that’s ever done. It’s a thing that you always try and do, or be. So what’s important isn’t that we’re done being sustainable, I think what matters, is that we talk about it more. That we think about how to include sustainable decisions into our lives more.

Are you including sustainability into your life? Do these rules work for you? Tell me all about it below.

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