Small, Deliberate Steps Build a Fulfilling Life

| 1/15/2010 10:45:57 AM

Goat EatingThe Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

It’s time for us to get started. But we need to determine the direction in which we want to travel. Then we can begin defining our tasks.

Nearly any human being alive can make a contribution to our species’ sustainable future on the planet. This morning I’m writing on a laptop computer whose power settings are adjusted to conserve electricity, in a house where only one or two necessary lights are on. I have not solved any planetary problems today, but I’ve made a few small adjustments that help. The coffee I’m drinking was grown organically in the shade of a forest where the big, mature trees were left standing. It was harvested and processed by people earning a living wage, and the farmer made a little extra money because the crop was certified organic, shade-grown and fair-trade.

In a little while I’m going to deliver some sheep to another farmer. Then I’ll try to incorporate my day’s errands into the trip so I don’t have to start a vehicle again today.

These little measures don’t make me feel deprived. My awareness that I’m consuming resources and generating waste doesn’t make me feel guilty. My consumption is an inevitable and natural condition of living. The small steps I take to reduce that consumption give me proportionately small satisfactions. But over the course of the day, the week, the months and the years those satisfactions stack up into a life that is more fulfilling than it would have been if I hadn’t been paying attention.

Bryan Welch is the Publisher and Editorial Director of Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Connect with him on .

John B. Weber
3/2/2010 6:08:23 AM

My wife Liz and I try to live a normal type of "Green Life". We recycle as much as anyone, but we also conserve by having at least one "No Drive Day" per week. This may not seem like a big deal, but if everyone would organize their driving, so that at least one and possibly two or more no drive days per week, were realized it would make a very large difference in our society.

Fran Tracy
3/1/2010 7:34:06 PM

I agree with the author. I have a composter. I recycle cans, bottles,alluminum, batteries, copper from motors that have died, and all myhousehold scraaps and grass and leaves that can go into the composter. I have no more than one bag of garbage every 2 or 3 weeks. I burn wood most of the time but have a back up system if I can't take care of the fire. Unless there is a danger of freezing, I have no heat on in my house when I am gone or at least turn it down to 50 so I am not wasting power. I have only the lights on that I am using. Consolidating trips has always been my way of life. All these things save money as well as conserving resourses. If everyone did the same, there would not be as much demand for energy. WE NEED TO DRILL FOR OUR OWN OIL IN THIS COUNTRY SO WE DON'T HAVE TO IMPORT IT FROM PEOPLE WHO HATE US AND WANT TO DESTROY US. Fran

2/14/2010 12:11:40 PM

I applaud everyone who looks inwardly at personal habits and activities to reduce planetary impact. To me it's not a big deal. I was raised that you went to town once a week for groceries and tied every other errand into that trip. Granted, with kids and their school activities those once-a-week trips become unacceptable for at least a few years. Now that the kids are grown it's a little easier to plan and combine multiple trips into one. And such is life to be blessed with the cars we are given or can afford. We drove an Astro AWD van for years at 20 mpg because it was reliable and big enough for family and friends. It doubled as wood hauler a time or two as well. It'd go anywhere. I still have a 4WD Ford Ranger for wood and farm use, and the Impala, at 31 mpg, is large AND fuel efficient. I ride my bike to work in the warmer months and gave up my motorboat for a fishing kayak. Each decision helps.

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