Living Lightly, my way

By Anouk Hoedeman

“Living Lightly” is an expression I learned less than two years ago, when I first met David Chernushenko, but it’s a concept with which I’ve been familiar for as long as I can remember.

I credit my mother, who became one of those idealistic, back-to-the-land types in the ’60s. Thanks to her, I grew up on organic vegetables, eggs, meat, honey and maple syrup from our own farm. Our home had no clothes dryer, no processed foods in sight, and I swear the thermostat was never set above 15 C.

In short, I had the kind of childhood that seemed horribly deprived at the time, but which I now appreciate because of the knowledge and values it instilled.

That said, I now own a clothes dryer, eat more processed foods than I should, and only set the thermostat below 15 C at night.

My point is this: Living Lightly can mean many things.

To my mother, it once meant milking the cows by hand, churning her own butter, baking her own bread, making her own cheese, yogurt, jam and pickles. For a while, unfortunately and inexplicably, it even meant buying carob instead of real chocolate. Nowadays, with farm life just a memory, it means composting, drinking fair trade coffee, and using an energy-efficient front-loading washing machine. She still bakes her own bread and grows her own vegetables. She still doesn’t own a dryer.

To me, Living Lightly means cycling instead of driving when possible, installing energy-efficient windows, and plugging the TV and stereo into a power bar that I can switch off to reduce electricity consumption. It means subscribing to the electronic edition of the daily paper. It means being vegetarian and cooking many but not all meals from scratch. I too have a front-loading washer, as well as a clothesline to complement the dryer.

Many of us feel a responsibility to tread more lightly upon our planet, but we follow different paths. The trick is for each of us to do what we can in our own way, and to accept that other people will have different approaches, priorities, opportunities and limitations. That’s the only way we’ll ever make meaningful progress in reducing our collective detrimental impact on the environment.

That sense of responsibility combined with pragmatism and respect for others is what I like about the Living Lightly Project.

Living Lightly is about being reasonable. It’s about celebrating the things we do to live more sustainably, without beating ourselves up over the things we don’t do. It’s about leading by example instead of preaching. It’s about gradual adjustment rather than wholesale, instant transformation.

I don’t want to be told how to live my life, and I imagine you don’t want to be told how to live yours. But that doesn’t mean we can’t inspire each other.

Leave a Comment