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  • Writer's pictureMichaela A de Guire

What is sustainability?

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

Sustainability has been around for ages. In the bible you would find people wore linen and used clay pots as their dishes. This was in part because they did not have the technology we have now to do and make what we have. Although technology is wonderful because we have learned and done much with it, we have also made synthetic fabrics that are non biodegradable and plastic dishes that are also non biodegradable. Which means we have actually become less sustainable in our lifestyle.

Sustainability is a lifestyle. A lifestyle is a way of life. It's a decision you must make for yourself, not for another. You choose how you live and what you do with all that you have. A life of simplicity, of minimalism, of less does not mean you do not own anything. It just means you own fewer things, but of greater value, be it sentimentality and sometimes physically.

As a Catholic I believe the things I have here on earth cannot come with me to my eternal home, in which I pray it is Heaven. Thus, every penny, every sentinel object, every quality piece of clothing, I will one day leave behind. This does not mean I must never have things, for God blesses our lives with people, things, and memories to bring us joy, laughter, and peace. God cares for us as His children in ways that we can’t even comprehend. He also gives us these things for us to hold on to when we run into a low spot while living life here on earth. He uses these things to remind us of Him.

Sustainability is a mindset and a consciousness that you do not take a single item with you to your eternal home, heaven. But rather that what you have on this earth is a gift from God and you care for each item, friendship, and memory. And, part of living a life of consciousness is recognizing when an item no longer has a need in your home, and you pass it on with love to the next home.

Sustainability is shopping with intention. It is not shopping just to shop. It is not shopping because you have an urge or an itch to do so. It is shopping knowing exactly what you are looking for because you need it. It is using more of what you have readily available to you through your land, neighbors, and friends. It is using what you have in abundance and supplying another with some too.

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” - Luke 3:10-11

We are all called to help each other, to offer our abundances to another. God will bless you with more as you give. I know it can seem like a backwards way of thinking. How can you get more if you give it all or mostly away? This way of thinking can still trip me up at times. God is your sole supplier, He is the one who gave you all that you have now, and all that you will ever receive in the future. He blesses you a hundredfold what you give to another.

How is sustainability a mindset?

Before anything becomes real, it starts in your mind. Thus, you must think about what you have in your life that might not be sustainable and actively work towards that way of life, a sustainable lifestyle. Before you can actively live a life of sustainability you must ask yourself questions throughout the day, is this plastic bag more sustainable than a glass food container? Is it sustainable for me to run to the bank today, when I can actually do that when I go to the grocery store tomorrow? Should I wash this small load of laundry now or wait a day to build the load up? Should I purchase my regular household cleaners or look for more all-natural ones?

How does this matter in the views of Catholicism?

We should care greatly for one another. And therefore we must be sure our way of life is not harming the future generations, but rather that our lifestyle can be lived by them. When God created the earth and then Adam He placed it in Adam's care, telling him that he is to tend to it and care for the creatures. We are the generations after Adam, and there are more generations to come, therefore it is our responsibility to do as God has asked to care and tend to the earth and its creatures. But never placing it above God.

Is homesteading sustainable?

Many say it is because when you homestead you look to use alternative energies, such as solar, wind, and water instead of electricity from the power plants. However, there are more reasons it is sustainable. When you live this sort of lifestyle it is not just about energy, but preserving what you can from the land you work. It's raising animals for food. It's slowing down in life enough to notice the wild flowers and honey bees. It's caring for God's creation on a deeper level. It's connecting with your family. It’s cooking large batches of goods to last a few days, weeks, or months. It's preparing in advance for life in general without forgetting to live in the moment.

Do I need to homestead to live sustainably?

Well actually you don’t. You can start your very own container garden in your apartment or townhouse. You can raise chickens without a rooster in town, so long as it is legal in your town. You can buy organic and local food, also look for cage-free eggs. You can purchase or make your own all-natural cleaning products. You can even go clothes shopping more intentionally by vetting the company before purchasing with them. You can look for clothes made from organic cotton, linen, and hemp (as examples of sustainable fabrics). And, you can start cooking from scratch, no more boxed cakes and such, but rather using recipe books and fresh ingredients.

What are the costs of homesteading?

Before you go all in on homesteading you should beware of a few (possible) downfalls, The first one is the upfront cost. If you are going to be raising animals, you need to put up fences, shelters, hay, and grain. There are a number of things that need to be done to care for these critters. Which brings me to my next thing, time. We only have 24 hours in the day and animal care takes a lot of it. So, be protective over your time. You also can’t just get up and go when you want. You need to find an animal caretaker for while you are away. Even if it's just a day trip, anything can go wrong while you are away.

And, then there are the skills, you must work day and night to develop the skills necessary to take care of your homestead. Homesteading is not constantly replacing with new, but rather fixing the broken and keeping it up. Its sewing, and baking, and cooking, and preserving, and breeding, and growing, and all things with the land. It’s reconnecting with the beautiful, bountiful things God has placed in your care. But it is a lot of work and if you are going to start I would suggest work a little at a time, do not go all in and wish you didn’t even start.

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