When talking about sustainable lifestyles, the first thoughts that comes to mind are things like sorting your trash, buying less, wasting less, going vegan. Sustainable Lifestyles are a lot more than that though. Lifestyles touch all spheres of existence. Your existence is not only what you do at home. Your existence touches your personal, your professional and your political life.
You might say that this is all of life then, why not call it “sustainable life”. The reason is — as I will explain in more detail below — that styles encompass the design question. And that’s what it’s about. But first things first…
Why do sustainable lifestyles touch all spheres of existence?
You, and I, and everyone you know, are part of what’s called a cognitive complex system — the earth.
Cognitive complex systems have three properties:
- Controlled interventions do not lead to the desired result.
- If the relationships change, the whole system changes.
- The intention of humans determines the direction of this change.
Intention shapes relationships shapes systems.
This means that each and every one of them is an important part of the system and has an impact on society. We are always in deep connection to the rest of the world. Individuals and society are not incompatible opposites such as water and oil. They are more connected and interdependent.
Your lifestyle consists of your relationships. To yourself, to others, and to the earth.
Our society is shaped by us. And we are shaped by our society.
The idea that we are individuals — closed systems — is refuted. This not only tells us system theory, but also philosophy and developmental psychology. The individual is more accuretaley described as a Dividual, a Transindividual, or an inter-being. We always exist only in relation.
Which spheres of existence do sustainable lifestyles touch?
How to Change the System based on this Understanding
You intervene in the system right where you are. Everyone is part of some system. Some political, some organisational, some familial. It doesn’t matter where you act, it matters that you act.
You can control certain areas, you can influence others, and you probably care about some where you have little possibility to intervene. For an easier access to this, you can distinguish these different parts of your life. It is not divided by strict categories though, it’s much more interacting with each other and feedback-looping.
It makes sense to ask yourself the following questions:
Circle of Care
What do I care about?
What matters to me?
Circle of Influence
Where to I overlap with the system?
Where can I make a difference?
Circle of Control
What can I do to impact this?
What can I do differently?
How can I change it?
Sustainable Lifestyles are the part, that we can design, namely, it’s what under our control (see image above).
Nietzsche said a person is to be known by his “style”, that is, by the unique pattern which gives underlying unity and distinctiveness to his activities. The same is true about a culture.
Sustainable Lifestyles are about bringing styles back to the public. By style, I don’t mean glamour. By style, I mean that which makes life come alive.
“We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul.” (John O’Donohue, 2003)