“Sustainability”

Invest in the millennium
-Wendell Berry, Manifesto: the Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Wheatberry Design Cabbage IllustrationRecently, I was working at a trade show, “wo-maning” a booth for my new job at a publishing company promoting the “best of what’s healthy, local, and green in Maine” (more on that later), when a passer-by asked my co-worker “What does sustainable actually mean?” It’s a word we were throwing around a lot that day, and that everyone hears all the time, so frequently we rarely question it. My co-worker was caught off guard and stumbled around an answer that worked for the moment. But it got me thinking. . . more.

Already, this concept of sustainability had become so prevalent in my life that I had been pondering a definition—for the word, yes, but in a deeper sense, probing the meaning behind the word, as a structuring apparatus, a mission-orientation, for Life In General. To live sustainably, I have concluded, means to live with a mindfulness that allows for maximum return over the long term. Especially in regard to its ubiquity as a marketing term, sustainability is often automatically linked to environmental concerns. I’m realizing, though, that it is a concept that can—and should—be used to embrace life as a whole. A sustainable lifestyle is not just about recycling and eating local food (though that is part of it). It is about creating a nurturing environment for yourself that allows you to thereby be a good steward in your community and to the world.

An artist and blogger named Michael Nobbs got me thinking about sustainability in this holistic sense. Nobbs, who titles his blog Sustainably Creative, suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and can only dedicate small amounts of his precious energy to art every day. But that’s what he does and suggests other people do, too: 20 minutes of what he calls “Important Work,” every day. Day in and day out, this practice ultimately leads to quite a body of work and a productive and satisfying life. Leading a sustainable lifestyle means that rather than be defeated by perpetual lack of time, energy, or resources, you, your community, or the world, is fed and nourished daily, a little at a time, in a way that is impactful as those days accumulate. Sustainability is empowering.

I started Wheatberry because I wanted to use the talents and resources I have to contribute to the environmental sustainability movement. As I’ve grown and evolved alongside my business, I’ve been led to adopt principles of sustainability to every aspect of my life in order to effectively contribute to this most pressing of causes. There is so much I want to give—through art and design, cooking and writing—it is important to moderate, to feed my creative fire but not to the point of over-exertion. We can only take out of any system as much as, or ideally less than, as we are willing to put back in. In order to maintain equilibrium between financial, creative, personal, and universal/environmental sustainability, I’ve found myself pulling back from some projects and investing more in others—always seeking balance, always seeking to both consume and give the forms of sustenance that provide capacity to both revel in the moment and to fuel the future.

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