Conservation and sustainability are not the same thing. Conservation is managing the use of limited resources. Sustainability focuses on how we can manage indefinitely in a world with finite resources by leveraging things that are practically infinite, or that can be regenerated. Sustainability also relates to protecting the world that we have so our resources will not be depleted or damaged in such a way that we can no longer rely on them.
There are two major barriers to adopting sustainable living practices: economics and convenience. Of the two, the bigger issue is our desire for convenience. Many of us tend to want things that are very easy to use as well as things that we can buy or have delivered right away. When making smart buying choices for virtually anything, we should consider the Concentric Circles of Sustainability, a term coined by Keith Voyles of Southern Charm Building and Construction. The Concentric Circles of Sustainability is a way of thinking, buying, and building that focuses on finding the best materials and goods as close to home as possible. When there are no reasonable local options, then we expand our search to a slightly wider radius to find what we need. We continue this process until we have the best solution for what we need to accomplish at any given time.
Consider the case of buying food from a local farm as opposed to that produced in industrial settings. My wife and I enjoy getting fresh and canned goods from Frazier Farms. By doing this, we believe that we are getting healthier foods while supporting a local business and workers. We also save transportation costs on our food, and by using our own canvas bags, we avoid excessive packaging and the use of plastics. Our Concentric Circle of Sustainability in this case is quite small.
Considering other items for our home, we will need to look farther away. For example, we are looking to purchase new appliances. Besides looking for the Energy Star rating, our intention is to buy appliances made in the United States whenever possible. This allows us to support American workers while also keeping our carbon footprint lower due to fewer transportation miles.
Building or remodeling a home has a more complicated set of decisions. According to Keith Voyles, there are upwards of two thousand decisions that owners make when building a home. Broadly, these include the types of materials used, how they are sourced, and the impact they have on the health of our families and community. In this case, the Concentric Circles of Sustainability work in a different way: how do our decisions and actions impact our home environment first, then the community, and finally the planet?
Decisions made about how water, power, and waste are to be handled highlight these Concentric Circles of Sustainability. For example, instead of using water for lush lawns, we may want to consider Florida natural landscaping. We may also think about using edible landscaping. Okra, for example, is a member of the Hibiscus family. Besides having pretty flowers, it also has those wonderful pods used in local cuisine. By reducing potable water consumption, we can conserve for times when we are in shorter supply, decreasing demand for distribution and ultimately cost.
Making sustainable buying and living choices can be complex. Don’t get overwhelmed. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Start with making simple life changes that can impact your health, happiness, and finances. Once you have mastered those, then move on to bigger things. If you are planning a major project, make sure you speak with sustainability experts, so you can benefit from their wisdom, and enjoy the confidence of having made a positive impact in your home and in the world.
Kurt Glacy is a Spring Hill resident, and a Solar Energy Consultant for Erus Energy. He frequently presents about solar to non-profit groups, community groups, and individuals. He also posts information videos and solar tips on the Spring Hill Solar page on Facebook. Kurt is an active member in the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, The Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce, and the Sierra Club.