Posts Tagged ‘Consumption’

Sustainable Lifestyle

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Our decision to change our lifestyle and become expats was partly in response to the “excess” in our lives and a desire to simplify the way we lived and to provide a different example for our children.  I left a good paying job because our company was purchased by a large multi-national food company that operated in a manner that was not consistent with my values.


A buzz word that is thrown around a lot these days is sustainability.  I generally knew what the term meant but decided to research exactly what it meant and what was happening around the world in regards to sustainable environments.   In addition, we met people in Ecuador, Argentina, and the U.S. that were involved in creating sustainable lives for themselves and their communities.

As you might imagine there are many definitions being used, but because of my experience and interest in food supply I focused on the definition of Sustainable Farming to see if I could apply these tenets to our life.

There are three (3) main goals of sustainable agriculture: Environmental Stewardship, Farm Profitability, and Prosperous Farming Communities.  At first it may not be readily apparent how this might apply to our lives or how it can provide a foundation from which to support our set of values, but for me there is a connection with these principles that ring true for where it is we want to go.

Environmental Stewardship

While the environmental issues were not the original, driving force for making the changes in our life they have gained importance as I have read and study what we are doing to our environment.  Eliminating consumerism and over consumption from our lives were driving forces from the cost and complexity that all of these things added to our lives – but the negative environmental impact of that lifestyle is also a factor.

Most expats did not set out on their journey because of environmental reasons, nor are they necessarily living a life that contributes less environmental impact than others, however, there are plenty that live much simpler lives than they did back home and as a result are better environmental stewards than previously.

Farm Profitability

The “Aha” moment for me came when I realized that we are not just talking about money (something we always do in corporate America) we are talking about our health, our communities, and our environment.  We are talking about ensuring our lives are in balance so that we can sustain them!  We left corporate careers because they were unsustainable – we had nothing more to give but they kept demanding more and more.

We have come to realize that our “big lives” are not sustainable, and now the task is to find the “small life” that allows our family to be sustainable.  Living a profitable life will include finding balance between our available resources and desired outcome.  Living a simpler, slower, smaller life is a theme that resonates among many expats that we know or have read about…it was central in our decision to change our lifestyle.

Prosperous Farming Communities

Sustainability requires that we have prosperous relationships; a strong marriage, healthy and happy kids, mature relationships with friends, family, and our community.  While of the 3 goals this might be the easiest to see and understand its importance and applicability it requires a lot of work!

The other thing that strikes me is that it takes time.  Our lives had become time deficient and like most things in the U.S. had become a commodity, something to be bought and sold.  We were caught up in this game and the result is that we had very little time for “real” relationships.

We are still working through all of the changes in our lives, trying to sort out what is important and what isn’t with the goal of arriving at a place that is simpler and more satisfying.  While sustainability is being tossed around willy-nilly these days and corrupted by many large organizations as a marketing slogan, there is an underlying truth that resonates with us and that we can use as a foundation from which to build the structure of our lives.

Sean Lannin wrote this article for where he blogs about his life as an expat.  He also writes a personal blog Portable Parents about his travels in Latin America with his family.  Come by both blogs and share a comment!

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