sustainable living as the new luxury

i was very intrigued by the cover of the special issue of time magazine i received in the mail last week — a special “design and lifestyle” issue. the cover said, “sustainable living is the new luxury”, or something like that (i’ve tried to find a page on time’s website to link to, but they don’t seem to have it up yet).

i’ve had a low-level rumination brewing on sustainable living, ever since my friend mark scandrette started making it an issue in emergent convention seminar planning, back in 03 or 04. as i’ve understood it, sustainable living is all about priorities. it’s about living in such a way that i honor the earth (god’s creation), and proactively live in such a way that i am fully able to enter into god’s work in the kingdom (this is a christian view of sustainable living, i admit) that doesn’t limit my ability to do so. this has implications in the areas of mortgages and debt and consumerism and brand-loyalty and more. we had a seminar or late-night discussion or two on this at the last emergent convention, in 05.

i’m not good at sustainable living.

and, if sustainable living — as described in time magazine — is mostly about creating an existence that is earth-friendly, i think they raise a pretty good tension.

people like shane claiborne, and even mark scandrette, are good at sustainable living because they have moved away from consumerism. but moving away from consumerism is — if we’re honest — highly inconvenient. i mean, shane makes his own clothes! i can’t see myself sitting down and stitching up a pair of baggy trousers. and i’m not highly motivated to spend my time in a backyard veggie garden. so for ME to embrace an earth-friendly and body-friendly lifestyle means money, and more consumerism. because there are plenty of companies ready to provide a sustainable lifestyle for me, with organic foods and household products, environmentally friendly and third-world-conscious clothing and housewares, and even a sustainable-living car (a hybrid, which is sustainable in the earth-friendly way, but not so sustainable in the debt-free way). whole foods and henry’s, our two new shopping meccas of choice, call to me to spend money. and everything i buy there costs MORE. it IS a luxury.

i don’t pretend to suggest a solution. i don’t have one (sure, live like shane and mark is a solution, but i don’t find it workable for me). but i am finding something oxymoronic about the uncomfortable truth of time’s assertion. does spending more for this kind of lifestyle honor god? maybe. does it expose a deeper flaw in my consumeristic approach to whole-living in god’s kingdom? maybe. am i willing to change at that deeper level? honestly? i doubt it.

5 thoughts on “sustainable living as the new luxury”

  1. Yeah I agree with you here. It is more expensive doing the whole healthy thing. At least in the short run..maybe not in the long run with health benefits and such.

    I think if you are convinced in this way at all though…it would be all about finding a process and all that worked for you

  2. i’d recommend the book nation of rebels to complement the thoughts in this post. i read it last year after jason clark mentioned it on his blog. it fits very well with what you’re saying.

  3. Hi Marko, like the blog! I don’t think I’ve ever commented here before, but this issue you’re talking about is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile, too.

    There was some interesting discussion a few weeks ago about this same issue amongst some UK blokes: Kester Brewin and Jonny Baker both posted some interesting thoughts on Bono’s Red label.

    I’ve also posted a few thoughts on similar topics here and here.

    The big question is whether or not we can use consumerism to fight consumerism. Can we subvert the system from the inside (like Bono, for example), or do we necessarily need to secede from the system entirely (like Shane Claiborne)?

  4. i think this would be a great forum topic to discuss…

    it seems to me that you bring up a good point though about sustainable living… we don’t really want to be incovenienced, do we? and i say this because i am right next to you. I don’t want to make my own clothes or work a vegie garden or live close enough to work to walk or bike or something like that (that would mean a super small apartment, not a nice house with yard)…its a hard discussion i think

  5. Marko, I’m right there with you. This is the issue that I’ve been wrestling with for about a month and I’m dying to come up with an answer. At what point do we say that it is implausible? How would I convince my wife to go the way of Shane or Mark? Does that form of thinking mean that I can purchase nothing that is not pleasurable or do I have to weigh those purchases and decisions for weeks? And, does it mean that I have to eat all organic and such? Too many questions…Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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