When talking to people I often find that there are so many phrases that describe being less wasteful and doing things for yourself, such as ethical shopping, your eco foot print, permaculture, low impact, sustainability, self-sufficiency, voluntary simplicity, downshifting, organic gardening, for example, that I confuse myself, am I a organic gardener? a permaculture student? or an ethical shopper? Although they all are different principals they all share a common goal, to make less of an impact on the environment, to not rely on manufactured goods and to produce less useless waste.
Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the phrases that I forget that they are all essentially, working towards a common goal. People sometimes ask me how can I be self-sufficient when I have no garden? Well the honest answer is you can’t sorry. But would you want to be ? I know there are too many thing that I like and would not like to give up or could not commit to providing for myself every day, cheese the odd packet of crisps etc. When given this answer most people seem to give up, if I can’t live on a farm, cut off from the world, I’m not going to bother. I used to be that person.
I don’t grow all the veg we use as a family of 5, I don’t produce any of the meat fish or eggs and I don’t produce any of my own energy, I can’t at the moment I’ve not the room or the skills. Does this mean I should give up all this hippy talk forget the environment forget the children making clothes in the far east forget it all buy a hummer and drive the kids the two minutes to school, no. I can’t tick the ‘self-sufficient’ box, but I don’t waste water, I try and buy locally and seasonally, repair things and I recycle as much as possible. By worring about the phrase you can often feel that you are not achieving a target as you are not 100% self-sufficient or 100% carbon neutral.
The first step is to not give a name to what you are doing, it will not help you reach your goal. I have done this, that’s why when I talk or write this blog I tend to change the phrase according to what I’m talking about. Think about it this way, in the WW2 growing veg was a necessity not self-sufficiency and if it was to have a name it came under the banner of ‘Dig for Victory’. In Cuba when they had the peak oil energy crisis, and then started to pick themselves back up, did they use the term permaculture or self-sufficiency no they called it their ‘special period’.
I don’t want you to think that I don’t respect the work that is put in by many different groups around the world, what I am talking about is the average person who wants to do their bit but is confused by the technical terms and ideology of each phrase. Just get the facts see what you are capable of doing and get on with it and when people ask what you are doing just tell them you are a ‘downshifting student of Gaia attempting to live by permaculture principals in a self-sustaining way in order to have a low impact organic fair trade existence there by neutralising your carbon footprint and saving the world’. I bet they will never ask again and you can get on with life. Remember it’s what you do, that’s important not what you call it.