CHAPTER 1. CLARIFY YOUR MOTIVES
Trying to live a low-footprint life is a challenge, especially if you live in a place where the infrastructure and social norms are working against you. The absolute first step for me, in this endeavor or any other, is to clarify my motives.
On some occasions, you might find yourself faltering or burning out. But when that happens, don’t panic. You can instantly regain your energy and focus by reminding yourself of your “why’s”, your motives for pursuing this lifestyle.
For best results, your “why’s” should include personally rewarding motives as well as planetary/humanitarian motives. For a saintly, ascetic minority, planetary motives may suffice. But most people (myself included) need to have personal, “selfish” motives in order to stay motivated.
I’ve found that even the very compelling motive of wanting to live up to my own moral standards isn’t always enough. I really rely on immediate self-interest motives to keep me going. Here’s a current list of my “why’s”:
• Moral imperative to only use my fair share of the world’s resources.
• Help my country, the United States, set a better example for the world.
• Do my part to avert climate disaster, food shortages, government-imposed rationing, and energy shortages.
• Do my part to reduce human encroachment on wildlife habitat.
Personal “selfish” motives (I put “selfish” in quotes because many of the things that seem selfish also make us better members of society):
• Reduce my financial overhead so I have freedom to pursue creative projects and part-time gigs, rather than having to go out and get a full-time job that’s not aligned with my life purpose. (This is actually important in more ways than one: As a person in her 50s who’s been self-employed since 1995, I wouldn’t likely be considered a desirable candidate for a conventional job anyway, even if I were to seek one.)
• Reduce irksome busywork (lawn mowing, cleaning and maintaining a large house, etc.). This gives me more time for things I enjoy, such as taking free online classes, swimming in the ocean, and taking walks on the beach with friends.
• Free up time for civic participation and volunteer work, both of which I consider essential to my definition of a good life.
• Aesthetics: Create a home environment that’s quiet and free of distractions from visual clutter, electronic noise, etc. Always get to be connected with the sights, sounds, and smells of outdoors. (I achieve this by keeping my windows open most of the time.)
• Preserve some of the sweet, simple flavor of my childhood.
• I feel more secure, having reduced my dependence on things I can’t control (air-conditioning breakdown, car failure, etc.).
• Inner peace that comes from living in harmony with my core principles.
• A constant, tangible way to practice my religious and spiritual beliefs.
• A form of worship; communion with the divine.
• Enhanced disaster-preparedness. The low-footprint lifestyle turns out to be good training for just about any kind of disaster, whether natural or personal. During a hurricane evacuation, I was able to sort my stuff calmly, secure my home, and evacuate quickly. Faced with personal financial collapse, I was able to keep a level head and navigate through it.
“YMMV”: Your Motives May Vary! Feel free to use any of mine that resonate with you.