Many years ago, I set to work exploring the concept of sustainability from the perspective of the individual. I was then a doctoral student in the Sustainability Education PhD program at Prescott College, where I was surprised to find that my brilliant peers and faculty were devoted to work that would create sustainability in the greater world while simultaneously treading water in their own, often-chaotic, lives. I was equally amazed when my searches for research or literature on sustainability for the individual bore no fruit. The notion of a bottom-up approach to effecting change on a global scale did not seem unique. Certainly, I could not be the first person to realize the ineffectual and imbalanced nature of working to “heal” a broken world and burning out in the process. My own life was not particularly balanced, and I began to reflect on what it meant to truly “walk the sustainability talk.” In other words, what would it look like for me to embody sustainability in my own efforts to create a more sustainable world.
I wrote an Autoethnography about my own experience building a more sustainable existence, devising the terms “self-sustainability” and “the Sustainable Self” (Slovin, 2013) to describe the process of creating balance and equilibrium on the path to a healthier, more joyful, authentic existence. I believe it is within our capacity to become sustainable and maintain a balanced life through the combined process of discovering and honoring our authentic, true selves; pursuing our passions; and developing healthy methods for restoring balance to our systems when external events throw our system out of whack.
I have been on my own path to self-sustainability for nearly a decade, crafting an identity, career, and passions that reflect my own internal requirements for balance and wellbeing. On this path, I eventually left my government career to create a professional career that would allow me to continue my personal work while also being able to embrace and encourage others on their own journey.
Slovin, M. (2013). Becoming sustainable: An Autoethnography in story and song (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Becoming Sustainable