Got sustainability?

By IAN DONNIS  |  June 4, 2008

The opportunity for each one of us is to say, this is how I want to live, then to become educated and informed, and understand the links between the choices that we’re making and the environmental cost, the cost to our health, and also making choices that are in line with our ideals and values, and missions and visions.

So, say, the average size of the home has doubled since the 1950s — which means bigger homes use a lot more resources, a lot more resources to heat and cool. [People might say], “I want to live differently — I’m going to live in a smaller house or I’m going to have more people inhabiting that big house.” You’re making a change right there, culturally, and if you share that information with parents, or family, or friends who might not have known that, then they’re changing, too.

If I say, “I’m going to make a change in my diet, because I’ve learned that by eating low on the food chain, it’s going to impact my health, it’s going to impact the environment,” so I’m going to make that change. If we make a change to, say, ride mass transit, these are things that are going to have a huge, huge impact. You can do this as a household, you can do this as a school, you can do this as a business, [and] you can do this as a state. We believe that leadership comes from anyplace.

What is your message to those who might see sustainability as a threat to their lifestyle?
You know, I haven’t come across that, but my message would be, let’s have coffee, let’s talk.

How you get people to change is a very difficult thing. It’s the question that we at Apeiron ask ourselves every single day.

We don’t want to get into a preachy type of thing, like driving a Prius is right, driving an SUV is wrong. I actually don’t believe that. I think driving an SUV certainly has a bigger footprint, and driving a Prius or using mass transit is going to lessen your footprint.

Become educated and make good informed choices. I think, too, that when we do things that are in our own best health, and well-being, and interests, it’s almost like you feel better about yourself. I think human beings are wired in such a way, it all comes out in the end.

I mean, I don’t know what I would say. I would say, sit down and talk with me. I think some of these issues, too, can’t be broken down into quick one- or two-second sound bites.

But I think anyone who cares about a strong economy, anybody who cares about the health of their children, anybody who cares about the wellbeing of their community, should look at the data and see what the data says about how we live and the impacts.

My friend Jim Merkle wrote a book called Radical Simplicity, and he became a sustainability coordinator at Dartmouth College. And he said for something to be sustainable, it has to be fun, too, so this is a process. 

To read Ian Donnis’s politics + media blog, go to He can be reached at

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