Overview & Connection to a New Dream
The home has long been a symbol of the American dream – work hard and save your pennies until you can afford a home in a neighborhood where your family can establish its roots. Ironically, the home now also provides some of the clearest evidence of the ‘more is better’ corruption of the American dream. Over the last half-century, the size of the average American home has nearly doubled.(1) The amount of ‘stuff’ in those homes has increased even more, overflowing first into 2/3/4 car garages and then into personal storage rentals (one of the fastest growing industries in the '90’s). From a simple environmental standpoint, our ecological support systems can neither sustain the necessary level of resource extraction nor absorb the resulting waste.(2)
And Mother Earth isn’t the only one feeling the strain. At the individual level, the endless pursuit of more is stressing out American families. We work and commute longer hours in order to afford those big houses in the ‘burbs, thus leaving less time to spend in those houses and less time to put all those possessions to use.(3) Worse yet, we have less time for the things we say are most important – our kids, family, friends, and hobbies. Many of us still find ourselves running from job to highway to store, then briefly home before leaving for the job again -- like mice stocking up for the winter.
Fortunately, there is another way and more and more Americans are finding it. Millions have downshifted - voluntarily reduced their work hours in order to spend more time with their families and interests. Studies show that 87% of those downshifters are happy with the change.(4) Others have joined campaigns to shield their families from hypercommercialism.(5) Some have cut material and resource consumption through a variety of advocacy and technological strategies – everything from removing their names from junkmail lists to installing compact fluorescent lightbulbs and super efficient insulation.(6) Thousands of other Americans have followed these paths throughout the home and beyond, connecting with simplicity study groups and sustainable community initiatives.(7)
Not moving anytime soon? You can always take steps to make your current dwelling more efficient and clutter-free. And let’s not forget the basics – the "3 R’s." Instead of mumbling the now-cliched "reduce, reuse, and recycle," we can really think about them carefully… and in the proper order! "Reduce" and "Reuse" were meant to be the primary guiding principles; "Recycle" merely a last resort when the first two aren’t possible.(9)
Stuff coming into the home
You can also consider each of your dollars to be a vote. By voting for locally made, recycled, and efficient products, you can help "elect" a more just and health world.
Stuff that isn’t ‘stuff’ – vacation, family,
Interested in less glamorous travel? You know, the non-vacation kind? Then continue on to the puzzle tour’s Sustainable Transportation/Urban Design piece.
Copyright (c) 1999 CNAD
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