Living Sustainably Even In An Urban Setting

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

It may seem like “living off the land” would require acres to do successfully. But Larry Meiller’s guest lives in a sustainable way thanks to a small urban garden, some planning, and little know-how.

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  • It May Sound Daunting To Some, But One Expert Says 'Sustainable Living' Isn't Out Of Reach

    Living “sustainably” may seem like a foreign or impossible task — especially for people who live in urban environments, where space and time come at a premium. But according to one scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, a sustainable lifestyle isn’t out of reach.

    “Not everyone has a back 40 acres,” said Quintin Bendixen. “For most, it’s probably closer to a back 40 square feet. So the challenge is, how can we still lessen our footprint?”

    Bendixen is a senior lecturer of geology and sustainability at UW-Waukesha. He and his wife also manage to live very sustainably in an urban setting.

    Bendixen said that “sustainable living” means looking at how the population can be supported by the earth’s resources, and then looking at what individuals are doing to help or hinder that.

    “Sustainability can be broadly defined. If you think about the word ‘sustainability,’ it’s literally the ability to sustain. So it’s keeping a system going without degradation through time … and can we keep this going in a changing world and live the lifestyle that we live,” Bendixen said.

    Bendixen said that attention and intention is key to living a sustainable life. That includes looking at where a person is spending money and assessing whether the spending is in line with goals and values.

    “We’re all consuming water, we’re all consuming food, we’re all consuming energy. But we aren’t informed about the details of this,” Bendixen said.

    Bendixen said that he’s tried to figure out what his actual water consumption is based on his water bill, and that it ended up being a struggle. He realized that if a person can’t find out how much water they use, there’s ultimately little incentive to reduce that use.

    With some investigation, Bendixen was eventually able to decipher his water bill and to do some math to calculate how much water his household was using. But without that type of persistence, his water usage would have remained a mystery.

    According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day. Bendixen said it’s important to keep that figure in mind.

    “If you had to carry your water footprint around every day, 100 one-gallon jugs, you’d probably think of ways to cut back that load so you didn’t have to carry those jugs of water,” he said.

    Bendixen knows that the prospect of living more sustainably can seem daunting. However, for those who want to pursue a more sustainable lifestyle, he has words of encouragement:

    “The picture is going to look different for everyone. Everyone has a different situation, everyone has a different family size. So you have to do what works for you. Don’t go all in at once, unless you want to. Just take baby steps and make sure that everyone is on board. And try to make the transition as smooth as possible,” Bendixen said.

    He added: “Once you look into these things, I think it’s a bit of a Pandora’s box. You can’t plead ignorance anymore. You have to face the facts about your water and energy use and say ‘What can I do about this?’”

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Quintin Bendixen Guest

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