I have found a lot of joy in exploring sustainable living. Bike commutes, neighborhood walks, and cooking vegan meals have become regular practices in Wilmington LVC. Living sustainably has also proven itself to be a challenge. As one of LVC’s pillars, sustainable living confronts notions of convenience, consumerism, justice, and community, among others, often guiding me to go against the norms of societal convenience. It’s a challenge that involves an understanding of my mindset: what I most commonly accept as ‘normal’ and why. Living in community with intentional values and goals has allowed me to better understand how I can justly engage in our world knowing that my actions and the actions of others are not chosen in isolation and do not have an isolated affect. I take this understanding into my choices of living simply and sustainably.
I was a vegetarian prior to joining LVC out of the conviction that eating meat is not worth the industry’s environmental impact. As someone with an additional food allergy and choosing to be vegetarian, I was apprehensive about how eating in community would play out. However, one of the biggest joys I’ve experienced this year is that of cooking and eating with my house family. Early on in our year together, my housemates embraced the challenge to try “meatless Mondays,” for one day a week they would intentionally not eat meat. However, meatless Monday quickly turned into only eating meat once a week, and then not at all. Choosing this diet benefited our stipend budget and helped us live into our communal values of stewarding earth’s resources intentionally and together. We have all creatively cooked vegetarian and vegan twists on our families’ classic meals and explored recipes that were new to all of us. Of my three years being vegetarian, I have never had so much fun doing it.
In addition to exploring how we can eat more sustainably, this year has given me opportunities to learn how to shop more consciously. For Christmas, I was given reusable produce bags of all different sizes. Because we eat a lot of vegetables as a house (yay vegetarianism!), we used many plastic bags when we shopped for produce. Though we remember to bring reusable grocery bags to the store (thank you, previous residents of Koinonia, for taping a reminder note on the back of our front door), we could still cut back on our use of plastic. It is in these simple changes that I can see my mindset shift, causing me to think more creatively about how I use resources available to me. As a house community, we choose to make simple choices towards further sustainable living, such as no longer buying paper towels or ziplock bags, and instead using cloth rags and reusable containers.
In the summer months, there is a small farmers market in the park a few blocks up from our house. When it was in season, my housemates and I would shop for our produce at the market, which allowed us to eat seasonally and locally. It was also an enjoyable way to get to know our immediate neighborhood from our initial time in Wilmington. We are counting down the months until it reopens!
However helpful and effective the communal and individual changes we have made as a house are, living sustainably is incomplete without understanding the much bigger and much broader issues that we face due to environmental injustice. I work at an environmental non-profit in the city of Wilmington that focuses on education, advocacy, and conservation of natural spaces. My position allows me to investigate and critically consider the inequitable distribution of negative environmental impacts on low-income communities and communities of color. My experience has me asking many questions of my city. Why are air monitors non-existent in the community that experiences the most environmental degradation due to industry? Why is this community also a predominately black, low-income community? Why is it that a report last year completed by an environmental justice agency found that cancer and asthma risks linked to environmental conditions allowed the life expectancy of people of color in this neighborhood to live up to 20 years shorter than their white counterparts in nearby affluent neighborhood? Why did this report go ignored? It is in these questions, or rather the lack of answers to these questions, that I am angered. It should not be acceptable to oppress communities nor devastate the earth for the sake of profit. Yet, it is a norm. Environmental degradation is a serious issue we all face, but it is often ignored by the powerful, for addressing it has proven to be inconvenient.
Living sustainably is both a call to make changes in one’s own life towards sustainability, as well as to be aware of and an advocate for the earth, knowing full well that the effects of environmental issues often most severely affect those that are already oppressed by a greater system. It is in this that I see the values of LVC come together: we live simply and sustainably in intentional community, both in house communities and beyond, to strive for social justice by confronting racism and oppression to create a world of shalom.
By: Adrianna Horsey, Koinonia House