More Using Less

I came to environmental issues initially from what seems to me to be a very middle class standpoint. My family had always been frugal, adverse to waste, etc., but these were choices that we made from some sense of social responsibility and personal financial responsibility, not absolute necessity. Moving my things out of my dorm room after my first year of college, I realized how much arbitrary stuff I’d kept throughout the year because of my socialized (and possibly genetic?) aversion to throwing things away. But this also meant that I had accumulated plenty of stuff, which made me think about the fact that despite the fact my family and I may have opted to not live excessively, we never went without, and certainly have always had small luxuries.

Therefore, as I gradually came to engagement in environmental issues growing up, I faced what I feel is, at least in my experience, a somewhat common paradigm that “doing stuff that’s good for the environment” means sacrifice. However, I always had this idea – that always felt vaguely idealistic due to current well-entrenched systems – that it shouldn’t mean sacrifice, that there were common sense ways, for example that more localized food production should be able to be environmentally sustainable and build local economies. However, I never felt particularly empowered to be able to make this happen.

My thoughts in the last few months about Cooperative Energy Futures (CEF) have been gradually informing this idea, and tonight Timothy told his story of growing up (which I don’t really want to delve into here because I feel it’s still his story to tell) and I felt like the way in which I perceived his observations and experiences in a way complemented mine. To describe what I took from his story tonight, I’m going to go with something else I’ve heard Timothy say, over a month ago: “Let’s see lack as an asset.” I see this as a way that can (maybe in different ways depending on background, but maybe not, I don’t know) engage people from many class backgrounds (both the “haves” and “have-nots”, let’s say) in ventures that are both environmentally and economically sustainable.

The model being tested by CEF understandably seems unusual: capitalizing energy efficiency can also be described as creating something out of less, which runs opposite to most modern notions about wealth creation. While this is not an entirely new concept (see the ’70s cookbook, More With Less), carrying it out on any scale and with distinct entrepreneurial intent is definitely not a widely-thought-about idea, but it has lots of opportunity as we’re getting to the point at which continued excess is seeming unfeasible. However, less excess doesn’t mean the end of “business.”

Tonight I was told that CEF has been described as “a different kind of more,” which I see as very well capturing what the future will look like in a myriad of sectors. This is a different type of business plan, and it allocates value differently in some ways, but it’s still a business plan. Such a business can still create value and support people.

[Note: Our community conversation I reference was under the understanding of confidentiality, and I got Timothy’s permission to reference him and his comments.]


Note: This post cross-posted from Discovering Solutions by Christina Getaz.

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