Lately I am thinking a lot about sustainability and what it means. What repeatedly comes to my mind before anything else is recycling. Perhaps this is because we recycled long before the term sustainable became popular. But sustainability is so much more, especially since it starts long before we actually recycle what we purchased.

The other day at a party a woman asked me what I was doing and I said I work with people’s hair in a sustainable and holistic way. I cut hair, I write, teach and research. She asked back whether that meant that I was making wigs. She was a former hairdresser and then went back to college and acquired a B.A. in social work. I was pretty stunned. That experience taught me that sustainability is still a new concept and term for many and especially in regards to hair.

In order to manage the theme of sustainability I like to use a scale from -10 to +10. From the worst possibly pollution and destruction over cigarette buds tossed out of the car window to a state of ignorance and unknowingness at Zero and then starting at +1 with first thoughts and actions in regards to recycling and consumerism.

A lot of us are on the path of increasing sustainability in our daily and professional lives. During conversations I often hear people express that they wish they could and would do more and I sense their guilt and pressure.  I am doing what I can one step at a time. Guilt and pressure are not emotional sustainable or life-affirming. That’s where the concept of the various degrees comes in handy, at least fore me. For many of us perfectionists  it is important to let go of the idea that +9 or +10 are attainable in this world right now unless we would completely live off the grid. Another example of an impossible goal in that vein would be to live 100% vegan. One would have to stop bicycling as the tires contain animal by-products, to name just one of many examples.

I am living towards a +8 and I am having fun with it. I try finding solutions, and wonder for example why not all product labels peel off easily and if it is more sustainable to recycle the glass or to wash it out with lots of water. Yet, when I have all my food stored in glass although I only did maybe a +2 action towards sustainability at least I feel like a 10!