Living Sustainably, 1993-Style

(And how were you?)
This post is 3 in the series: Sightline@20

Before “green” was everywhere you looked, before “local” was a foodie bragging point, and definitely before most of us knew anything of Sightline (then Northwest Environment Watch), we were still walking the talk of living sustainably. We bet you were, too.

Check out our staff’s 1993-vintage green living practices, and share your own in the comments section.

Migee 2012Migee, senior director of development

I grew up in southern California (don’t throw things! I’ve been in the Northwest for over twenty years now) and when I was growing up water was a premium item—we were constantly aware of the drought conditions we were living in. My mother encouraged us all to take “Navy showers” whereby we would get in, get wet, and then turn the water off to soap up, and turn it back on to rinse off and maybe indulge for a minute. The habit stuck. While I will admit that I no longer take “Navy showers,” they do hover around the 5 minute mark, I am very aware of how much water I use and take care to conserve it.

Nicole 2012Nicole, senior development associate

I was 11 in 1993, and so had limited control over my carbon footprint. But here’s a fun fact: In 1990’s SoCal, in addition to D.A.R.E., we had school instruction on water conservation where we were told “Don’t be a water hog.”  A couple years later, angsty teenage rebellion against my less-than-conservationist parents took hold as an obsession with convincing them to compost (didn’t work… at first), vegetarianism, watching Bill Nye the Science Guy, and only buying clothes secondhand.

Alan 2012Alan, executive director

A lot of my 1993 practices filled the pages of Sightline’s first flagship product: This Place on Earth: Home and the Practice of Permanence. (Sasquatch, 1996. Now out of print but you can download it for free.) That was the year I came home to the Northwest. It’s also the year I stopped collecting books, deciding to rely on libraries instead. That was also the year of cloth diapers that we washed ourselves and fastened with safety pins, the old fashioned way. (By 1994, when we had two babies in diapers, we weren’t so virtuous.)

Mieko 2012Mieko, operations manager

My family has recycled soda cans long before the concept of curbside recycling. We saved them and donated them to the local Boy Scout troop who turned them in for cash. My dad let us line them up on the concrete and smash them with a sledgehammer. My mom was all about the recycling, not such a big fan of the sledgehammer. Also, I walked to high school, the whole 0.8 miles… because it was the sustainable thing to do. (It had nothing to do with the fact that I didn’t have a driver’s license yet.)

Clark 2012Clark, programs director

No car, tiny basement apartment, beans and rice at least four times a week…it’s kind of hard not to live sustainably when you’re just scraping by in a big city (in my case, DC, working for the National Audubon Society). I suspect that the only more sustainable times of my life were when I would go hiking for a month at a time—and the only fossil fuels I’d use would be a canister or two of white gas to cook my noodles and oatmeal.

Meaghan 2012Meaghan, senior development associate

Twenty years ago marked my senior year in high school (yikes!), and being a teenager living in rural Connecticut without a car meant a LOT of carpooling with friends—to school, to movies—even to my senior prom! My date and I carpooled with another couple, and we all arrived in his rad Pontiac Bonneville. Not exactly a stretch limo, but it did the job!

Anna 2012Anna, senior communications strategist

In 1993, I was living quite sustainably—though not so much by choice as by circumstance. I was in college. And little did I know I was living the 2013 version of the green dream: I was carless, getting around by bike, living in a densely populated, highly walkable community, eating communally, and sharing all kinds of resources. One friend had a car and a bunch of us piled in once a week to do our grocery shopping and other errands—carpooling and combining trips! But all of it was for convenience and to save money, not a conscious effort to reduce our impact. Then I negated it all by flying back and forth from the east to west coast—without thinking twice.

Serena 2012Serena, communications associate

Let’s see… in 1993, I was a mere seven years old, so the best I could have been doing was cultivating my appreciation for the outdoors. My parents’ backyard abuts the beautiful forested property of a seminary, so when my neighbor girlfriends and I weren’t busy burying deceased pet hamsters or collecting caterpillars or catching lightning bugs, we were sneaking through a hole in the fence to explore the seemingly vast acreage of the local priests-in-training. Complete with a creek, a rusty old bridge, and plenty of deer, “the forest,” as we so monolithically termed it, played host to many a mosquito-bite-ridden adventure.

Jen 2012Jen, news editor

As a recent college graduate working an administrative job at the Seattle Weekly, my lifestyle was driven by economics. But not having much money has a funny way of shrinking your footprint. I took the bus or walked, shared a house and food and clothes with roommates, and very occasionally splurged to buy something like a pair of vintage cowboy boots, which I still have to this day.

Pam 2012Pam, finance manager

1993 was my first full year in Seattle. I was living with four other nonprofit-working interns in what felt like 1,000 square feet of space, eating a vegetarian diet, and shopping at thrift stores. We separated our recyclables into yellow, green, and blue bins, and a housemate planted the bike-commuting seed in me, though I would remain a bus commuter for a few more years.

Eric 2012Eric, policy director

In 1993, I was a freshman in college and pretty close to broke, so sustainable living wasn’t hard to do. My power consumption must have been tiny given that I was living in a small dorm room with a roommate. My transportation was mostly by way of shoe leather or pedals with the occasional ride bummed from a friend. And I certainly didn’t have enough spare change jingling in my pocket to engage in frivolous consumption. It was, I suppose, a sort of sustainability enforced by circumstance.

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Comments

  1. Matt the Engineer says:

    What have we learned here? The real path to sustainability is for everyone to go back to college for the rest of their lives.

    In ’93 I was also in my first year of college, sharing a tiny dorm room, trying out vegitarianism, and learning how fun density can be (I had access to dozens of good friends within a 1 minute walk, or just a shout down the hall).

  2. DevinDerry says:

    In ’93 I traded in my pick-up truck for a bicycle, which became my primary transportation for the next 6 years. I also always took reusable bags to the grocery store and every time the checkout person looked at me like I was insane for doing so.

  3. Jonathan Betz-Zall says:

    In 1993 the Fellowship for Intentional Community held a large, international gathering at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. This introduced many people to the possibility of continuing to share housing, as many of these good folks mentioned, throughout the rest of their lives. I had already been doing this for more than 20 years, but at the gathering I got connected with a large number of like-minded folks who provided much-appreciated encouragement.

  4. Callie Jordan says:

    This reminded me of Ernest Callenbach’s Green Triangle (he of Ecotopia fame). I make mine look like the familiar blue recycle arrows but it’s green and goes round and round — do something to save money and you are helping the environment and your health; do it for your health and you are helping the environment and saving money, etc.

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