Natural living is hard to define because it means something different to everyone. For some it means choosing products that are from nature and are not harmful to our bodies. For others it means making choices that protect the natural environment. For many, natural living means a balance of using natural products and protecting the environment. And those choices look different for everyone.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my natural living journey is that sometimes choosing all-natural products is actually BAD for the environment! I figured this out one day while I was browsing recipes for homemade bath and beauty products on one of my favorite natural-living blogs and the question popped into my head “Where do all of these ingredients come from?” The truth is, most of the ingredients used come from places very far from where I live. While they might truly be all-natural, they can have serious impacts on the environment if they are not grown sustainably and by farmers who are treated fairly, and there’s no way around the issue of transporting them.
That realization weighed heavy on my chest. I began to feel like I was sinking. Like natural-living was a sea of information and choices. Some information and certain choices were like bubbles that could help you float to the surface where you’d finally be able to breathe and others were like stones that weighed you down. And every time I thought I had finally collected enough bubbles to get to the surface, new stones came along to pull me back down. And worst of all, I felt as if my bubbles were constantly popping. I’d figure something out and then I’d learn new information that changed everything.
I decided I needed a new approach. I determined three priorities on which I’d base my natural living choices. I borrowed from the Triple Bottom Line method of the business world where businesses define success at the intersection of three categories – people, planet, and profit – rather than by profit alone. That means business decisions are made with consideration for social equity, environmental stewardship, and economic prosperity. This should have been obvious to me since this is something I’ve spent a great deal of time on in my my career. But sometimes the most obvious solutions are right in front of us while we are looking in the distance.
The three priorities I set are the same: people, planet, and profit. When I am faced with a natural living choice to make, I think about how it will affect the health and well-being of my loved ones, the living conditions of workers involved, the effects on the natural environment, and how much it will cost me. Then I try to make the choice that balances those priorities in a way that works best for me and my family.
It’s not always the same category that wins out. Sometimes the best choice is what is healthiest for my family; but sometimes the healthiest choice simply is not affordable or available. Take energy, for example. Renewable energy, like wind or solar, would reduce the carbon emissions that my family contributes. That would be awesome for the environment and it would be better for my children (since they breathe the air those emissions pollute). But it is far from affordable and probably not even feasible since we live on a third acre wooded lot in a subdivision. On the other hand, buying our fresh organic produce at the farmers’ market is healthier, better for the environment, AND often very affordable. It’s all about weighing the impacts and deciding which is a priority.
You see, natural living isn’t a sea of bubbles and stones. It’s a balancing act using a three-way scale.