Pictured here: Nic’s home garden in Kensington includes a chicken coop. (Photo courtesy of Nic Esposito)
Since starting The Head & The Hand Press, and devoting much of my writing and editorial energy to fiction, I have been looking for an outlet where I could continue to write about my work and my views on sustainability.
So I was pleased when Generocity.org invited me to write a monthly column to do just that. But as I began sketching ideas for future columns, and even as I completed the drafts for this first installment, I noticed a substantial shift in my perspective.
Through out my activity in the sustainability movement, and my writings on it, I feel that I have always maintained a fairly moderate perspective. Sure, I’ve experimented with the more “alternative” sides of sustainability like communal living, sustenance farming, and even washing clothes in my bathtub for a brief stint.
But after moving back to Philly, I realized that I prefer life in the city, where scarce resources and the constant confrontation with environmental degradation remind me that we have to collectively change unsustainable systems because there’s no place far enough “off-the-grid” where those problems aren’t going to spread. And although I’m impressed and optimistic with the technological advances we have made in the past few decades, especially in Philadelphia, I believe that those advances will be inherently flawed if we don’t focus as much attention on the economic and social stability of our city as a whole, rather than the sustainability for a few. I find myself at my own transition within this movement.
When asked what I consider to be the greatest factor to adopting a sustainable lifestyle, I always respond that it comes down to a recalculation of the relationship between time and money. Although I’m not sure how much that bathtub washing experiment saved resources, my wife and I shock people when we reveal how little we spend at the grocery store, especially during the growing season. While searching for floor joists on Craigslist to build a table for my dining room, I saw an advertisement for a “farmhouse table” with an asking price of $1,500. I built a comparable table for $40 worth of wood from a house being demoed in West Philly.
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I’m not unique in these pursuits. I started urban farming in West Philly where there are numerous urban gardens. And now I live in Kensington where there seems to be a woodshop in a warehouse for every interested resident. Within both of those communities, there are people who continue sustainable pursuits while getting married, having kids, and owning homes.
But as I have reached two out of three of those milestones (no kids yet), I’ve decided to take my hands out of the many pots I seem to stick them in, and instead focus on a full-time job (along with running the Press). And so far I feel like the calculation is completely thrown off. Although I’m fortunate that the work I’m doing fits in with my ideals and compels me to keep progressing as a human being, I do find myself spending more time in the office than working in the woodshop, or making more trips to the grocery store than I do my garden.
I realize that the sustainability movement needs the people who can use their personal time to create the sustenance that provides an alternative to mass production, as well as the people willing to devote their professional time to bettering the systems that use resources most efficiently and ethically. But there is a nagging worry that by finally entering the world of the forty-hour work week, the required consumerism that accompanies limited time will hinder the self-determination that has supported sustainability in my personal life, and thus limit my ability to live out those ideals.
My hope is that the ensuing articles in this series explore that balance between personal and societal sustainability, no matter what point of our lives we find ourselves in.
Nic Esposito is a writer, novelist, urban farmer and founder of The Head & The Hand Press. He lives with his wife and their animals on their urban homestead in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.-30-
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