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Sustainability: "Walking the Talk," On Wednesday's Access Utah

“Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” We’re going to apply this oft-quoted quip to sustainability on Access Utah. Many of us believe that universal and individual changes are needed to ensure a sustainable & healthy life for us all. 


But do we “walk the talk?” We’ll ask you what changes you’ve made in your daily life and what you’re doing right now to make the world more sustainable. And we’ll ask you for suggestions on how we can make small or big changes in our lives to promote sustainable living.  Our guests will include Cache Valley residents Charles and Cristina Ashurst; Roslynn Brain, USU Assistant Professor & Sustainable Communities Extension Specialist; and Jim Goodwin, Co-chair of Intermountain Bioneers, Bear River Watershed Council board member, and member of the Logan City Renewable Energy and Conservation Advisory Board.

Response from Professor Jean Lown, USU FCHD:

Sustainability is simply living within your means (within the capability of he earth to support us), similar to spending less than you earn-- a very simple concept. If you are in debt (except for modest education debt which is an investment in human capital) you are living beyond your means AND, very likely, living beyond your share of the earth's capacity.
Start with your biggest impact on the earth: more than 2 kids- you are putting a burden on future generations because those American kids will use far more than their share of the world's resources.
DON"T believe what the mortgage broker and real estate agent say about how much house you can afford; they will get paid their large commissions up front and don't care if you can afford that huge house in the long run (anyone remember the housing bubble??). Large houses are unsustainable. You aren't going to balance your budget by cutting out lattes; start with your largest expense- housing. Large houses use more resources to build and more energy to maintain.
We live in a modest house with small yard 1 mile from work so I can ride my bike or walk. This is our third residence in Logan-- all chosen for their close proximity to work so I did not have to drive.
Next largest expense: transportation. Live close to work! Don't buy a big suburban house that requires a long commute. Large SUVs and trucks are not sustainable- like houses they take more energy & resources to build and to fuel. We bought a plug-in Prius (fueled in part by our solar panels).
All other household expense categories pale in comparison to the BIG TWO.
Buy solar panels- prices have dropped precipitously in the past decade and the federal and state tax breaks cut the cost almost in half. We bought solar panels in fall 2012, partly because our 75 year neighbor said "It's the right thing to do."  If you simply do the math at today's artificially low electric prices it doesn't make sense except as a way to contribute to a less polluted world. "Put your money where your mouth is." Keep in mind that most of Utah's electricity comes from dirty coal (there is no such thing as clean coal; it is a figment of the imagination of marketers for the coal industry). Although more electricity is coming from natural gas, that industry has plenty of environmental impact.
Don't idle your vehicle!!! Don't use fast food drive ups and banks. It's often faster to park and walk to the ATM. Wear winter clothes and not shorts and T-shirt so you can stay warm if you need to sit in your vehicle and wait for someone.
Sustainability is a very simple mind-set: considering your impact on the world and the people who use far less energy and pollute far less than the average American.
CV residents need to start with one step right now: reduce driving and stop idling!! (last evening I observed an empty mini-van parked outside Smith's marketplace with the engine idling- so not even using the excuse of keeping anyone warm. That's a vehicle waiting to be stolen... yes, even here in happy valley.
This morning CVTD bus #1150 sat outside our house idling for 10 minutes before I went out and asked the driver (he said his name was Cameron) to turn off the engine. He said he had only been there 2 minutes (false) and was waiting to pick up a passenger. Then go do it or turn off your engine!!
Time to use our brains! Sustainability is simple.

Tom Williams worked as a part-time UPR announcer for a few years and joined Utah Public Radio full-time in 1996. He is a proud graduate of Uintah High School in Vernal and Utah State University (B. A. in Liberal Arts and Master of Business Administration.) He grew up in a family that regularly discussed everything from opera to religion to politics. He is interested in just about everything and loves to engage people in conversation, so you could say he has found the perfect job as host “Access Utah.” He and his wife Becky, live in Logan.