According to popular definition, “sustainability” is the ability to fully meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In other words, to live sustainably, we should be able to live well today, supporting our comfort, health and well-being, in ways that assure that assure the same for future generations.

I find that most people are concerned about the environment and the quality of life for future generations. In fact, a recent national survey by the Shelton Group (www.sheltongrp.com) reported that “78% of Americans feel some sense of responsibility to change daily habits and practices to positively impact the environment” and 70% of us believe we have a “moral duty to leave the earth in as good or better shape than we found it.”

But in asking about actual day to day behaviors, the survey found a huge disconnect between what people feel is right, and what they actually do about it. The survey discovered that 61% of Americans actually make decisions based on comfort or convenience over those that they believe would positively impact the environment.

Why such a huge disconnect? As our society becomes more aware of environmental issues, people can get completely overwhelmed with the enormity of the problems. It can be hard to see how any one of us can make a difference. Many times, people just don’t realize how much of an impact each of us has on the environment by the way we live and the choices we make in our homes, our cars, and in our day to day activities. And even more importantly, many people don’t realize that there are choices available to them that not only benefit the environment, but that also support better comfort, health, and quality of life for ourselves as well! Even small changes can add up to a big difference over time.

Let’s take energy for example. Every home requires energy to operate, usually in the form of electricity and natural gas. We use energy for cooking and for keeping indoor temperatures comfortable when the outdoor temperatures are too hot or too cold. Some homes waste much more energy than others, but there are very easy and cost effective fixes that not only save money but make our homes much more comfortable. Here are some cost effective ideas for saving energy, saving money and making your home more comfortable this summer:

  • Caulk and apply weather stripping to seal up air gaps around windows and doors, or any other places where your conditioned air to the outside.
  • Use insulated window coverings or solar screens to minimize heat gain, especially on Western or Southern exposures.
  • Love greenery? Strategically plant native large shrubs or trees to shade windows, doors and patios.
  • Use a thermostat to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures, and to save energy when you are away. The smart thermostats are coming down in price and make it fun and easy to save energy.
  • Ceiling fans help make a room feel cooler, so you can push up the thermostat a degree or two and still feel comfortable.
  • Have your cooling system tuned up, change filters, and make sure it is in good working order.
  • If you have an older home, or have difficulty getting all the rooms in your home to a comfortable temperature, consider adding or upgrading the insulation. You may realize a return on your investment in just a few short years, and will

Saving water is important too. Just about every community in the country is facing the need to conserve and manage their water supplies, but that is especially true here in the desert Southwest. There are very practical steps we can all take to reduce our consumption of water without making changes in our lifestyle.

  • First, check for water leaks, both inside and outside. Many gallons of water are wasted each year through leaks in water faucets, toilets, hose bibs and irrigation systems. Sometimes excessive water pressure coming into our homes can cause extra pressure on pipes and lead to leaks. Fix the leaks – why pay for water that just gets wasted?
  • When water faucets, shower heads or toilets need to be replaced, buy water saving fixtures. They can be basic or fancy, but you won’t even notice you are saving water.
  • Use drought-tolerant native plants in your landscaping. For those who love lush and verdant yards, using careful design to capture and channel rainwater strategically to your vegetation will not only save water but can result in a gorgeous green yard!

The great thing about taking small steps to a more sustainable home is that people become aware of just how much they can make a difference. Once people get started, they realize there are so many opportunities to do more for the environment while saving money, adding comfort, and maybe a little satisfaction about doing what we feel is right for the environment and for future generations.

True sustainability is a balance between meeting people’s needs, maintaining prosperity AND preserving the environment not only for today but well into the future. No sacrifices needed – just making smart choices!