Living Sustainably: The Rule of Halves

You’ve probably heard hundreds of tips on how to live more sustainably. Who can remember all of those tips, or even worse remember to do what they say? And the prescriptions sound complicated and time consuming. Many people feel overwhelmed when considering how to reduce their ecological footprint, so they throw their hands up in despair and give up on sustainable living. Don’t despair! I have a simple guideline, a rule of thumb you can use to become twice as sustainable: cut everything you own and use in half! I call it the rule of halves. Move to a house half the size of your current house. Cut the number of cars in your family in half, and cut the size of your cars in half. Cut the number of miles you travel by car in half. Cut how much meat you eat in half. Buy energy star appliances that use half the electricity. Cut the size of your lawn in half. Cut the number of televisions in your house in half, the number of computers and printers in half, the amount of clothing in half. For most Americans these steps should be easy, because we currently have more of these things than we need. Don’t throw away what you give up: donate it for others to use. And abstain from buying more stuff to replace the stuff you get rid of: you won’t have room for it in your smaller house anyway. Soon you will realize that you don’t need all of that stuff, and that your life is more enjoyable because you spend half as much time shopping for and maintaining stuff. People in Europe and Japan have half the ecological footprint of Americans, yet they have the same level of wellbeing and are at least as happy.

So be proud of your small house and your small car! Small is beautiful. If you follow the rule of halves consistently you will cut your energy and material use, your ecological footprint, and your costs in half and make your lifestyle more sustainable.


About johncayers

John C. Ayers is a Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Vanderbilt University. As a geochemist he specializes in sustainability and also the chemistry of natural waters. He has been PI on 5 and co-Pi on 2 grants from the National Science Foundation, and has a publication h-index of 14. He has been Associate editor of American Mineralogist and Geochemical Transactions of the American Chemical Society, and does GIS consulting for the ERS group. He is currently writing a book titled " Sustainability: The Problems of Peak Oil, Global Climate Change, and Environmental Degradation."
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