For more than 18 years now, anchored by our founding visionary, Marilyn Welker, Simply Living has had a consistent vision – to create a compassionate and sustainable world through personal, community, and cultural transformation.
I was fortunate to be among Simply Living’s small group of founding members. We believed then and we believe now -- there is a clear connection between our lifestyle choices and the natural environment - our consumer culture is embedded in an economic engine that threatens our soil, water, and air-- nature’s life support systems.
We also saw a deep connection between our lifestyle choices and the cultural environment as well. The economic engine fueling the global consumer culture is also threatening our ability to change policies and move toward a sustainable future based upon renewable energy. Large corporations and their lobbies resist policy changes that threaten their profits... and by financing political campaigns they now pose a very real threat to our democracy.
This is a David and Goliath fix we're in. Could our Simply Living vision... could our desire to “become the change” by pioneering sustainable lifestyle choices, make a real difference?
The answer has come from the power of our vision. “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come,” said Victor Hugo. Our vision is catching on – it's contagious - our time has come. It's why you are all here today.
When we make a decision to live simply, it affects us individually, then when we join together as a community and begin networking with our friends, families, and colleagues something very profound happens. Why is that?
Because living simply actually requires a lot of effort and intention... so much so that it starts a chain reaction of lifestyle choices. What should we eat? Where does our food come from? How do we move around? Should we walk more? bike? Buy a hybrid? Where do we live? How much house or space do we need? What media are we using? Should we limit the TV? What about our lawn, our garden? Grow food? Add a rain barrel? a rain garden? And our clothing, our furniture – what do we re-use or buy new? How do we stay healthy? The list is endless and can seem overwhelming - yet not so much if you have a supportive community – and we do!
As our community grew around our core vision, three themes emerged – we've been reflecting on the wording of our themes in our co-creators group, but for now here they are -
First, "Simplifying Our Lives" Second, "Greening the Earth" and to tie the two together, "Healing toward Wholeness" - We and earth are really part of the One, the whole, the universe.
With these three themes as touchstones, Simply Living embraces the change process from the bottom up. And this strategy is working -
In central Ohio, Simply Living pioneered raising awareness about how to make life affirming lifestyle choices which are now catching on. Along with others around the globe, We are making a collective difference - and you can see it very clearly in the trends and buzzwords reflecting our three themes –
Local, Organic, Sustainable, Renewable, Healthy Lifestyle are now mainstream – the words Green and Simple now pervade the marketing of consumer goods and services.
Local food, farmers markets, and community gardens are hot trends in business and in our communities.
Every new building is “green” because energy efficiency is now cost effective.
Americans now spend more on alternative health care than we pay out of pocket for mainstream health care.
Buy local campaigns are now popular in hundreds of communities nationwide.
These examples demonstrate that our vision really is catching on, it's making a big difference! And it promises to have even greater impact in the coming years.
Simply Living has a long history of member-driven projects that reflect our vision and our themes
>> We co-founded the Clintonville Community Market
>> We partnered with the Northwest Earth Institute in Portland Oregon to offer courses that explore in depth our food choices, our sense of place, globalization, sustainability issues and voluntary simplicity
>> Simply Living offered the first home energy audits under contract with the city of Columbus and created Eco-Teams based on a national project.
>> Our Garden tours showcased eco-minded landscaping, native plants, rain gardens...
>> Our Friday night film series brought awareness about environmental issues through independent documentaries..
>> We have incubated projects that morphed into new organizations, like Local-Matters, the WCRS community radio station, and Green Columbus..
And today we're stepping up to the next level and leading in new ways -
>> Simply Living members have established "Sustainable Groups" in local central Ohio communities and Columbus neighborhoods – these groups act as a catalyst for change by partnering with local governments, universities, and other environmental organizations to promote sustainable policies and practices. We now have Sustainable Clintonville, Worthington, Westerville, Delaware, Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington, Pickerington, Grandview and more are coming.
>> A new Agent of Change course inspired some of these Sustainability groups and other community projects like PreCycle Day.
>> Simply Living's Transition Central Ohio initiative is establishing a hub in the international Transition Town movement - offering strategies to help make communities more resilient in a time of rapid change. Relationships with the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) and the Columbus Green team have been established as part of this work.
>> Most recently Simply Living incubated a new coalition of organizations and independent business owners called Support Our Local Economy. This initiative recently became a network affiliated with the national Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. An education campaign is being launched this fall with a seed grant from the Columbus Foundation.
>> and in January 2012 ,for the first time, Simply Living will begin to offer business and organization memberships to our partners in creating a sustainable future.
Our vision and mission inspires models for transforming our consumer culture. Everyone is welcome to join this unfinished story.. By working - and playing - together we are indeed becoming the change we seek in the world.
I’ll end by quoting Gandhi, perhaps the finest example of a leader of a grass roots movement – one that brought down the British empire.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Thanks to all of you for being part of Simply Living’s vision.