The Sustainable Mindset

Mangos grown at my aunt’s green sanctuary.

As much as I am embarrassed to admit this, but when I first started this course, I didn’t know much about sustainability and what it entails to those who do practice it. I’ve always considered it as something practised by certain people with enough time on their hands or have dealt with more important worries to be thinking about being “sustainable”. But come to think of it, the mindset I had coming into this course was that of an attitude of somebody who didn’t come from a very sustainable or eco-friendly country.  Not that I’m blaming my country specifically as to how I choose to live life, but I figured I was somewhat already conditioned to not live sustainably by peering through the actions of others. From where I’m from, everything around me was either built of brick, cement, or glass; an actual concrete jungle to those looking to make a life for themselves in the capital city. Obviously, it’s not that I didn’t care for the environment or couldn’t bother paying attention to the current state of the planet. Quite the contrary, I actually do care a great deal for it like everybody else. It’s just that growing up in a concrete jungle like Jakarta, Indonesia, you weren’t particularly given the necessary means or knowledge as to how we should treat the environment. 


So when I took this course, I was quite taken aback on the overarching concept of sustainability. Something that I know we had to have a firm grasp on to make it through this course. In hindsight, I wouldn’t know how to live a sustainable lifestyle if anyone had asked me to. Instead, I would be too occupied thinking about how my country has come up with ways to encourage their people to be more eco-friendly. And because we’re being honest with each other, I might say… no… I can’t even name five things that our government has done to encourage their people to be more sustainable. I came into this course, believing that we were enforced to practice a sustainable lifestyle, only for me to end it with a different and broader mindset.


So when I first arrived in Australia back in February of 2019 to begin my studies, I was culture-shocked as to how clear the skies were, and how generally clean everything was. The river that stretches throughout the city flowed seamlessly with clean water. The air was fresh and was welcoming the minute I first stepped out of the Brisbane airport. All these wondrous elements have led me to the conclusion that Australians really do cherish the environment they were blessed with. However, I’m not talking about the kind of cherishing where people would just acknowledge the planet’s dire state and choose to do nothing about it. I’m specifically talking about those who believe that because they are blessed with the gifts nature has to offer, they have it within themselves to take good care of the environment. It’s the mindset that because we were blessed with the privilege to inhabit this planet, we also have an innate responsibility to take care of it. So it took me a long while to understand what living sustainable actually entails. Therefore, I’ve come to the conclusion that because of the planet’s current state, living sustainably should no longer be considered a lifestyle, but it needs to be a mindset. More so, the kind of mindset where everyone, regardless of their nationality, should be more educated and be willing to take more massive steps towards being more environmentally aware.


To me, my awakening towards living a sustainable lifestyle was sparked when I saw everyone share their experiences and insight through iSustain. At first, I was quite hesitant, insecure towards the notion that I didn’t know much about what it means to live sustainably. I was afraid that my knowledge was quite limited from where I come from, and that I wasn’t able to contribute towards anything compared to what others were posting at the time. But then by looking at what others were able to contribute, the sudden realisation came to me. Without us realising, we have spent a sufficient amount of time being sustainable with the things we do within our day-to-day lives.


With a platform as useful as iSustain, I was inspired by how others were able to showcase aspects within their everyday lives that were considered eco-friendly or sustainable. We were able to benefit by watching how others live their lives and what they’ve contributed towards sustainability. So slowly, but surely, I was able to flesh out parts of my life that were close to a sustainable living practice. Small actions that I partake in such as recycling batteries, utilising eco-friendly cutlery, discarding plastic in their designated recycling bins, or buying second-hand fashion are things that hold a significant impact on the environment. But that’s only because I was inspired by the actions of those who have lived here far longer than I have. If I were to put things in a broader perspective, I was conditioned to live a sustainable lifestyle ever since I arrived in Brisbane, by following others. I believe that the people and the environment around you influence whether or not you want to consider your actions toward the environment. After living here for almost two years, my mindset has completely shifted. 


This course in mind not only evolved my lifestyle for the better, but it taught me that all the things we’ve done towards the environment will bounce back at us. So in hindsight, it’s up to us whether those actions will either benefit or hurt the planet. And I’m proud to admit that the kind of mentality of not caring about the earth and the environment around me was left behind when I left Indonesia.


However, I wouldn’t go so far to say that there weren’t forces back in Indonesia that were fighting for the planet. I would say that there are a handful of people who would very much like to see the planet heal, but their voices were significantly outweighed by those in power. Suppose we were to put Indonesia and Australia in comparison as to which country was more environmentally aware. Then, in that case, I could say without a shrivel of doubt that the latter would most likely take that title.


One big contrast that I do remember when I was still living in Indonesia, was that most houses there would at least have one greenhouse or a garden to tend. Perhaps it’s because I live right in the heart of the city; hence why I don’t come across a lot of the conventional gardens I was so used to seeing. But I suppose they’ve made up for it with their numerous public parks, gardens, and recycling bins.


But one memory that has been embedded within my mind is that I remembered growing up and playing in my eccentric aunt’s garden every weekend. At first, I paid no attention to my surroundings, nor that every other relative in my family considered her as the odd bunch out. I genuinely thought she was really cool. But growing up, I’ve only realised that she was trying to make her own haven for her and others who visited her home. My aunt created a safe space as a sign of appreciation towards mother nature. The plethora of plants that bloomed within her garden was cultivated and taken care of because she holds a great value towards the green. When I went back home last October to visit my family, I revisited my aunt’s garden to see how it has flourished. To my surprise, years of care and appreciation has turned what once was a simple garden into a sanctuary. She converted the pool into a zen garden, the various bushes now blooming with all kinds of flowers, different kinds of fruits that were growing according to the season, and the welcoming warmth of the sun greeting those who came to appreciate the space she’s created.


I also believe that the beauty of sustainability is the emotional connection nature can spark within most of us. Gardening happens to be a hobby that everyone takes upon from my mother’s side. My grandmother had a huge love for gardening, and it was something that she passed on to her three daughters. My mother took upon it, and whenever she tends to her own garden, I see the same kind of love my grandmother had through gardening. Quite recently, as of May last year, my grandmother passed away after years of battling her third stroke. So when I asked my aunt as to why she decided to expand her garden, she told me that it was a tribute to my grandmother, as she named the sanctuary after her. These kinds of things have convinced me that the appreciation towards nature could stem from the emotional connection we have with others. Sustainability isn’t just a chosen lifestyle, it’s also the connections we’ve made with the people that mean the most to us.


So I guess what I’m trying to say is that sustainability can be whatever we want it to mean. We might be doing it for different various reasons, but what’s important is that it needs to be a mindset that we should all adhere to. However we choose to shift that mindset, it would definitely stem from the people and environment we choose to surround ourselves in. 


To quote renowned author Robert Swan, “The greatest threat to our planet, is the belief that someone else will save it.” We’re only given a limited time in this world, so why not use it to save it while we still can?