7 Sustainable Virtues

Written by Nelson Lee

What would God’s way more closely look like? When, and to what extent possible, can we live this way? My (Nelson Lee) opinion of 7 sustainable virtues.

  •  Air to breathe –heating our homes and hot water just enough and without fossil fuels. Avoiding air conditioning if possible. Rather, providing heating and cooling with geo-exchange and heat pumps if possible. Reducing, and if possible, avoiding driving our own cars and trucks; not flying; but rather walking, cycling, riding, sharing or taking public transit. Stop smoking and vaping that cause localized air pollution and harms our health (which puts a burden on the health care system – and is especially hazardous to health during this COVID-19 outbreak). Carefully avoiding causing forest and grass fires. Stopping and reversing our driving of climate change.

  • Water to drink –using less water and not wasting it when we brush our teeth or shave or wash dishes or veggies; washing our clothes less often and in cold water and taking shorter, cooler showers – avoiding baths; not watering lawns, not even having lawns, planting gardens instead, especially not watering in the heat of day and stopping watering the sidewalk and letting water run onto the streets; and washing cars only when they really need it – do you really need a car in the first place? Choosing appliances that use less water, like front load washers. Fully loading your dishwasher rather than hand washing dishes. Choosing a diet consisting of less meat, especially beef, lamb and dairy as well. The climate we are changing contributes to extremes of droughts or downpours that reduces the availability of water where and when we need it, especially to the poor.

  • Food to eat –eating all of your leftovers – not cooking so much that there are leftovers. Eating edible food even if it does not look nice and not worrying about “sell before dates”. These are not to be understood as “not good to eat after dates”. Do some research. Perhaps the greatest help is eating less on a regular basis. Stop supporting industrial food production, especially of meat. Alternatives are often readily available. Ask for these alternatives from your stores. Eating less meat protein – you don’t need so much after all. Stop buying food that is imported via air. Rather buy local or food via ships (i.e., bananas).

  • Clothes to wear – buying only what you need and ideally second hand! Donating clean clothes back. Less clothing in one’s closet means less clutter. Keeping fit and stopping gaining weight so that clothes continue to fit.

  • Shelter – reducing your living space per person and using efficient heating with good insulation thus reducing your environmental and climate footprint. Avoiding cosmetic renovations that are not needed. Not tearing down good homes just to make them bigger and newer. Making new homes carbon neutral – a new norm in Vancouver.

  • Transportation – the key metric is using less fuel each year. The less consumed, the better – cheaper too. Driving a smaller car with all seats occupied is best – when transit, walking or cycling are not real alternatives. Reducing flying and never for just fun. Travel for work and visiting loved ones does need to happen occasionally and flying sometimes is less carbon intensive than alternatives. Supplementing these in-person visits with plenty of virtual connections – phone calls, letters, emails, face time, etc.

  • Stuff - the less stuff we have and consume, the less we contribute to environmental degradation, pollution, species loss and climate change. Not buying stuff with the intent of throwing it away after one use (i.e., single use plastic, disposal dishware, clothing, cleaning supplies). Making cell phones, tablets, laptops, watches, headphones etc. last 2-3+ years (or as long as they are working). Making vehicles last 10+ years. Remember, there is transportation, packaging and the manufacturing and extraction that goes along with everything that is manufactured.


Nelson Lee is a member of Chinatown Peace Church in Vancouver, BC