After moving to Charleston without a place to live and suffering a series of frantic and disappointing Craigslist encounters, I found myself a room to sublease. I met with the current resident of the room the same day I contacted her, checked out the second story home once, and moved in a few hours later. It seemed like I was getting a great deal – the home sat right near Colonial Lake and I was paying under $600 per month, utilities included. I shared the house with three girls, all of whom seemed to be agreeable human beings from my limited impression of them. It took me a few days to realize how unsavory my situation actually was.
The faucet dripped. Constantly. The only way to make it stop was to push down, hard, in just the right place and in just the right way. I was the only one who would make the effort to get it to stop or put a mason jar underneath to catch the water, but I would come home to find that the tap was leaking so much that it might as well have been on and the mason jar – overfull with water – had been defiled with soap and dish scum. Then their water bill came in and usage was astronomically high, something like three times what one household would normally use in a month. I was astonished that my housemates had done nothing to fix the problem up until this point, nor even considered it a problem, and clearly there were no intentions to act in the immediate future. It was infuriating that around the world people kill and die for access to drinking water but my privileged housemates were wasting it without a second thought.
So what did I do? I did some research, rode my bike to the nearest bathroom supply outlet, bought some replacement parts, and fixed the faucet. It took me maybe an hour.
While this is indeed a great outlet for complaining about my living situation, I do have a point. Sustainability is not some highfalutin word for soaring idealisms and unfeasible praxis – it is about real people and solvable issues. At its core it is about making your stomping grounds more efficient, and consequently more livable.
So let’s leave “sustainability” for the thinkers. The common man has his equally noble role to play: to make his living space as livable as possible with what he’s got. And it’s easy. Keeping your kitchen clean, using diluted dish soap, taking shorter showers, using less toilet paper, flushing less often, fixing your screen door with a piece of used floss, that sort of thing. Reducing then reusing and only then recycling. It’s not about the environment; it will be fine with or without us. It’s about you, it’s about me, and it’s about all the leaky faucets on this rock we call Earth. Anything less is a fundamental lack of respect.