An upgrade, not a sacrifice: A conversation with Gillian Lives Lightly

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"When will we start calling sustainable living just living?"
The mission of Gillian Lives Lightly is to show the world that choosing a sustainable lifestyle is not about making sacrifices. To the contrary: it's about enriching your life. About truly living.
A life built around sustainable, intentional habits "can be just as beautiful and fulfilling, if not more, than a life that is constantly aiming for the best and newest."
Gillian embodies these sentiments in her own life. She began her sustainability journey when she became a mom and recognized the link between being environmentally conscious and providing both a healthy life and a hopeful future for her children. She also saw firsthand the accumulation of stuff that happens when you have children, and although some of it is necessary, she decided that she wanted to proactively push against it.
She connected with a fellow new mom and neighbor; the two bonded over their shared "constant anxiety about the environment". They were concerned about how much plastic waste we produce and the implications of our conventional lifestyle on our children's futures. But in the midst of that worry and despair, they also realized the power they had to change things. And it turned out to be more accessible than she thought. 
"It's so easy to do much more environmentally-friendly things for our children's future, but people don't know about it," she explains. In her opinion, the most challenging part is not actually the behavioral changes but "shifting that mindset and normalizing one that is more sustainable". Our society has made a high-consumption lifestyle the norm, so that it takes intention to reject that norm for something different. But the "something different" is healthier for people and the planet. And perhaps most meaningfully, it's "just as beautiful, just lighter".
Since those beginnings, she's expanded her focus beyond sustainable parenting and plastic waste reduction to encompass a low-impact lifestyle that is close to nature. She gardens and composts, makes beautiful and healthy meals with vegetables grown in her backyard, and takes gorgeous photographs of it all, which she shares on her Instagram page. "I don't even use filters!" she laughs. "Nature is just beautiful."
That beauty gets to the core of her message: that sustainability is not a sacrifice. And she's made it her mission to help others realize that. "People often see eco-friendly living as a sacrifice, not an upgrade," she says. But by demonstrating the beauty of the life she's crafted, she helps to shift that perspective. It also helps that she's not extreme with her environmental lifestyle: "I'm not living off the grid. I still like pretty things; I still like shopping. I just want to buy plants, not pillows."
And those plants are not just pretty. They're life-giving, environmentally friendly, and truly beautiful: just like Gillian's sustainable lifestyle.

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