Category Archives: Soul of Sustainability

Changing Habits is like Changing Shirts

by Isabel Rimanoczy, Ed.D.

Have you recently watched a cool video about recycling or reducing your carbon footprint? About driving less, walking more, saving water, or plugging off devices to avoid passive energy consumption?

I am sure you have. But if you want to watch the coolest, check out this: Sustainable Self.  A friend shared with me the series of these Huff Post videos: 2 minutes of dynamic messages that contain all you dream of: quantified data, humor, young language, fast pace, and movement. Enough information to motivate you, and simple actionable suggestions on what we can do. These videos make trying out a new habit very easy.


Changing habits are reversible events, though. As Richard Barrett suggests, there is a difference between change and transformation. Change is temporal, context-bound and is connected to our beliefs. We change a habit like we change a shirt: when we are convinced of it, perhaps intrigued, motivated, or ready to challenge ourselves with the reprogramming of an automated behavior. Then, at any point, new information, convenience, or being in a hurry may be sufficient triggers to switch back to the previous habit. If we feel we have a good reason for it, it will not even be a problem to justify to ourselves the switching back.

Transformation is different.

Transformation is an internal process, and while the triggers may be initially external, they unleash some deeper levels of consciousness. They are emotionally charged, pervade our being, and are connected to our values. Values transcend context, says Barrett.  If change relates to what we do, transformation touches who we are. It affects the profound levels of our identity, and puts us face to face with our values and purpose. Transformation elicits confusion and discomfort as we are confronted with broader levels of authenticity with ourselves. We see ourselves in a new mirror, which simultaneously reflects back who we want to be and who we are. The discrepancy between these two images of self causes anxiety- but at the same time is the fuel that puts us in motion. We need to do something, we act. And while changing a habit is also an action, a transformational experience is not reversible.

Transformation can be likened to the lifting of a veil, to widening the scope of our awareness, altering from there on how we see ourselves and the world. It is not a synonym of enlightenment, certainly, as it opens up more questions than answers, but as we question in a more critical way our own certainties, it allows us to uncover new dimensions of understanding self and others.

Sustainable selves are what we need.

But not just at the level of sustainable actions. Actions are the visible tip of the iceberg. Yes, it is important and urgent that we change unsustainable behaviors, don’t get me wrong. But if we put the same effort in developing the internal landscape of sustainability as we put in developing understanding of the ‘external landscape of sustainability’, the transformation can lead us all into a major evolutionary leap. Think caterpillars and butterflies.

And how do we tackle the internal landscape, the transformational one? Developing a sustainability mindset, addressing the three questions of our time: Who am I? (anchors of my identity). Why am I here? (purpose) and What can I do? (action). Let me leave you pondering this food for thought.

Photos: I.Rimanoczy

Sustainability Advocate, April 12, 2018, blogpost of, Voices of Sustainability

The Soul of Sustainability and the Opioid Epidemic

I haven’t posted anything to this blog for sometime.

My commitment has not waned to increasing sustainability awareness and advancing the voices of those acting on behalf of Mother Earth and her children.  We continue to add these voices to and are seeking partners to expand the availability of our content on websites that share our commitment. 

Rather, my sustainability work turned out to not only include ten years of curating the voices of sustainability from across the globe, but five years of living in a caring community, learning,  getting involved in addressing the issue of safety for all of us, and reframing the neighborhood from an “entertainment” district to caring community.  A second project is intended to change a negative image of our residents to one that is diverse and caring. It got me out of the office and into the streets taking photos of and meeting my neighbors and their dogs. They are published here. It’s also about getting support for an urban dog ballpark in our neighborhood.

Early in 2017 I came to the realization that the soul of sustainability lies within our interdependence or oneness or kinship. It was a
lesson I was learning locally within my community where I identify as a sustainability advocate.  I live in Portland’s Caring Community, Old Town Chinatown, where a majority, 57% of the housing is dedicated to the homeless in the form of supportive care housing and shelter beds.  Adopted in the 1970’s the housing landscape reflects a model of care that works and is overworked as homelessness increases. 
This is also a place with a high crime rate for narcotic/drug offenses and assaults in a time when our police force is understaffed and those trained to “coordinate the response of Law Enforcement and to aid people in behavioral crisis resulting from known or suspected mental illness and or drug and alcohol addiction” are too few. In Portland this is the mission of the Behavioral Health Unit within the Police Bureau.  A model of policing that works for the situation we find ourselves in – the solution is recovery not jail.  They too are overworked. 

“The biggest deficit that we have in our society and in the world right now              is an empathy deficit. We are in great need of people being able to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see the world through their eyes.” – Barack Obama

Under the banner of sustainability advocate I began to integrate the personal with the professional and in the process discovered that interdependence is the foundation, the principle for acting on behalf of future generations and getting to the heart of
things be they local or global.   I came to think of it as the soul of sustainability.  It also places empathy at the center of all action-taking as we express compassion through our work.

“This problem of addiction is not only a health crisis but a spiritual crisis.

The situation worsens when society sees addiction as a shameful condition — those in need don’t reach out to others for help; the community doesn’t provide treatment services.”  – Paul Steinbroner

Health and Spiritual Crisis
And then came this opioid epidemic. My filmmaker friend, Paul Steinbroner, needed some marketing help in getting his latest film project, Called From Darkness, into distribution.  Paul heads up a publishing and distribution company specializing in multi-media projects related to addiction, neuropharmacology, and brain chemistry. 

“The torrent of people who have died in the opioid crisis has transfixed and horrified the nation, with overdose now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.

The Epidemic
There is a great need for increasing awareness about the epidemic and educating people who may see themselves as disconnected, but know by feel that the situation calls for all hands on deck. Nearly all of us are connected to someone – family member, friend, colleague – who is directly affected by addiction and often homeless on the street.  One doesn’t have to live in a neighborhood that cares for the sheltered and unsheltered to know that a majority of our homeless have a mental illness and/or drug addiction.
In Portland, of the 4,177 homeless people counted, 2,527 (60.5%) reported living with
one or more disability, including a mental disability, chronic physical condition, and/or a substance-use disorder. The number of people with disabling conditions increased by
16.1 percent between the 2015 and the 2017 Point-In-time counts.
Addiction as a healthcare issue is in the realm of social sustainability. It’s of sizable proportions: an epidemic, possibly resulting in hundred of thousands of deaths with economic repercussions that could bankrupt our communities; making the poorest of neighborhoods unlivable; and turning family life into a nightmare.  The New York Times article1 Son, 4 Overdoses, 6 Hours, makes this point:Drug deaths draw the most notice, but more addicted people live than die. For them and their families, life can be a relentless cycle of worry, hope and chaos.”  

Start Here
I have observed that to start from the point of “not me, but them” or to draw a line between the personal and the professional, leaving “solutions”  to those in the healthcare sector doesn’t lead to furthering sustainability principles.  I find framing the challenge from the principle of inter-connection and thinking of it as going to the soul of sustainability works. It works for not only knowing what to do next, but having the confidence to move forward despite inexperience or feelings of being overwhelmed or to hear yourself think,  it’s not my problem.

To start, here is a trailer of Called From Darkness by Paul Steinbronner as part of the Called from Darkness film project entitled A Home Boy’s Joy Ride.  It features the voice of artist Fabian Debora and the work of Fr. Greg Boyle the founder of Home Boy Industries and author of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.

Future blogposts will continue to explore the Soul of Sustainability and the associated topics of the opioid epidemic, homelessness, and livability in our communities including housing and public safety.