Path to Green: Three Key Insights From My Year Embracing Sustainable Living

Julia Daviy
4 min readJul 2, 2023

Today, as I am in the midst of a new personal one-year challenge dedicated to Sustainable Innovations, I have decided to look back on my previous sustainable living journey from many years ago.

Nine years ago, kindled by the powerful personal challenges described by Mahatma Gandhi in his autobiographical book, I found myself questioning and reassessing my lifestyle. Motivated by this self-reflection, I pledged to dedicate an entire year to investigate and adopt the most sustainable lifestyle that was feasible for my family and me.

Prior to embarking on my sustainable living challenge in 2014, I had already spent many years deeply involved in the clean tech industry, actively building businesses and ecosystems for clean tech development. I co-authored a book on green economy published in Ukraine and had the privilege of being a co-founder of the Institute of Green Economics. However, despite my extensive involvement in these fields, I still lacked personal experience in living an eco-friendly lifestyle and remained uncertain about its practicality.

The one year sustainable living journey was more transformative than I could have anticipated. I’d like to share three key insights from this experience:

  1. Choosing Innovation for Sustainability

At a particular juncture, as I delved deeper into the pursuit of a lifestyle with zero or positive environmental impact, I found myself at a crossroads. The decision was whether to follow the path of green living through comprehensive minimalism, applying the 4R principle (Reducing, Reusing, Recycling, and Recovering), and even considering a 5th ‘R’ — ‘Refusing’ in a traditional sense, OR to explore diverse innovative solutions, utilizing technology to promote sustainability. I chose the latter, as it seemed to hold greater promise for widespread adoption and impact.

Expo Milan 2015 — Photo by Julia Daviy

2. Discovering the Growth of Green Markets

Yet, embracing sustainable living nearly nine years ago was no easy task. For instance, in one harsh winter spent in Vilnius, my pledge to wear solely sustainable clothing was tested when the only options available across Baltic stores were plain organic cotton leggings and tops.

A Year of Sustainable Living Challenge — Julia Daviy, Lithuania, 2015

During this process, I witnessed immense potential for a transition towards sustainability, leading to the development of new markets and industries across an array of B2C services — everything from green housing and hotels to sustainable clothing, transportation, plant-based food, and even eco-friendly servers and cloud storage.

3. Facing Reality: The Struggle Beyond Sustainability

Alongside the bright prospects for technological, business, and societal transformations towards sustainability, I was also faced with sobering realities. The struggle was real, significant, even if not always wholly perceptible. I noticed recurring themes of resource wars at the Expo 2015 in Milan. Concurrently, a Russian proxy war in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea occupation, was brewing, with the world largely indifferent. The war had come to Europe’s doorstep, yet there was scant acknowledgement, whether at Expo Milan or elsewhere. While it might seem more comforting for mental health to ignore such pressing realities, it is imperative that this passive, escapist behavior be challenged and transformed, as it stands as a barrier to societal progress and awareness. The willingness to confront these issues head-on is essential in fostering a collective consciousness that can bring about meaningful change.

Expo Milan 2015 — Julia Daviy, May 2015

Eight years later, the globe has been shaken by the largest war in Europe (and indeed the world) since World War II. At the same time, sustainability has climbed up the priority ladder in corporate agendas, and millions have shown an inclination towards an eco-friendly lifestyle or, at the very least, integrating aspects of it.

However, as a society, we aim to embrace sustainability in a way that causes minimal disturbance to our established behavioral patterns, and we often still turn a blind eye to the bigger picture, especially the war now unfolding on a massive scale. Over a period of a year and three months, Ukraine has been enduring a full-scale war, with losses from land, water, and air pollution amounting to a staggering $51.4 billion, as per Ukraine’s Environment Ministry. However, these figures are likely an understatement and don’t fully account for the profound damage to Earth’s unique ecosystems, the irreversible loss of certain animal and plant species, and the incalculable human suffering.

Meanwhile, the Kakhovka dam explosion orchestrated by Russian terrorist military has resulted in a devastating ecological disaster, marking the largest of its kind in Europe in recent history. The loss of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant has rendered over a million hectares of land unusable for several years, severely impacting the agricultural sector and posing a threat to global food security. The explosion has led to mass-scale pollution, endangering water quality, and causing the loss of rare animal species. Additionally, the destruction of the dam may result in sandstorms, climate change acceleration, and potential desertification in neighboring regions. The rehabilitation efforts required to mitigate the ecological consequences are significant and will necessitate international collaboration and the liberation of occupied territories.

In conclusion, to prevent future ecological disasters and ensure a sustainable future, we must cultivate specific habits as a society. Firstly, we must prioritize peace and actively work towards resolving conflicts. It is crucial to stop tolerating wars and demand that our governments take decisive actions to halt aggression, such as the Russian aggression in Europe. By speaking up and demanding accountability, we can contribute to a safer and more sustainable world.

#sustainability #sustainableinnovation #sustainableliving

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Julia Daviy

Write about Impact & Innovations | Co-Fndr Imageneria, Ib Centre. About: juliadaviy.com | Berkeley Haas | Co-Chair Berkeley Female Founders & Funders