Rethinking the Stuff We Buy, 
Food We Eat, and How We Spend Money
Using The Natural Step (TNS) to Improve the Fulfillment of Basic Human Needs

(An excerpt from a Sustainable Design project, 

Minneapolis College of Art and Design by Sarah Nelsen)

Most of us know that the more stuff we consume, the more stress is put on the earth. We know that there are practices we can adopt that can ease this stress on the earth itself, but what about the many populations that don’t really consume that much stuff? Is how much stuff we buy, how much food we eat, and how we spend our money affecting more than just the physical earth?

Survival in underdeveloped countries is based on basic human needs. Developed countries’ overconsumption is having a negative impact on their needs. This is a vicious cycle that will continue if those of us in developed countries do not make specific changes. The Natural Step method is a guide to sustainability that uses four system conditions for evaluation and those conditions help to make a decision to create change.

The four areas of focus include the ideas of not increasing what we TAKE from the earth, what we MAKE, what we BREAK, and finally how human NEEDS are met around the globe. By applying TNS, current practices can be changed by taking simple steps towards sustainability.

Here are three examples of how to meet human needs through sustainability:

1. Rethinking the Stuff we Buy – World Vision Gift Catalog (

Instead of buying things that have a finite life span, how about buying things that keep on giving and providing? By purchasing something like a flock of chicks for another family in need, you’re providing them with income and nutrition. World Vision is a 4-star charity that offers numerous ways to help sustain families from underdeveloped countries. With everything from goats and chicks to sheep and fish, you can spend as little or as much as you are able and make a true difference to help families become more self-sustaining and not just survive, but thrive.

2. Rethinking the Food we Eat – The Ministry of Food Program (

The amount of food we consume in America is out of control compared to most of the world. All of the processed meat, dairy, imported food and lack of balanced diets causes our rates of obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses to skyrocket. Jamie Oliver is educating people through his Ministry of Food program on how to cook for yourself and your family. This allows people to become healthier by choosing good food and preparing the foods themselves rather than using fast food and junk food to fulfill hunger. It not only applies to U.S. But all countries can benefit from learning how to prepare nutritious meals themselves with simple ingredients.

3. Rethinking How We Spend Money – Financial Peace University (

Stop creating more debt, live with financial freedom and then be able to give back to the world. Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University kit teaches people how to get rid of their debt, respect money, and then be able to give back to the world. This is a no nonsense course based off of biblical principles that encourages mindful spending and using hard-earned money for living – NOT DEBT. Many people don’t think of being frugal as eco-friendly – but being frugal is one of the best ways to be sustainable. Don’t spend everything you make, just as we shouldn’t use all of the earth’s resources up until they’re gone – the earth doesn’t offer it’s resources on “credit.”

December 15, 2011

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