The Rockford SusCom: The 80/20 Principle

For those who missed the Rockford SusCom’s January Live and Learn program, you missed a good one! The Augustine family (a.k.a. Rockford’s Carbon Free Family) gave us lots of great tips on how we can all “resolve to go green” this year. Robbie Augustine, who is also our newest SusCom Board Member, sums up their family philosophy below.


It all comes down to toilet paper.

The world of sustainable choices is as varied as people on the streets. You could be into community engagement, transportation, home insulating, plastic reductions, community planning, natural landscaping, local food, foreign economic policy…the options are really limitless. But, when I mention that I try to live a sustainable lifestyle the questions always come back to toilet paper.

“What do you use for toilet paper?” I feel like my answer, “We use toilet paper”, shocks a lot of people. How can we be sustainable AND use toilet paper?

We are not just sustainable people, we are also parents, spouses, friends, employees, bookworms, hotdog lovers….humans. Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto noticed the 80/20 principle and it is something we live by. In short, the 80/20 rule states that you get 80% of your results from 20% of your effort. This is a powerful model for business, time management, and sustainability.

Most of the lifestyle changes we have chosen to make in the name of sustainability give us more, not less. These are the easy types of lifestyle changes, the 20%. We save money by not wasting (heat, electricity, gas, food). We find more time to play because we are not shopping as much. We ride our bikes more and find that our clothes fit better and we don’t have to spend as much time in the gym. We have fewer things in our home and it stays cleaner, so we are more likely to host gatherings.

We accomplished 80% of our goal doing what is fun and interesting to our family. Now, if we went further down the sustainability road we would have to put forth a lot more effort. The 80/20 principle shows us that we will spend 80% of our effort to get the last 20% of our goals. That feels like it would squeeze out the other parts of who we are. Sure, we would be sustainability gurus, but what about friendships and fishing and work and all the other parts of life?

My advice: Do what’s fun! If you are thinking about greening your life, go for it! Start today! Do what is fun for you and your family. Maybe just sit down at Marinades and eat your pizza there instead of take-out (1% better). Maybe ride your bike to MVP and skip the warmup before your workout, which will save time and gas (another 1%). Let’s save the toilet paper-free lifestyle for the real sustainability gurus.

Enjoy the journey!