I remember watching a short You Tube video about an American family of 5 who were showing their eco-friendly and zero waste living. I remember being astonished looking at their small jar of plastic waste. It was an admiration followed by filling of guilt! Why am I producing so much waste comparing to them? What am I doing wrong? How can a modern family be so focused to minimise their waste to practically 0? How are they managing that? The world is full of people who are doing “the right thing ” but lets be honest, most of us would not be able to follow this American family.
I often ask myself how much is enough to make a difference… Climate change, poor waste management, extinction of many animal species seem such a complex issues it’s hard to believe single person would have any impact and in result it can make you feel overwhelmed and hopeless.
Picking your battles
Internet and media provide us with constant stream of information, news, inspirations, suggestions….but sustainable living is often far away from Instagram perfect pictures. It is in human’s nature to compare ourselves to others and its usually to those that achieved better, have more, seem happier, have that “perfect” life… I must admit I catch myself doing that too and than its just one step from questioning yourself for not being your own better version. There always will be a family living in a perfect countryside in an eco friendly home, away from pollution, with the perfect veg patch living zero waste making their own …everything. In media things are taken out of context just to amaze the viewer and gain the audience. Some stories might be inspirational but you need to find your own balance, figure out what works for you. Do what feels best for you and stay true to your personal values.Don’t push yourself beyond what you feel is your boundary.
Sustainability can be very confusing
For every positive discovery that I make and change that I embrace there is always something I discover that goes right against it. Just the other day I read a debate suggesting that re-usable cups are not as eco-friendly as one might think. Why? It’s based on calculations of the environmental impact during production, costs to the environment during washing, chemicals involved in the process and finally disposal. Just when I thought I got the solution right… It can be very frustrating and feels like you are hitting a wall.
In the case of re-usable cups the solution is in long term use. It is estimated that a single cup need to be used at least 100 times before you can start making the difference. Glass being the best material over other plastic, ceramic or metal. That’s one, but there is 100’s of other products we are encouraged to invest in “to help the planet”. We are facing a lot of marketing labeled eco-friendly or sustainable but there is just very little science and regulations behind those names. It’s highly frustrating and makes consumers job much more difficult. You can only do as much research so not blame yourself if your choice ended up not being what you have bought into.
Pressure from people around you
Changing you long term habits can be difficult on its own but you often need to deal with the people around you and answer all those questions along the way which can make you feel difficult and alienated. It really can add another level of worry to the process.
For many years I have been happily consuming meat and diary. When I finally grew up to make a switch to a plant based diet I felt as if my decision offended others. Relentless questions. Why ? What are you going to eat now? Is this the right thing for you? What about the kids, are you not putting them at risk? Where will you get your protein from?
Once trying to answer the questions, explain and justify some people were acting as if I offended than and judged them. It made me question my own decision and it felt like a battle at times. Trapped and held accountable for every word I said. However, I’m still the same person that I was before and the changes happened as part of my own personal development. Eco – friendly might for some be labeled as eco- freak but there is nothing wrong with trying new ways!
Your mental health
Do you sometimes feel swamped by the amount of environmental issues and picture of sorry state of the planet? I do, and the more I read the more problems I discover. Once that can of worms is opened it can feel very depressing.
You might start analyzing your lifestyle choices and how they impact people and the planet and you fall down in that rabbit hole of guilt. In the ideal world we would all have solar panels on roofs of our houses, cycle everywhere and have vegetables patch that would provide food all year round…but life is far from perfect! It’s really about making small changes around you and accepting mistakes, they are the the poof of your efforts! Although for many it might seem not enough “success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out” Robert Collier .If you are able to make one change, that’s one step forward. Celebrate it!
It’s OK to make mistakes!
If you are already on this journey I hope it does not feel like a burden, it should’t! Any change you are making is only worth your efforts if you are going to become your new habit that works for you. If you are a busy person and the nearest bulk store is miles away it is most probably not going to work for you in the long run. Don’t feel guilty about it! Accessibility is one of the issue we are facing. It might feel pointless owing organic eco shopping bag when you can’t fell it with any eco products because you can’t afford them.There are many challenges you will find along the way.
Work with what you’ve got! As with every process you will be testing, trying and making mistakes. Mistakes are your best learning curve so don’t feel dis -encouraged. Take you time without putting any pressure on yourself. Keep you mind open and find your own ways.