I remember watching a short You Tube video about an American family of 5 who were talking about their eco-friendly and zero waste living. I was astonished looking at their small jar of plastic waste, well 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 you live “normally” and manage to be so focused to minimise you waste to practically 0? Am I too ignorant and irresponsible? Internet and media provide us with constant stream of information, news, inspirations, suggestions on how to live greener, be more sustainable and eco friendly….but sustainable living is often far from Instagram perfect pictures. What does not help is a human’s nature to compare ourselves to others usually to those that in our eyes have that “perfect” life…Feeling of guilt for not being perfect, not sustainable enough is not where you want to end up.
Picking your battles
When I started exploring the subject of suitability I soon realized how many different challenges, issues, problems there are to deal with and how complex they are, most of on a global scale. It can be overwhelming and discouraging. Don’t overthink and drive yourself mad. Pick your own battles, you really can not win them all! If you can start recycling today, great! That’s one step forward. Tomorrow you might consider swapping your plastic bags for re-usable one. Take it step by step, it’s not a race and mistakes are absolutely allowed! You only fail if you give up trying. Decide what works best for you and give yourself pat on the back for every little positive change you achived.
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 at times.
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. There is 100’s other products we are encouraged to invest in “to help the planet”, facing a lot of eco-friendly labeled marketing but there is just very little science and regulations behind those statements. It’s highly frustrating and makes consumers job much more difficult. You can only do as much research so do 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 is difficult task 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, different, alienated. It really can add another level of worry.
Here is a bit of my story…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 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 were part of my own personal development. It’s really ok to change your mind about your old ways !
“Eco – friendly”, “vegan”, “sustainable” might for some be labels as “eco- mad ” or “eco -freaks” but don’t get offended or disencouraged by others’ opinions. Stay true to your personal values and be the person you want to be, not a person you think everyone else wants you to be.
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 the more overwhelming it feels. Once that can of worms is opened it is very easy to put too much pressure on yourself as you are trying to fix it all. 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 and use absolutely no plastic…but life is far from perfect! It’s really about making small changes around you, accepting imperfections and making 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 not having a choice! Accessibility is one of the issue we are facing and there are many other 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 putt off. Take you time without putting any pressure on yourself. Keep you mind open and find your own, new ways.