Updated: Jul 5, 2019
There was a time not too long ago where when we needed something we'd have to get dressed, drive to the store (or several) find parking, wait in line, make the purchase, drive home, battle traffic, etc etc. Now just stepping away from your computer to grab your wallet can seem like a hassle. Back then there were also fewer choices and less competition meant higher-quality goods. You were familiar and trusting of a product because everyone around you used the same thing.
If we think back even farther, pre-automobile, people truly lived by the motto "Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without." How can we get back to that place? Surely if we made it thousands of years without plastic, we can do it again. When there is a will, there is a way. There is no other option, and literally- No Planet B.We're at the point of no return.
The outlook for Mother Earth has never been more bleak. And it's heartbreaking, but worse- it is paralyzing.
Compassion fatigue is REAL. It's mind-boggling that a lifelong conservationist like myself could feel like giving up trying to do the right thing. It's just so much easier to not care, to put up a wall of protection and embrace an "ignorance is bliss" mentality. But I know better than that, and I know I can always DO better.
When I "mess up" in regards to sustainable living- because no body is perfect - afterwards I always feel overwhelmed with guilt and shame. My heart hurts along with the planet, and I feel like I need to seek repentance.
Dear Mother, forgive me...
For occasionally (ok, more than occasionally) using disposable diapers instead of cloth diapers.
For buying a few items of cheap, sweat-shop-made athleisure online
For requiring disposable daily contact lenses, because of my allergies.
For accidentally brining that plastic takeout container into my home. Again, and again and again.
For tossing a battery in the trash.
For forgetting my reusable bag at the grocery store last week.
For buying a plastic water jug during camping trip
For using the softest, most luxurious (and least earth-friendly) toilet paper on the shelves
It's not all my fault. When the system is flawed as it is, it's inevitable that mistakes will happen. Non-renewable resources will be wasted, consumption will exceed the level of "just enough", and something will ultimately end up in the landfill where it will sit for the rest of eternity.
As awful as eco-guilt feels in the moment, I know it's not really serving any good to beat myself up about being a regular old perfectly imperfect human. The simple truth is that we need to learn from each "failure" and move on with the intention of doing better next time. We have to keep trying. It's not going to be fun or pretty, but healing never is.
Looking closer, I can see that there are two distinct forces working against my sustainability efforts: Impatience and Pride. I am of the generation of immediate gratification. When I need or want something, I have to have it...like, yesterday. That almost always translates to an Amazon order, a Target run, or a delicious to-go treat. Convenience is a toxic part of our culture, but it is a social norm that is so ingrained and innate that I sometimes don't know how to separate myself.
Relatedly, while deep down I almost always the "right" thing to do is (make something by hand, look for secondhand, buy the scratchy toilet paper, eat simply and seasonally etc), these more difficult choices often bring out deeper insecurities and dysfunctional ego-issues where I am afraid of judgement and appearing "less than". I've been raised to view nonconformity as weakness, disconnectedness as inadequacy, and frugality as failure- a toxic supremacy that is part of a larger collective subconscious. The bottom line is that we have to let this endless quest for "harder, better, faster, stronger" go. The consumerist mentality is a hedonic treadmill that is ultimately to blame for the downfall of our planet.
My final realization in all of this is that we each are put here with certain gifts, and that this life is a perfect opportunity to use them. I've accepted that no matter how much I want to help the earth that I will probably not be the person who uses our public transportation system or bikes to work. ( Pardon my laziness, but it would involve me waking up earlier, adapting what I wear to the office, altering my childcare schedule, and exponentially increasing my mental and emotional anxiety for a variety of embarrassing reasons.) Overall, that's more discomfort than I am willing to take on right now.
BUT I can make a difference in other ways because there are so many other things I am good at. I am crafty and domestic, so I make my own cleaning and beauty products.
I am bossy and opinionated, so I send the manager an email when I see they still use styrofoam packaging or single-use plastics. I am organized and thorough, so I research corporations and business' environmental practices before I buy something. I am an over-thinker and a planner, so I can usually remember to bring my own reusable containers, cutlery and bags.
At one point each of these actions was just beyond the edge of my comfort zone, but in practicing them enough they have become second nature. These small lifestyle changes were ultimately the easiest for me to implement, so these are the things that have stuck. In time I'll be confident enough to try even more, and the impact will grow and radiate from there. Yours will too. As with anything in life, the more you do it the easier it becomes.
With each change there is a ripple. And the ripples create a wave. I ask you to join me in this wave, in making sustainability actually sustainable.
Love and Light (and Less),
Catch up on Part 1 of this post here.