It’s post-Earth Day and you’ve just planted your tree for arbor day. You’ve gone to your local event, stopped in the booths and maybe signed a petition or two. Now what? Is it back to business as usual? Take out lunches and single serving yogurt? Once the elation of your name on that petition has faded do you fall back into your old habits?
“You did your part, feel a little better about yourself and life resumes. The activists can follow through with the heavy lifting for the rest of the year.” Says Sheena Matheiken, of the Uniform Project. “But when it comes to the environment (given this issues urgency and proximity to all of our lives), it becomes a bit more difficult to “tokenize” goodwill and be so easily absolved. So as we celebrate Earth day today what’s on my mind is this: how do we push this day of awareness past the quick fix syndrome in order to impact long term behavioral change?”
The simple answer is a change of mindset. We need to get rid of the idea that we can counteract an accumulation of harmful acts with a few good ones. As much as we like the quick fix, generally things are rarely so easy. Like a diet that promises fast results, things tend to yo-yo back on us. Then we are left right back at the beginning (or worse then when we started). Like the concept of eating for good health as apposed to dieting, where you focus on making positive choices. So to should we approach the care of the environment.
“Most of us want to go gung-ho once we set our minds to something, and that’s where we fail. It’s like when we want to lose weight, and go on a severe diet. Our chances to fail are very high.” Gloria from Lolailo.
It’s important to remember that these things don’t always come as second nature. Expecting overnight change will set you up with some unobtainable expectations. Which can lead to “eco” burnout. So just like making better choices on a gradual, accumulative basis works for those getting off the diet treadmill. It is the same for giving up the “earth day” mentality. We live here on this little blue ball 365 days a year. Each one of those days gives us a chance to make better decisions.
“I do this but I don’t do that… I do the best I can and some days are better than others but the single most important thing I do is to keep improving, to continue learning ways to reduce my carbon footprint, and to keep challenging myself to implement the things I learn.” Evon from Cleverscene states.
What are these decisions? These lifestyle choices? Well there are far to many to list in one place. Each person will have different needs to meet and problems to solve. So there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It is very personal and subject to things like geographical location, the number of people in your household, your community and so forth. So I can’t say what will work for you or your community. This blog is a great place to start to get ideas. The zero waste home blog is another good one.
Personally, the one thing I feel we all can do no matter where we live, is to take a good look at the waste we create. Our consumption and daily habits involving choices of convenience versus conscience are the best place to start. Back to the diet analogy, you can have the mindset of giving something up when you cut down on consumption. However you have the choice to focus on what you are gaining with your new lifestyle choices. Giving up the convenience of paper towels becomes gaining the luxury of linen napkins. Giving up plastic bags becomes gaining space in the cabinet. Once you begin to look at things in this way it becomes easier to see what you can do to live in a sustainable way. Think about it for a moment.
What do you already do to live sustainably and what else can you do tomorrow?
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