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For me, it was hard to accept what climate change means. Sure, I find it obvious that climate change is real [efn_note]Thompson, LG. 2010 Fall. "Climate Change: The Evidence and Our Options." The Behavior Analyst. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995507/[/efn_note]. What's hard is accepting that I am contributing to the problem every single day. And I'm still working on accepting that it isn't my fault.
What's more, I am only just beginning to accept that in order to make the most meaningful changes, I would need to alter parts of my lifestyle that I love, like eating meat and seafood and flying at least half a dozen times a year. 😓 But quite honestly, I'm happy to try. How privileged am I to think that bringing mindfulness to food and travel sounds inconvenient? We need to thank the vegans and zero-wasters of the world for carrying our burden for far too long. Let's chip in. 💪 I know I won't be able to go cold turkey on all these things tomorrow. Some things, like air travel, are less negotiable if traveling for work or to visit family. But if we all make an effort to contribute what we can, the work gets easier.
but what if i can't do enough?
You can't. 🙃 I can't, either. Sometimes I hear people who think that one more plastic water bottle in the trash isn't going to make a difference in the long run. And it's true: it won't, if you are the only one doing it. Quite frankly our actions are just tiny raindrops desperately falling into our dying oceans. But get enough people on board, and suddenly you have a rainstorm, a hurricane of good.
I think the important thing is believing that what you do does matter. 😤 But at the same time, be realistic. Even if I became a monk and moved to a secluded forest, reduced my impact to zero and ate only insects, it wouldn't make any difference if no one else chipped in too. How wonderful would it be if we all came together and did our part?
I used to feign ignorance. 😗 I'm not proud of it, but I didn't feel the need to take responsibility for my actions or accept that they do in fact have consequences....especially because those consequences seem quite small compared to the vastness of this earth. But now, as we face this literal existential crisis, I have to at least know that I tried to do something.
it doesn't take much to join the fight
We've been on this journey for about a year now, and we are nowhere near zero-waste yet. We generate one trash bag about every one or two weeks. We recycle a lot, but recycling isn't the big answer since we know that a large majority of plastic doesn't actually get recycled[efn_note]Ritchie, H. 2018 Sep 2. "FAQs on Plastics." Our World In Data. Retrieved from https://ourworldindata.org/faq-on-plastics[/efn_note]. We even recycle our styrofoam, driving it over to a nearby processing plant a couple of times a year. The next goal is to reduce how much plastic and styrofoam we consume, period. As I will continue to say, I'm not perfect. Sometimes I forget my reusable shopping bags, or don't plan ahead and end up taking a to-go container home from the restaurant. I know that some people will judge me, but I also know that I am trying. To be productive in this journey, we have to quell our fear of being judged. There are many different ways to help. Start where you are.
Over time I've noticed that the simplest way to help (though it seems the hardest) is to reduce your needs in the first place! And, it helps to collect data on your habits. Keep a log of superfluous purchases, or just check in with your credit card statement every month. My credit card gives me a nice breakdown of how much money I spent in various categories (groceries, dining, travel, etc.). Self-awareness is key to being successful in this journey.
let's form a community and embrace our beginner status
Things get easier when you have support, and better yet, a plan. For instance, I know I'll make faster progress by holding myself accountable online through this blog, so here I am. Plus, I get to form an open, honest community for other beginners like me! If you're new to living low-waste, think of me as your friendly neighborhood tutor, who is well-meaning but only just took the course last semester and skated by with a B-minus. 😇
But being a beginner is not a crime or something of which to be ashamed. And like I've said and will keep saying, it helps to have help! I am leading the charge while Josh supports and asks all the right questions. All the while, we're trying to gently remind ourselves that we are mere individuals trying to battle against an economy that profits off our trash-producing tendencies. It's stressful, so we need to be there for each other.
but know that we can only do a little
When I first made the commitment to reduce my trash and built self-awareness around my own habits, I felt a lot of shame. Please try not to do that to yourself; it is counterproductive. We can only do our best with the resources we have. For over a year now, Josh and I have gradually introduced small changes to reduce how much waste we send to landfills. But even though we've made noticeable progress, there's a long way to go, and we know we can always improve. Because of that, I often hold both of us to impossibly high standards, and in the past it's caused me lots of stress and anxiety. Sometimes it feels like we just can't do enough as two people. And like I said before, we can't.
I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.
As someone who is new to this journey and has made all the mistakes and felt all the failure, I know that if we burn out and give up, our actions are no good to anyone. These commitments can't come at the cost of mental health. As a mental health patient, I need to reduce the amount of stress I'm exposed to. It is going to be so difficult to unlearn those habits, but I'm going to try my best and take my time. Now, I know that my actions, in the grand scheme of things, will matter very little. Despite this, I believe my small insignificant actions are necessary nonetheless — and just think what we can accomplish if we all chip in what we can.
the best day to start is today
You remember when you were a kid and your parents asked you to clean your room, and instead of organizing your mountain of items nicely, you forcefully stuffed everything under the bed or in your closet? Then at some point when you actually opened the closet, you got comically buried in a cascading waterfall of toys and clothes? That's what we're doing to the Earth, but on a much larger scale. Ultimately, we're just delaying the inevitable. At some point, we will have to face the mess in our closet.
Now that I've opened my eyes to the path we're on, I can't be complacent. Let's be clear, the climate crisis can only be solved by simultaneous efforts coming from the top down and bottom up. Government needs to lead us, industries need to shift, and we need to all commit to prioritizing the Earth together. It doesn't really matter how many plastic grocery bags I refuse if greedy corporations keep churning out plastic, cheap, disposable products that the world does not need. 😠
Sometimes it feels like I can't do enough. And sometimes I fail. But if we work hard, discuss, collaborate, and lean on each other, I know it will get easier.
But, in the meantime, I will do what I can.
© if you know you grow 2023.