I'm not a very good environmentalist. Sure, I don't own a car – but that is as much an urban lifestyle choice as anything else. I recycle and compost – but the local council does the hard work there, giving me the bags and collecting it. We have re-useable nappies – but use them alongside disposable ones.
The list goes on:
- When the world allows again we will once more take international flights to Canada to see relatives – we'll carbon offset them but that seems a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.
- I have cut down on meat eating but do still enjoy a good beef burger or spaghetti bolognese.
- As much as I like the idea of the circular economy we buy quite a lot (but not all!) of our baby's clothes new – we are keeping the clothes to pass on afterwards... someone has to be at the start after all! True, I haven't bought any new clothes for myself since before the pandemic – but apart from a brief period in my teens, fashion isn't a passion of mine. I did get two pairs of shoes re-soled and re-heeled a year and a half ago, extending their lives and felt good about that – but one of the motivators was avoiding the rigmarole of buying new shoes!
- I bought a refurbished smartphone rather than a new one – but this little Linux laptop I'm using was an unnecessary purchase from a household computing perspective (it is fun though!).
- We don't use a “green” energy supplier. We could change but the landlady would prefer us to stay with a company she uses across her properties, and a good relationship with her is important!
- We are back to shopping from standard supermarkets again with their vast amounts of packaging – but hope to use the local zero waste store when restrictions ease again.
Much of my career has had an environmental angle to it but my day-to-day actions have always been limited by a combination of time and pragmatism. Deep environmentalism is hard, requiring effort beyond that which is served up on a plate by the existing structures of society. Changing habits is also hard – I listened to a seminar by a Psychology Professor once who said (paraphrased badly by me!) that most people only really change their habits when something significant in their life forces them to re-engage with the habits they have i.e. buying a new house, starting a new job etc.
On the plus side, more choices are arriving to make it easier, such as my local zero waste shop. The information age also makes it more stressful though as the sheer amount of factors to consider are served up unrelentingly. Buy local but is it sustainably produced? Eat more veg but pay attention to the origin, which could come with significant environmental footprints of its own. What is the supply chain of those new jeans? Do any of the eco labels of the products actually mean anything? Can you trust the re-seller of that second-hand product you found via a phone app?
It is hard to get it “right” but not that hard to at least pause and consider the environmental angles and trade-offs before making choices and decisions. Yes, I'm a crappy environmentalist sometimes and could do better – but while society steadily embeds more sustainable choices into its fabric, we need everyone to be crappy environmentalists rather than having just a few perfect ones.
Entry 75 of my participation in the “100 Days to Offload” challenge – find out more and join in!