I know the feeling. You slowly start becoming more conscious of where your things came from, and who made them, and whether or not you even need them. And then all of a sudden, it’s all you can see. Everywhere. Every item you touch raises a thousand questions. And you’re walking around wondering why no one else seems to be asking the same questions. Wondering why everyone seems to be so…asleep. So unaware of living in an eco-friendly way.
I am in the process of beginning my eco-friendly journey, and already it’s raised so many turbulent emotions and questions. Questions about myself, my family and friends, my partner, community and planet. It feels like I’ve dipped one toe in the pool, and suddenly I’m spinning down a rabbit hole of issues and ideas I had never considered before.
So based on my experiences over the last few months, here’s what not to do when you begin living a more eco-friendly lifestyle:
1. Judge everyoneeeee.
Take your judging pants off. Right Now. Suddenly, you’ve had the epiphany. You’re awake! And no one else around you is. What’s wrong with them? Why don’t they care about other people? The planet? The animals? Why are they so cruel/oblivious/stupid?
Whooooaaaaa, steady there honey. You’ve been on this eco-friendly train five minutes. Let’s quit judging people who haven’t even discovered there is a train yet. I’ve struggled with this a lot, particularly when it comes to cruelty-free and toxin-free cosmetics.
But remember, people are inherently good. Heaping judgment on them doesn’t help anyone. Chances are, just like you, they were raised by parents who had been taught by their parents how to do things. They’re doing the best that they know how to do.
2. Become the Saint.
No one likes a show-off. Yes, it’s fantastic you’ve started to become more conscious of your choices, but that doesn’t make you perfect. Just like I am not perfect because I look to buy Fair Trade rather than Kmart. That choice may help a whole succession of people and the environment, but I still ain’t Jesus. Greenhouses, and all that.
3. Lecture like an Eco-Friendly Oxford professor.
Like me, you probably spent hours reading articles and educating yourself as you started changing your outlook towards a more eco-friendly life. And that’s fantastic! Education is key to making informed choices. As I’ve only just started this journey, I have so much more to learn, and I am excited to continue discovering more. But turning this knowledge into nightly the preachy version of a TED talk over family dinner is highly unlikely to inspire others to change their ways. There are delicate ways to handle these conversations when they naturally come up.
4. Overhaul your entire wardrobe.
Yes, it’s tempting to discard every item of clothing you own and replace them with ethically-made, sustainable, organic, eco-friendly alternatives. But that actually does far more harm than good. It is utterly wasteful to throw out or even donate perfectly good garments, even if your intentions are good. By far, it is more environmentally and ethically friendly to wear your clothes until they are genuinely past their used by date. Then you can look towards more co-friendly replacements.
5. Judge yourself.
The first few months (in particular) of this journey can be difficult. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself staring at the latest winter boots in your local store window and battling between desire (they were such gorgeous boots and I genuinely needed new ones) and distaste (when you know the company doesn’t follow ethical practices). My better judgement won out that particular battle, but months later I still wish I had been able to find an eco-friendly version of such divine shoes. And all of that is valid. What is unnecessary though is beating yourself up for even having that battle at all. We’re human. We get tempted. That’s ok. It’s even ok if sometimes our inner-greenie doesn’t win. We just need to pick ourselves up and try again tomorrow.
6. Panic at how much you don’t know.
When I first jumped on to Instagram and started following some of the big-hitters in the ethical-style, eco-living, zero-waste community I felt completely overwhelmed. I didn’t even realise how much there was to this eco-friendly lifestyle, and it was intimidating to realise how many people are further along this journey than I am. In those moments, breathe. I’m learning to pick ideas up and integrate them into my life at a pace that feels organic to me.
7. Lose your you-ness
It might sound silly, but one of my primary concerns when I started looking into eco-friendly fashion was that I couldn’t see my sense of style reflected in many ethical and sustainable brands. I’m pretty conservative, with hints of boho, so I’m not the type to waltz around in baggy tie-die overalls purchased second hand from a market (kudos to those of you who can rock that look- my sister being one of them!) I knew if I was going to make this transition, I’d need to keep my inherent me-ness, and not get lost in aesthetics that don’t reflect who I am. This has encouraged me to research further and I’ve discovered a whole range of gorgeous labels that are more in line with my sense of style.
8. Expect perfection
Ideally, I’d be blogging about eco-friendly lifestyle from a beachfront stone and wood cottage in Byron Bay. My day would start with chanting, followed by a garden session of yoga with my personal instructor. This would be followed up with an Insta-worthy plant-based breakfast which would set me up for a day of beach-frolicking and writing while dressed in only organic, plant-dyed, ethically-made, organically-washed clothing, and at night I would sleep on linen sheets of the same criteria. This isn’t my reality (yet). That doesn’t matter. What matters is striving for improvement, not perfection. It’s about taking small steps towards a better future, not expecting perfection from ourselves or our lives.
9. Think there’s only one way
We are blessed to have so much information readily available to us. The flip side is that it can feel overwhelming when you are inundated with a thousand different ‘right’ ways to live your life. I’ve found being open to people’s ideas and experiences without expecting to always agree has been key to developing my own version of what an eco-friendly lifestyle looks like. As I mentioned earlier, everyone is at a different stage on their journey, and that includes you. Allow the picture of your life to evolve as you do, and take bits and pieces of other’s knowledge to create your own masterpiece.
10. Go it alone
One of the biggest things I’ve learned recently is that there is a whole community of like-minded eco-friendly people out there. You’re not the only one! So if you are feeling like your friends or family aren’t understanding your new mindset, don’t stress! Jump on to Instagram or Pinterest and you’ll find a whole squad of friendly people keen to share what they’ve learned. And if you ever want to share ideas or ask me any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I’d love to hear from you and build up this community of beautiful people.