Today’s post might be a little controversial. That’s ok. The realm of eco-friendly / ethical living can certainly be a prickly one. Everyone has an opinion about it- they either swear it’s the only way for humanity and the planet to survive, or they think it’s a quaint little hobby of greenies and hippies.
As someone who is relatively new to this ‘eco-friendly’ lifestyle, it hasn’t taken long for me to realise there are a thousand nuances in what it means to live in an ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘ethical’ way.
It also hasn’t taken me long to realise that some people who aren’t consciously concerned about living this way can get really damn fired up about it when it rises for discussion.
But rather than just assuming it’s because they hate the planet/ innocent animals/ children in developing countries who work 16 hour days for 30cents etc., maybe we should dig a little deeper.
Because maybe it’s not them… maybe it’s us.
Maybe sometimes the way we are going about presenting our conscious living is just really irritating.
I can certainly put my hand up and say that I’ve been guilty of this, particularly when I first started moving towards this lifestyle.
You’re Shoving It Down People’s Throats
Poor Uncle Jim is just trying to enjoy his Christmas dinner, but you insist on regaling him with a full run down on why his $12 Target knitted jumper is the epitome of evil. He sure wasn’t expecting a lecture on how polyester damages waterways, or the abysmal working conditions for Bangladeshi children when he pulled it out of his wardrobe this morning! In fact, he’s just wearing it because Aunty May picked it up at a bargain price last month, and it’s comfortable.
But, nonetheless, you’re here to educate him on how his one scratchy, cheap jumper has contributed to the destruction of humankind and the natural world.
No wonder he looks so shocked.
Why? Because it’s not your place. Uncle Jim isn’t evil. His wife just didn’t know any better when she saw the jumper hanging below a sale sign two weeks ago. And you know what? Your Christmas lunch lecture isn’t going to change their ways.
They’re both just going to avoid you at future family dinners.
You’re Being Inauthentic
Confession: maybe it’s just me… but I don’t find eco-living all that easy.
I really don’t think it is just me.
In fact, I know it’s not.
Because sometimes this lifestyle tests our values and our boundaries. It requires forethought and planning and research.
But I feel like every time I open Instagram, I’m flooded with ‘influencers’ in the eco-friendly realm who paint this picture-perfect portrayal of conscious living. And then I sure do feel awful for the fact I forgot my keep-cup on the way to work last Thursday.
You know what I’d much rather see?
Someone who tries and fails. Someone who admits that it isn’t easy. Someone who doesn’t parade an inauthentic, impossible version of green-living on Instagram. Someone who can put their hand up and say ‘hey, I ran out of zero-waste non-toxic online-only toothpaste, so I had to pick some up Grant’s from the supermarket instead. Next month I’ll plan a bit better.’
How can we expect others to be on board with a green lifestyle, when it’s so apparent that it’s often painted in a much prettier light than it actually is? Let’s be authentic, let’s share the struggles, and the planning and restraint that’s required.
Let’s just be real about it.
You’re Doing It For The Wrong Reasons
Are you committed to creating only one jar of rubbish over the next decade because it is benefiting the planet, or because it means you can be better-than-thou over your Saturday brunch date?
I’d say most people in the eco-living community are in it for the right reasons, but I’ve certainly noticed a competitiveness (particularly on Instagram) about how far some can take their eco-friendly lifestyle.
And guess what? Planet Earth doesn’t care how many likes your photo of your decade of rubbish gets.
So what are some of the possible right reasons for working towards a conscious lifestyle?
- A happier, healthier planet for us and our future generations
- Better working and living conditions for workers
- Happier, longer lives for our animal friends
- An undeniable sense of gratitude and happiness that does come from reducing your footprint.
- The flow-on effect of other people seeing your ways and making changes (big or small) in their own lives.
It’s often personal for each of us. Our motivations belong to us alone, but I do believe in having an authenticity about why you’re living the way you are. Bragging rights doesn’t cut it.
You’re Being Inflexible
Our morals and ethics and values are important. They define who we are. But sometimes… it’s ok to be flexible.
Not on the big things. If you’re a vegan, don’t eat meat just to make your mother-in-law happy. That doesn’t serve anyone.
But if you’re out and about with your best friend and she’s desperate to head in to Zara for a new work blouse, it might not be the time to take a stance against exploitation and big business by refusing to set foot in the store.
Go in, be supportive, and politely give your opinion if it’s asked for.
Sometimes, that’s the opportunity to perhaps suggest an eco-friendly, ethical alternative that you’ve seen elsewhere that would look divine on her.
Sometimes, it’s not.
You’re All Talk and No Action
Also known as ‘you’re a hypocrite.’
Because you love to lecture everyone about plastic in the oceans, but don’t actually do anything to reduce your plastic consumption. Nor do you donate or volunteer with any charities trying to combat the issue.
No wonder your mum rolls her eyes when you wave the plastic bag she brought home the Friday night salmon fillet in. She’s probably thinking ‘if it matters that bloody much to you, go and DO SOMETHING about it!’
Which is fair.
Now, I 100% get that this one is tricky. We are all trying our best, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to try and combat every evil in the world. But people notice when you try and make positive changes (again- see above. Please do so without the lecturing or smugness).
Taking action, and being the change you want to see inspires others to do the same.
Hopefully this post hasn’t rankled too many people, but if it has, perhaps it’s worth considering why. I’ll be honest and say it made me a bit uncomfortable to write, because a quiet little part of my brain said ‘hey- you’ve done that one!’
Which is, I guess, what this post was about. Because without confronting the fact that actually, I do still have a slight tendency to shove some of my opinions down my loved-ones throats, how can I be self-aware enough to change that behaviour?
It’s not serving them, and it’s not serving me.
Is your behaviour serving you?