There may come a time in your journey to a more sustainable lifestyle when you get discouraged or even a little down about the whole process. This can come from reading a book, watching a powerful documentary or just watching strangers repeatedly throw recyclables in the garbage. You may feel like you have been investing a lot of time and energy into your personal environmental sustainability, only to feel it is a Sisyphean endeavor. This is a completely natural feeling. Like with any diet, exercise program, and other goal setting you can become easily discouraged if you don’t see or feel progress. Due to the external nature of environmental sustainability, it can be difficult to see your personal progress through the sensational headlines and sad animal pictures. So to help you get through the funk, I have some suggestions to keep you going strong and ways to help you measure your success because sometimes numbers resonate better with us.
Turn off subscriptions to major news agencies or environmental advocates. I am not saying to shut your eyes and plug your ears to the newest or latest research and political events, but give yourself a break for a week or two. It might seem strange to be a little ignorant, but many of us turn on our Facebook or Flipbook to very negative headlines and it brings us down. You might be feeling defeatist about your progress due to the actions of other countries, environmental accidents or political climates. I know it does for me! So take a little news break and environmentalist holiday.
Write a letter to a member of government, group, or agency who you think should hear and know your opinion about an environmental topic on your mind. It might seem like a HUGE shot in the dark, but our elected public officials are there to serve the public, even though we feel like they don’t sometimes. Don’t just write and vent to them, but lay out your personal reasons why you think a pipeline shouldn’t go through, or how plastic bags are still given away freely in your community or how agricultural waste is managed. Whatever gets you fired up, let them know that you want some change and eyes on a topic of importance to you. Be sure to mention your age, location, and employment. I can’t count how many times I have heard a politician brush off an environmental issue by saying it isn’t a “concern for the average Canadian/American/Australian” etc. We are ALL average citizens with opinions, so make sure they know that you are thinking about these topics. You may think they won’t read it or even give it a second thought, but there is a chance they might, and as the saying goes The Pen is Mightier Than The Sword.
Goal setting and measuring your success is a great way to stay focused. It sounds a bit weird, but you can collect and/or weigh your trash. Since most “wet” garbage like paper towels (if you are still using them), napkins, food scraps etc should be going into your compost pail your actual garbage should be dry and not smelly this shouldn’t be gross, but if you are squeamish then you can skip this one. You can choose to weigh your trash for two weeks, and try and get the second week to weigh less than the first. A major trend with the Zero Waste community is to only produce enough trash for a year that can fit in a large mason jar. You could challenge yourself to only create enough non-recyclable/compostable trash which fits in a mason jar for a week. Keep it to the house or maybe to the office. This is a great way to visualize your progress.
Try something new and take on a new goal or habit. Try spicing up your routine to feel energized and excited about your journey again by trying something new. Clean out your closet, challenge yourself to use a minimalist wardrobe for a month, try only using public transportation for work or recreational purposes, try a new swap such as getting a waterpik water flosser instead of using traditional floss.
Turn off the documentaries. When I was in university, I had to take a documentary hiatus for almost two years. Fellow environmental students would come in an say `have you seen that new doc on Netflix about the cows and climate change?` or something of the like. Unfortunately being bombarded with information school, the news and documentaries I noticed it was getting to me. But as a general rule, we should all take documentaries with a grain of salt because it is EXTREMELY easy to cherry pick data to support any argument. Regulations are different from country to country, standards are different and in the end all documentaries and movies are made for profit. So take a break if they are continually bringing you down or at the very least do your own research on the topic to see both sides of the argument.
Last but not least, get outside! Nothing re-energizes your soul and love for the environment than spending sometime in nature. Go for a hike, read a book in a park or take your bike out for the afternoon and enjoy the sun (or the rain). It truly does make a difference.
Have a way you shake off the environmental blues? Share your ideas in the comment section below, I would love to hear from you!