Making sustainability one of my priorities in life has led to an overarching realization for me: this isn’t so much a checklist as a state of mind.
The thing is, for a while, it was not my state of mind. Life happened. I got swept up in the day-to-day, the need to find a job, learning to perform that job properly, finding another job… Love found, love lost… Cultivating friendships… Shopping for clothes… And after several years I realized that my values had gotten away from me. I found myself working in a job, helping to promote values that I did not share and at the same time becoming ever aware of the polluted air I was breathing everyday and that the polar bears were going to drown because the polar ice caps were melting… As cliché as it sounds, it was that one image, the idea of a polar bear swimming and swimming until she drowns that pushed me over the edge and made me realize I needed to leave my job and do something I felt good about.
I checked in with myself. I decided to leave my job and help people like myself find their way back to their ecological priorities.
If you too feel like you’re off the path you’d like to be on, that you could or should be doing more, don’t beat yourself up – or quickly banish the thought and move on to something more comfortable. Instead, consider these few reminders to help you get back on the right path:
- Think about embodied energy.
Things take energy to produce them. Some take more than others. You can improve your ecological impact by making choices that consume less embodied energy. Plastic has a high embodied energy. So does metal, so does concrete. These are things that have to be mined and refined, requiring the expense of a lot of energy.
- Make re-usability a priority
When purchasing an item, think about how quickly its destined for the trash can. Plastic wrap may be cheaper than a reusable glass container in the short-term, but in the long-term it’s not. Plus it will find its way to the trash after one single use.
- Put a face on Ecology
Remember, ecology is not an abstraction. It is the face of your parents, whether they get cancer or not, the smiles of your pets, whether they are exposed to toxins or not, it is the beautiful national parks and wildernesses of our country and their ability to sustain a healthy eco-system…or not. Whatever you pour down your drain will end up coming back around to someone in the form of drinking water. Remember that your daily habits and choices have palpable environmental consequences.
Do you have any other internal reminders or mantras to keep you on the right path? Feel free to share!