It’s time to take a sledgehammer to the walls around environmentalism. The future of our Earth is at stake.
When it comes to improving the environment, we often get stuck on individual choices and lifestyles. It can seem like a useful yardstick: Are you doing these ___ things to avert planetary disaster? Focusing on our own individual choices feels productive, fun, and ego-boosting. I brought a reusable bag — call me Greta Thunberg!
It’s great to celebrate wins and push ourselves to be our personal best. And the planet can certainly use all the help it can get. But on the flip side, a hyper-focus on individual choices can be exclusionary and short-sighted, making us point the finger at each other, isolate ourselves into smaller and smaller niche groups of like-minded people, and lose focus on the shadowy forces really in the driver’s seat on our linear global economy that takes, makes, and wastes, destroying lives, lands, and ecosystems in the process.
Once we’ve made a few eco-conscious choices ourselves, it’s easy to start assigning blame and judgement toward others who we don’t see making the same exact efforts. Have you ever secretly (or not-so-secretly) judged someone for using a plastic straw, eating a hamburger, or driving a truck? By doing so, we inadvertently build tall walls around the elite “club” of environmentalism—you have to be THIS eco-friendly, in THESE specific ways, to get in. For the planet to survive and thrive, we can’t have any walls around the practice of treating it better. It needs to be a big, open party that everyone’s invited to and looks super fun.
By the way, the bad guys and corporations who are profiting from environmental destruction love when we fight with each other over straws or hamburgers, or unfriend people because they vote a different way. They know what we often forget: That we’re stronger together. As environmentalist Sami Grover writes, “It might be time to stop fighting with each other because we’re making unsustainable choices in a system where true sustainability is impossibly hard, and instead start grappling with the structural and systemic influences that put us in that position in the first place.”
As a recovering perfectionist, I now know that no one is perfect. Most of us are far from it, and that’s just fine. Rather than a handful of humans adopting a lifestyle that allows them to never consume resources or impact the life of any other living being—which sounds pretty impossible anyway—we should instead aim for every person, from every background and walk of life, to simply do their best. Whatever that looks like.
If you’re a straw-sucking, hamburger-eating, truck-driving person who still cares about the planet and what we’re leaving to our children, you may not be welcome in every environmental circle, but I hope you feel at home in mine. And if you’re someone who is already checking all the boxes on the list of things to do to avert planetary disaster, you’re welcome too—we can learn a lot from you! But no judging. This is a judgement-free zone where we practice kindness, celebrate diversity in all its expressions, lead by humble example, and prize progress over perfection always.
Whatever you’re already doing for the planet, thank you. Instead of stopping there, let’s use our personal choices to fuel bigger steps that make a world-changing difference.
Join our community by subscribing to our newsletter, following @GwinnettRecycles on Facebook and Instagram, and being part of our Facebook group, Zero Waste Gwinnett. For more reading on personal responsibility when it comes to the environment, check out this thought-provoking article.