Updated: Aug 19, 2021
What got me started on the road to sustainability and why the pursuit for trivial when compared to the awareness and desire to improve.
In school, we commemorated World Environment Day every year by planting trees in a park. However, this was the extent of my knowledge about climate change and the depleting natural resources. One day, a close friend encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and look at the bigger picture - how our daily habits were hurting our planet. Hence began my journey of discovering the fascinating world of sustainable practices.
The golden 4R guidelines of reducing, reusing, recycling, and refusing were my starting points.
I was instantly caught up in the novelty of buying new ‘eco-friendly’ products and discarding the items I already had. It was all too easy, and not to mention the instant gratification I experienced from buying new things. I was least interested in delving into the hard facts about waste, landfills, and our oceans. My new habits were turning out to be more damaging to the environment than my old ones. As I started to make these changes, I realized that healthy alternatives and substitutions were prohibitively more expensive and not something I could afford as a student. Not only was I intellectually stimulated, but my thought process was shifting as well. I was experiencing consumer fatigue, and it appeared to be affecting every aspect of my life. I grew up in a village and spent enough time with my grandparents to understand that sustainability was just their way of life back then, not something they had to think about or a ‘trend’ they had to adopt. We used to eat on stainless steel plates and banana leaves, meals were always cooked at home, and we dined together as a family every evening. Life was simpler back then, and those memories instilled optimism in me.
I was experiencing consumer fatigue, and it appeared to be affecting every aspect of my life.
The golden 4R guidelines of reducing, reusing, recycling, and refusing were my starting points. I often worried about reducing the amount of clutter and purchases I made, and I kept track of the waste I generated. Instead of immediately replacing the products I already had, I repurposed them. When I had the option, I refused to buy items that I thought would hurt the environment. I started to realize that minor things have major consequences. Zero-waste vloggers and bloggers became my role models, as I started to make more conscious choices.
But for a long time, I was preoccupied with visible improvements. I was quite unforgiving when I couldn’t live up to my own high standards. Seven years down the road of my eco-conscious journey, at times, I still feel like I'm right back where I started. I still feel guilty about little faux pas every now and then - like when I need to buy bottled water because I forgot to carry my own. I make mistakes every now and then. But growth is a personal experience where effort counts, not time.
When I first made the changes, one of the biggest stresses I felt was the subsequent judgments from those around me. People who make a difference are constantly judged and challenged. It has almost become a source of amusement to hear people critique my eco-conscious choices - it’s always that you're not doing it correctly, or that doing things right isn't necessary, or that your efforts are severely short of a zero-waste lifestyle and hence that makes you a hypocrite. We all face different challenges in life and must approach that road in different ways. My biggest eco-friendly ambitions are hidden behind hashtags on Instagram because I'm still living with my parents, but if I'm doing my best, I feel it's good enough for now.
It has almost become a source of amusement to hear people critique my eco-conscious choices - it’s always that you're not doing it correctly, or that doing things right isn't necessary or that your efforts are severely short of a zero-waste lifestyle and hence that makes you a hypocrite.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't taken aback by the way sustainability was depicted on the internet. While browsing minimalist bedroom designs has become a favourite pastime, the reality is far from that. Once you start your own personal Konmari you end up with a lot more trash. But you will also gain more space on your dresser because you have decluttered, more greens on your plate since you swapped out meat for more nutrient-dense plant foods, and more time to appreciate yourself because you led the way.
You're always a novice when it comes to being a good samaritan of the environment. You will always have doubts, make mistakes, and learn from them. It's a long ride; you could sleep in and walk to your destination, or you could get up early and grab the finest seat on the bus. What is important is that you get out of bed!
Sending you lots of planet love....