Personal Journey: June Update

I have to admit. I have been a terrible sustainability ambassador recently. I’ve had a few small wins, but many more losses.

I am ashamed to say that today I had takeaway udon noodle soup. Out of a styrofoam container. STYROFOAM.

I kept the plastic bag that it came in to reuse… and I used my own chopsticks… And to be fair, the place was take-away only, there was no where to sit in the restaurant. Normally I would bring my own bowl, but today it was at home in my dishwasher.

It is just unbelievably hard sometimes to be zero waste, when you are unprepared for example, or in certain social situations. I was recently in a five hour client meeting, in which we were served plastic bottled water out of tiny plastic, disposable cups. At first I abstained, as had my reusable water bottle with me. But then I finished my water. And there was no break in the meeting to refill my bottle… (Not to mention that the tap water in Barcelona tastes atrocious – the bottle had previously been filled from a water cooler) And I was thirsty…

So I succumbed, and I took a disposable plastic cup, and drank their plastic bottled water from it. But how to avoid such a situation? It may have already even been considered rude that I initially declined the client’s water and drank from my personal (admittedly rather banged up and bright orange) water bottle.

Perhaps my consultant lifestyle is just incompatible with slow, zero waste living. I was also constrained into grabbing a quick salad in a takeaway plastic bowl to eat in the taxi on the way to the airport – there just wasn’t time for a sit down meal, and it’s not really realistic either that I should carry my own bowl and utensils everywhere I go on a business trip. Where would I even wash them? In my hotel room bathroom? With hand soap? That just doesn’t seem feasible.

(I tried bringing my reusable coffee cup on a previous business trip, but it ended up leaking a little bit, was also difficult to clean, and generally caused more headaches than it helped).

No solutions here yet, other than considering a potential career change 😀

Have you also struggled to be sustainable while travelling? Let me know if so!

Low impact living: Why bother?

A question that many people pose when it comes to doing small, good actions for the environment is – why bother? If it’s not convenient for me, why should I do it? My actions aren’t going to make a difference, I’m just one person.

Or another common objection, “How are you be eco-friendly if you still take flights/use a cell phone made of parts with a large negative impact/ etc.?”

I think there are three important points to make here.

The first, which I think is most relevant to me, is the idea of living in alignment with your values. As I have embraced the concept of mindfulness more in recent years, I’ve tried to become more conscious, aware and mindful of all of my choices, and the impact that they have. For me, this also meant thinking more about the waste that I produce, and trying to minimise it wherever possible. This has also meant trying to buy more of my clothes secondhand, to purchase things with less packaging, and to eliminate meat from my diet. Am I perfect? Far from it. I still buy some clothes new, I still occasionally eat fish, and I sometimes still slip up and end up having to use single-use plastic. I do what’s feasible and practical for me at this point in my life, keeping in mind the impact that my actions have, and minimising it where I can.

The point is, even if one person’s personal impact is small, I think the idea of living in line with what you believe in is worthwhile.

Secondly, and related to the first point is the ripple effect impact of one person’s actions. If through my choices I can inspire others to make small changes to their daily habits, together these small actions may add up to a larger impact.

There’s a saying, don’t doubt the power of a small group of committed people to change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has. If everyone thinks that what they do personally doesn’t matter and is never going to make a difference, then of course things are never going to get any better.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the fact that while individual actions are a great starting point, and one that we have the greatest control over, what’s really going to make the difference is systemic changes, through policy and by corporations. The average person just does not have the bandwidth (money, time, willingness) to go to extreme lengths to be eco-friendly. Corporations and governments need to step up and take responsibility for making eco-friendly choices not only easy, but the default option – the only option. And one catalyst for getting them to do so will be more people making noise, caring about the issues and living those values in their own everyday lives.