Two steps forward, one step back

Isn’t that how it always goes with progress?

Lately I feel that I’ve been living a much more sustainable lifestyle in some aspects – for instance, I am currently sipping my first totally waste-free tea, as I recently received some lovely loose leaf tea as a gift, and I borrowed my roommate’s tea infuser ball, which is super cool!

On the flipside, I have certainly failed a few times in getting single use disposals with my take-away lunches when I haven’t been prepared. Positively, I’ve noticed that my local supermarket has switched from some single use plastics to compostable cardboard bowls, and the plastic lids now claim to be made of 100% recycled plastic!
I try to recycle these things where it makes sense, but it’s also important not to be a “wish-cycler” – aka when you throw things in the recycling bin with an unrealistic optimism that they will actually get recycled. Not all things can/will be recycled, regardless of whether you throw them in the bin, and aside from easing your guilty conscience, aspirational recycling isn’t doing anyone any favours,

Sometimes it can be demotivating to think about how you represent just one drop in the ocean, and I’ve wondered recently if my efforts wouldn’t be better spent in other ways. Surely there’s a biggest project I could work on that would have more of an impact than spending hours debating over which product at the supermarket has a lower environmental footprint?

In the end I suppose it’s about balance – about doing what you can, not beating yourself up too much, and making the changes and the choices that work for you. For me, for example, pescetarianism is the right balance between my desire to minimize my impact on the planet, my nutrition needs and what is convenient to my lifestyle (e.g. giving me more options when eating out with friends, family or colleagues). Is it perfect? Probably not, but it’s a balance of what works for me.

We should remember that everything is a learning process. Two steps forward, one step back is still a net positive movement in the right direction πŸ˜‰

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 nowhere 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 when I finished my water, there was no break in the meeting to refill my bottle… And I was thirsty… (Not to mention that the tap water in Barcelona tastes atrocious.)

So I succumbed; I took a disposable plastic cup and drank their plastic bottled water from it. How to avoid such a situation? I may have even already committed a faux-pas by initially declining the client’s water and drinking from my own banged up and bright orange stainless steel water bottle.

Perhaps the lifestyle of a management consultant is just incompatible with slow, zero waste living. I was also constrained into grabbing a 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 carry my own bowl and utensils everywhere I go on a business trip. Where would I 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, was difficult to clean, and generally caused more headaches than it helped.)

No solutions here yet, other than considering a potential career change πŸ˜€

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