In a minute I’m going to ask you a question.
But first I want you to think about the last consciously bad environmental decision you made.
For me it was, driving to the pharmacy to get hay-fever medication. I could have easily walked but I was feeling pretty fed up with nature. Mainly due to my perpetually leaking face. As a regular springtime allergy sufferer, the idea of adding more plants, more bees and more ‘fresh’ air is daunting. So I petulantly hopped in a diesel van and waged a war on nature, one I am still losing despite the magnifying effects of human destruction on our natural habitat.
Now think back to your last decision. Why did you do it? Probably because any guilt or damage washes away quickly. A tree doesn’t literally disappear in front of your eyes when you turn the ignition and a polar bear doesn’t directly die from your next day delivery of a brand new smartphone. If it did we might all be a little more cautious.
This is a crucial part as to why most of us don’t just slip up, but fail to make any real changes to positively affect the planet. Either lack of pushing reason or lack of viable solutions.
Much of what I read or listen to leaves me feeling helpless, confused and creates more questions.
I’m either bombarded with horrific sounding data or instructed to RADICALLY changing my life in an unappealing way.
Some things do inspire for short time periods. Listening about farmers who are rethinking their operation and how they’re working towards regenerative agriculture, rather than blaming cows for a human-made problem. Or people trying to live as much as possible from wild foraging. Which sounds romantic but tricky for me having been in constant winter for the previous 18 months.
But at the end of the day, to me, these things are just stories. Not things I can do here and now to improve my life and the planet simultaneously.
One Tree promotes Fixing It
A big message that One Tree At A Time’s ‘Fix It’ event really showed me is how much more we can easily be doing.
In a previous article, Millie Charrington discusses the lifecycle of everything we use pushing past just recycling grocery packaging.
“These guidelines seem to have been relegated to how we dispose of our household waste, moving towards circular systems in more aspects of our everyday life could have a number of positive environmental benefits.” Explains Millie.
Something that I’d not paid enough attention to before.
Seeing the sheer volume of ski kit that was donated to the Fix It event was quite staggering. Of course, I am fully aware that consumerism is out of control but what I’d forgotten in my quest to ‘not buy stuff’ is that most things I need (mainly want) are readily available second hand. Second hand, almost brand new and for half the price. You can still be a consumer without the consequences.
Remember that new smartphone we next day Amazon Primed earlier? Well, it was probably available for a couple of hundred quid less, second hand with not a scratch on it.
We tend to base the health of our countries on economic performance. Spending money to keep the economy growing, bolster business, reduce unemployment and increase GDP.
Here’s the kicker with all that – Increased sales means bigger landfills and cluttered homes. I’m not an economist but things don’t seem to stack up in my mind. Surely there is a way we can transact in order to stimulate the economy without hurting the planet?
What ‘Fix It’ does is provide real-life solutions that people actually want. People want to declutter their lives, they want to save money and they still want to buy stuff. More importantly, it showed and inspired others to make easy changes to help the planet while improving life.
Anything I need to buy now I think about where I can get it second hand. A tent for my recent camping holiday? Before I would have ordered a brand new one probably at great expense to further bolster ‘insert large corporation here’ profits. But now I’m more inclined to think “hey, there’s got to be thousands of tents people don’t want in perfect condition”. Maybe a family needs to upsize or Geoff is clearing out his garage. (Not really sure who Geoff is).
You may have already known all this but there has been a simple rebranding of many things in my brain. Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Gumtree are no longer places for me to make a quick buck. They are gold mines of recycling and reusing. Helping to lengthen a product’s lifecycle and save money.
Granted these services are not as convenient as Amazon but I’m saving a pretty penny for the extra time finding what I want. In fact, I’ll be saving thousands.
So what’s the overall take away here?
Going green doesn’t have to mean buying a more expensive organic fairtrade t-shirt. You don’t have to be a campaigner or an activist armed with devastating facts about agriculture to make people feel guilty about their food choices.
Environmentalism doesn’t have to cost you more money like many greenwashing companies would appear to convince us all. They’ve only got one thing in mind, increased sales which means…. More stuff, stuff that sits unused or consigns another consumer product to its early demise.
Don’t operate your environmental education on guilt and fear. Inspire others to start making more changes. Give them a reason. It’s as simple as showing others a money saving option with real-world solutions. And if it plants trees in the process then you’ve found a nice double whammy.
Maybe we should stop thinking in numbers that feel futile ‘That’s one less plastic bottle, well done to me’ and think of our environmentalism as inspiring others. Stop speaking in cliches or regurgitating unfounded quotes from last night’s documentary. Remind your peers of an option, offer genuine alternatives, be realistic and find the personal lifestyle advantages of what we are doing.