It might seem daunting to think about all of the changes we need to make in order to help our planet. Do you need to sell your car, give up meat, swear off plastic? In an ideal world, humanity would get to a point of causing no damage to the ecosystem. Unfortunately, that is an impossible goal. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work towards a more positive relationship with the environment.
What is possible is to reassess how we consume, travel, and go about our lives day-to-day. The key is awareness. As a collective society, we’ve gone from thoughtlessly using paper and plastic bags to at least considering the use of reusable bags every time we shop. Younger workers in cities are reported as the most likely to bike to work. “Meatless Monday”, a trend propelled largely by social media, has become a weekly tradition for some. Dairy substitutes have been adopted by vegans, lactose-intolerant, and conscientious shoppers alike.
During the pandemic, we’ve started to order our groceries online and pick them up in the store. I’ve had to accept the haul of a couple dozen plastic bags. I reuse them to pick up my dog’s poop in the yard, but I still feel a pang of guilt.
Six months ago, I stopped eating meat. I’ve gone back and forth from a pescatarian diet for years, but this time it’s sticking. This time, I feel strong in my conviction. I truly don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I’ve given up milk for non-dairy substitutes. But I still eat cheese and fish occasionally (I know, shame on me).
I know seafood can be worse for the environment than meat. I am working to educate myself on the most sustainable sources of seafood and even then I limit my consumption to about once or twice a week.
I also know how inhumane the dairy industry is, which is why I still try to cut my cheese consumption as much as I can. It’s much harder for me personally to cut than meat was, being the Wisconsinite cheesehead that I am. While researching just now, what I didn’t know is that cheese is the third biggest environmental offender behind lamb and beef. Now that I know this, I am going to try to heed author Lisa Hyma’s advice if and when I do choose to eat cheese: buy minimally, buy locally, and choose soft, unaged cheeses that cause less of a strain on the environment.
I know that a vegan diet is one of the best things we can do for our planet. Maybe one day I will get to that point. But for now, I am accepting my imperfection. I am choosing to be proud of myself for going in the right direction. I am doing what I am comfortable with and I am still trying to make the conscious choice when and where I can. In my humble opinion, I think that offering a gentle approach to diet and lifestyle changes are more practical, more sustainable, and more likely to produce a positive net result.
I admire people who eat fully plant-based and who grow their own vegetables (I am still learning how to keep plants alive). I admire people who cut their yearly waste down to fit inside a mason jar. I admire people who don’t rely on a car and bike or take public transportation everywhere.
I have allowed the guilt of my imperfection to push my deepest knowing down for years. I have told myself that I am not one to help the earth because I am not dedicated enough.
I am realizing that in order to make a difference, we need everyone to make a fundamental change. It is far more impactful to influence the majority than it is to alienate people who aren’t doing “enough”. From the top down, we need to practice sustainable and conscious consumption. From the inside out, we need to consider our individual choices day-to-day.
I am not suggesting you sell your car, give up meat, or swear off plastic (entirely). I am suggesting we consider our daily habits and start to add environmentally-conscious decisions to our lives. Take public transportation, walk or bike on occasion, or plan out your errands so that you are making a smaller footprint. Try out some plant-based recipes, non-dairy milk, and great egg substitutes like JUST eggs – who knows, you might actually like the change. Plant-based burgers like the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger are so realistic you might be fooled! My meat-eating husband, Garth, actually prefers them to meat-based burgers!
Imperfection is better than inaction. Instead of “subtracting” things from your life, think of it as adding something. Add positivity as it relates to your habits and as you relate to yourself. Don’t tell yourself that you can’t or don’t want to give up your lifestyle. Don’t compartmentalize the climate crisis in the far reaches of your mind as a problem for someone else or for a later date. And don’t guilt yourself for the things you do wrong or imperfectly. Take each day consciously and with positivity – for yourself, for others, and for our planet as a whole.
Peace & Love to all things Wild,