Living more sustainably & ethically isn’t about perfection

Sustainable living is about trying every day, not being perfect

With people setting resolutions and intentions to start living more ethically and sustainably, I wanted to say a few words about the pressure to be perfect. 

When you first decide you’re going to change a habit, it can feel pretty exciting. As you start to read more into it, or as time passes, it’s easy to feel like you’re not progressing as fast as you’d like, or like you’re a bit lost and maybe even out of your depth. I think this pressure comes from two places; the comparison of ourselves to other people who seem to have it nailed, and people who want to tell us that we can’t do something.

Don’t compare your beginning to someone else who’s years in

There are a lot of fantastic blogs out there full of great advice and help. Sometimes, it can be easy to read them, take their advice, and wonder why you can’t replicate what that person is doing right away. 

You need to do what’s best for you and your circumstances. Some people have access to fruit and veg that isn’t wrapped in plastic, and others are at the mercy of their local supermarket who seems to enjoy selling some things wrapped in plastic. Sometimes you’re trying to break a big habit, such as your eating or shopping habits and it’s not easy to do that overnight.  What matters is that you’re trying and have a goal in mind. 

Some of my favourite sustainable & ethical living blogs

Negative attitudes 

It’s been exciting to see posts about ethical and sustainable living popping up more regularly on social media but more often than not the comment section is a writhing hotbed of hatred towards anyone trying. I really struggle with comments such as “what’s the point?” because it reminds me that there is so much work to be done. 

Or there’s the “vegans like to tell people how to live their lives but they’re probably driving cars with leather in it somewhere.”

And “what about the environmental impact of the fruit and veg you eat?” (I’m pretty sure meat eaters eat fruit and veg too, but ok, I won’t fall down that rabbit hole right now.)

I’ve seen so many comments that project the idea that someone who has chosen to live more ethically is perfect, thinks they are better than everyone else, and never makes a mistake. I think that’s a way people deal with their insecurities about their own decisions but it can still be disheartening to read. Some people love to tell others that you can’t do something or try to catch you out when you stand for something.

The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it - Robert Swan

Dealing with failure

Trying to live more sustainably and ethically isn’t about being perfect every single day of your life. It’s about making the effort to try each day. 

We’re human; failure happens. I’ve forgotten my drinks bottle and had to buy bottled water before. I’ve eaten airline food that came in a ridiculous amount of packaging. I still buy food that comes in non-recyclable packaging because I can’t find noodles or lentils in recyclable packaging (I know, right?). I drive down to see my family because it’s too expensive to take the train. 

Whether you are striving for zero waste, are vegetarian or vegan, trying to remove all single-use plastic, only buy locally grown organic food, only bring non-toxic products into your home, or something else, it’s incredibly hard to be perfect for one day, let alone every day. And that’s fine. 

We can only do so much sometimes. We can do our best to avoid single-use plastic packaging but if that’s how the food we need is packaged and there’s no better choice on that day, that’s ok. We can still keep pushing and badgering retailers into making better choices and buy single use plastic as little as possible. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try in the first place. 

I don’t aim for perfection every day; to do so would be overwhelming. I aim to try to be a bit better every day, to keep learning (from my mistakes and about what else I can do), I try not to beat myself up when I slip up or can’t make the choices I want due to things beyond my control. And I’m trying not to feel disheartened by the anger I see online. 

You, and me, trying every day is making a difference.