To those of us who care about the environment and eco friendly living one question we need to ask ourselves is why we are still in the minority. Why do most people make at best a token gesture towards living a more sustainable lifestyle?
This is the question I have been considering myself recently. Surely this is an essential topic for us to consider because the more we can remove those disadvantages and downsides the more commonplace sustainable practices will become. And that can only be a good thing.
Changes To Your Lifestyle
Living an eco friendly lifestyle by definition requires changes to your lifestyle. From reducing (or eliminating) car use to turning down the heating and considering growing your own food it simply isn’t currently possible to live a “normal” lifestyle and still be green.
People get used to their modern conveniences like the use of their car, their central heating as high as they want it and long, steamy baths. Asking people *not* to use those conveniences they have worked so hard for is virtually impossible so I believe that rather than asking people not to do these things we need to find eco-friendly alternatives that are as good as the original.
Public transport needs to be better, cars need to be more fuel-efficient (and expensive to run), houses need to be better insulated as standard to reduce heating costs and so on.
Risk Of Becoming A Killjoy
While you can make changes at home without too many problems, greater difficulties can be experienced when you’re in a shared space such as the workplace or visiting friends at their home.
It can be difficult to refuse certain unsustainable foods if they have been cooked for you. It can hard to push a car-sharing agreement at work if nobody is interested. So there is a risk that you may become a killjoy; someone viewed as looking down on your friends and colleagues because of your more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Clearly this is only going to annoy people and make them less likely to listen to your perspective. Here it is key that work places do what they can to encourage green practices and instill these values in their staff. And whilst being willing to educate those around you, you also need to be careful not to alienate them become the “office bore” that everyone tries to avoid.
Being Eco Friendly Takes Time And Effort
Whilst there are greener options available in supermarkets if you want to be truly eco-friendly you need to shop in specialist shops. Standard clothing shops don’t sell eco-friendly garments. You can’t buy sheep wormers on the high street. Sorting your rubbish for recycling takes time and effort. And solar panels are a specialist item that most electricians can’t or won’t fit.
All this means that the “standard” consumerist society we live in simply isn’t conducive to environmental living. Instead you need to discover a new “sub culture” of suppliers and retailers who can help you make your dream a reality.
The less time-consuming we make being green the more people will adopt it – because it’s simply as easy as not being green. When the two options are equal far more people will opt for the sustainable choice.
So we need to be pushing retailers to stock organic, local, fair-trade products and price them the same as the less sustainable options. We need choice. We need sustainable products to be mainstream not a subculture.
We also need to consider ways to speed up being green – such as finding better ways to reduce, reuse and recycle without having to wash everything up, sort it carefully into different types and then place all these different bins out. We need to find a way to make recycling as easy as not recycling – or even to not give people the option. Offer incentives for those who do it. Or penalties for those who don’t.
Is organic better than fair trade? Is free range better than organic? What’s the most environmentally friendly washing machine? Is it better to wash your dishes by hand or use a dish washer? It’s possible to spend half your life reading books to find out what the greenest solutions to everyday living are.
Many people simply don’t have the time or inclination so do this so again we need to cut down on this work. The introduction of labelling systems on all products based on government-approved research will help people to select the more sustainable options. Meetings of scientists should aim to provide research-based agreements on the greenest options available.
The information should be simple to understand and accessible to all. There should be one central source of information on selecting the most eco-friendly options available – a “one stop shop” if you will for eco living advice.