I recently re-read my main description of my blog which says: “This blog records my journey to become more eco-conscious without drastically changing my lifestyle.” I wrote it years ago when I wanted to value the environment more but had no intention of becoming the stereotype of the unwashed hippie. At the time my perceptions of what it meant to be environmental were informed by the loudest extremist environmentalist on the block. So I found another way and became quietly green. I still go about my daily life in much the same way, I go out with my friends, I spend time with my family, I go to work. There are people in my life who might not have noticed a thing but I certainly have. By changing small things I have accidentally changed my life drastically in the best possible way.
When I decided to ‘go green’, as it were, I did so to live in line with my values. The environment was one of a few ’causes’ I felt really passionate about. I wanted to change simple things in my life to lessen my own personal footprint. I don’t shirk my share of society’s collective impact on the Earth but at least I’ve made an effort as an individual. It’s funny how that one decision to quietly live to my value has highlighted and nourished the other values I hold dear. Here is how that happened:
Aside from flying, which I’m afraid I still do, my consumer habits were the number one way in which I impacted the Earth. Buying less, more consciously, and better quality was my goal. Buying less changed my lifestyle a small amount but I was never really the type of person who used shopping as entertainment anyway. Decluttering is not absolutely necessary to reduce consumer consumption, but I felt that if I really evaluated the stuff and clothes I bought I could make better decisions about anything new I purchased. This would eliminate unnecessary purchases and achieve my goal. I have an art history degree and I’m trained to see and appreciate beauty everywhere – from the oblique angle of a rooftop to the drape of a fold – but when I looked at my cluttered house there was no beauty. Some individual pieces draped well, I kept those, but most of it was cheap and ugly. There was no overall graceful pattern to admire, just a mismash of unmatched items. It was then that I discovered another thing I valued – finding beauty in all things around me. I created a stylebook that I strictly adhere to and donated the rest. With the clutter gone the beauty I see starts at home and brings me endless joy.
After clothing and ‘stuff’ the next biggest items I consumed were in the food category. Although portion sizes are important to consider I was not aiming to reduce the amount of food I consumed. Instead I became very conscious about where the food I bought came from and how it was packaged. I wanted it to be as environmentally friendly as possible. As I spent time considering the ingredients I became more conscious about what I put into and onto my body. My beauty regime changed and my diet became a lot healthier. I’m even trying to make exercise part of my routine now. By paying attention to my environmental values I paid attention to how much I value my health.
Lastly, by lessening my consumption I freed up time. In the initial few months I spent time researching environmental options for products I did need to purchase but this didn’t take more time than my previous consumer habits. Gradually, as I needed to do less and less research, I noticed having more mental space and time for other thoughts; thoughts I used to get my priorities, like health and happiness, in order. Consuming less allows me to spend less time shopping, less time thinking about shopping, less time cleaning and putting away things I had purchased. Now I spend that extra time on the thing I value most in life – the people I love.
So yes, my life has changed drastically but not in the way I ever imagined it could.