Thursday, April 21, 2011

Eco-fatigue and why green-living has to be the norm

I have a confession to make. I have not been a very good girl lately - environmentally, that is.

I had a birthday BBQ last Sunday. Although I bought environmentally responsible paper plates, there were plastic plates left over from a birthday box I got last year. And I went and bought plastic cups. And then, at the party, I just threw them all in the bin. Usually, I would have taken them home and washed them. But I just couldn’t be bothered. And to top it off, yesterday I went shopping. And instead of taking my canvas bags, I took nothing - and got all my groceries put into plastic bags.

I don't know why that is. Maybe I’ve just run a bit out of steam. Maybe I’ve been having a pretty rough time emotionally that I have no energy left over to care about the environment. Or maybe I’m just sick of being different.

And can I tell you something? It felt good chucking those cups and plates in the bins. It felt good not having to lug my canvas bags to the shops. Shameful as it is, I enjoyed losing my greenie credentials for a while.

Kermit had it right. It’s not easy being green. It takes work. It requires more effort. And sometimes you feel like you’re fighting a green battle on your own. I’ll admit something else. Sometimes I think, why can’t I be just like everybody else and not care?

Now that’s probably unfair. People do care about the environment. Someone at my party mentioned that she would have taken the cups home and washed them. Obviously I’m not the only person in my town that uses canvas bags, otherwise they wouldn’t have so many for sale. But it feels lonely sometimes. It feels a bit like I’m putting all this effort in and all it is getting me is the label of ‘different’.

It’s a bit like being a Christian really. Christians are meant to be different. And yet sometimes we look at the way the world is and go, why can’t I be like that? We want to throw off our shackles and join in the fun. And I’m not really talking about whether certain actions are moral or immoral here. I’m more talking about the sheer enjoyment of…just…not…caring.  

And sometimes the temptation to not care becomes too great. We sin. We fall. We turn our backs on our faith. We give up trying to do the right thing. Doing the right thing is just so tedious and boring - and tiring. And what bliss it is to just give up and let it go.

But it’s not the way we’re meant to live. God doesn’t ask us to do the right thing until it gets boring. God doesn’t ask us to live the right way until we get too tired. We’re meant to run the race in such a way that we last the distance. We’re meant to continually grow more and more like Christ.

But the good news is, God also knows that we will fail. And he never says, you’re just not good enough. Instead he offers forgiveness and helps us get back on the right track again. No matter how many times we sin, God’s grace is enough to cover it.

All of this sounds good, but I’m still kind of thinking - but that means I need to try again, need to go back to living as sustainably as I can and actually CARE. And I still don’t want to, right at this minute. I’m still wanting to enjoy my freedom.

Do I have to care? Really?

Well the answer is yes. But it does raise an interesting question. If someone like me, who really does care about the environment, occasionally feels that it’s all getting a bit hard, what hope do we have for other people who don’t really give it much attention?

And I suspect that it probably is too hard for a lot of people. But maybe the answer to that is not just to say, well let’s all give up, but to look at ways of making things easier. What if there were no plastic bags in supermarkets and taking your canvas bags was just normal? What if everybody was on renewable energy sources? What if public transport was so good that people didn’t want to use their car?

I would say most people probably put things in the recycling bin. And I would also say that way more people recycle now than they did in the past. And partly, that’s probably got to do with the fact that we care about recycling more now. Yay! But I would say another big reason for that is the fact that it’s so easy now. You have a recycling bin. You put things in it. Nothing difficult about that.

But another part of making things easy is that things are seen as more difficult when you’re the only one doing them. When everybody does something, we see it as normal. When only a few people do, it seems like a big chore. It’s not easy to be green because it’s not easy to be different. But if everyone was green, Kermit wouldn’t have had a song.

Imagine if only 10 per cent of the population washed their hair. I reckon, if that was the case, washing your hair would sometimes seem like an unbearable burden. But we don’t see it that way, because it’s normal. Everyone does it. We don’t even think about it.

So unless we want everyone to suffer from eco-fatigue, we need to make green living easier. The easier it gets, the more people will do it. The more people that do it, the easier it is for everyone to jump onboard. And when everyone’s onboard and living in an environmentally sustainable way, we will wonder what ever made it seem so hard.

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