The problem with “sustainable lifestyle” bloggers is that they’re liars.
That does not mean that they are always lying on purpose or that a sustainable or minimalist lifestyle is not a good thing to have but ultimately, they’re selling you something, an ideal, and like much you will be sold in your life – at least some of it is fake.
Reducing plastic waste and becoming less consumerist isn’t all clean wooden counters and upcycled mason jars. It isn’t all 5 Quick and Easy Tips. It’s also untidy cupboards of yogurt cartons to reuse to plant seeds and scraps of old shirts for rags and old paper carrier bags full of paper carrier bags to use as bin liners or put your muddy boots in. Keeping things to reuse and recycle takes up space, it is rarely minimalist. It’s remembering to make extra dinner for tomorrows lunch, even when you’re tired, and the trial and error of getting a travel mug that doesn’t leak all over the inside of your bag on the bus.
Sustainable lifestyle YouTube channels and WordPress stars with glowing skin and clean white interior decorating styles, say things like “quick and easy” because they have the luxury of time and the resources to spend more money. And let’s be clear here, to live a “sustainable”, zero waste life you WILL have to spend a bit more money than your less sustainable peers. The reason these bloggers tell you otherwise? Because they’re selling you something. Frequently they are literally selling you “green” products from companies that sponsor their blogs. Quite frankly, making an elitist artform out of thrift, recycling and common-sense is beginning to irritate.
It isn’t just as easy. Cloth diapers may be sustainable but BOY do they require dedication in reality. Telling people that it is just as easy when being “sustainable” is your full-time job is disingenuous. It is lying.
But tell people why it’s worth that little extra time, why it’s worth that little extra money. Explain how enough people changing behaviour can change how companies package products and will make it easier in the future. Stop acting as if your small compost bin is personally saving the planet and talk about how important it is local authorities collects and composts food waste on a larger scale. Promote legislation or regulation that targets manufacturers and retailers that are responsible for wasteful packaging and products, so people don’t have to spend an extra hour on their weekly shop to avoid grapes in two layers of plastic. Let’s support local fix-it shops and recycling centres and glass bottle return schemes.
Living in a way that upholds your personal values, that you believe is better for the common good, is a fulfilling and commendable way to live and I would not want to devalue that. But trendy, individualistic elitism is not in-and-of-itself effective activism for the environment.
Physician heal thyself to be sure, but then use the privilege of that health and training to do some healing for those around you.
I’m spending January trying to avoid single-use plastic and have been Tweeting about me efforts. I want to be as honest as possible about what is and isn’t feasible while also working and living a life. So far, I’ve found lots of helpful advice. There’s the obvious stuff like water bottles and tote bags, using bar soap inside of shower gels or creams and shampoo bars as well.
But finding the places in your local area that sell thing like bicarbonate soda (baking or bread soda) in bulk to use in cleaning products or sell olive oil in metal containers not plastic involves reaching out to your network.
Talking to people about what you’re trying to do might feel uncomfortable at first, like you’re bragging or trying to look superior, but it’s so important for effecting real change because either they’ll learn something from you or, more enough than not, you have something to learn from others (thanks to everyone on my Facebook and Twitter for all the great shop tips!).