Are We Really Making A Difference?
We've probably all had that one person who says 'what's the point, you're not going to change anything.' Not only does such a comment anger you, as it does me, but it also makes you begin to question (even if it is a few days later) - do my actions make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things?
It all began whilst I was writing my first contributor's article for Delikate Rayne. The theme for that particular week was 'Right Their Wrongs'. The idea was to think about something you've seen that you think you could improve or do better, so I decided to take on the Real Fur vs Faux Fur debate (you can read the full article here).
Although I argued with him until I was blue in the face, saying that sustainable fashion and eco lifestyles are gaining more prominence and that every action (big or small) makes a difference, it did make me start to think. Are my small contributions really making a difference and what could I do better. Yes, I write about and encourage living a sustainable lifestyle button what extent am I really sustainable?
One thing that many ethical, eco or sustainable bloggers or brands say is that they are not perfect but that they try their very best to live sustainably and I think that this is a very important message. Although we do try hard to incorporate sustainable choices into our lifestyle wherever possible, it is hard and because it is hard it means that we are very much like you limited in what we are able to do. This means that for many of us the sustainable choices we do make generally tend to be quite small, like taking reusable bags to the supermarket, using organic products, challenging ourselves to go plastic free – the list is endless.
Although I tell myself that collectively these small actions have a significant effect over a long period of time, especially if we as a society band together and make more eco-friendly lifestyle choices I have recently begun to question the extent to which this is true. This thought was even further propagated when I read an article by Alden Wicker aptly titled ‘Conscious consumerism is a lie. Here’s a better way to help save the world.’
In the article Wicker, much like myself is a sustainability blogger, constantly using her platform to promote eco alternative fashions, foods, travel and lifestyles. It is only when Wicker was invited to speak in front of the UN Youth delegation that Walker revealed her true feelings about conscious consumerism.
Her audience, my like myself when reading this article, looked back at her blinking and silent. I mean, talk about making us feel as though all our efforts are basically pointless. I know that in order for the small things to make a difference we have to act together which is why I was so surprised that Wicker seemed to be giving up on positive lifestyle changes that us eco-supporters have been supporting for so long. So it goes without saying that I had to read more to understand Wicker’s pretty disheartening statement.
The thing is, now sitting here typing this out behind my computer screen, I can’t sit here and dispute what Wicker is claiming. It is true that for sustainability to have a truly strong foot hold a systematic change is necessary, without it we really are like fish trying to swim against a strong current. Wicker suggests that instead of spending our time and money on sustainable issues that ultimately have a direct personal impact or a limited positive effect e.g. buying organic produce from farmer’s markets – we should use that money and time to get involved with practical projects.
I agree with Wicker that such actions are important but I don’t think that we can adopt such defeatist approach towards the small steps that we do take. Just as Wicker used facts and figures to support her point of view I like to use people because I think people inspire change.
Lauren Singer was my inspiration.
Much like myself, Lauren studied sustainability at NYU but found herself not living a way that was best for the planet so Lauren decided to make a change and embarked on a zero waste lifestyle challenge. She adopted an every little bit helps attitude much like the rest of us, cutting back on shopping, using refillables wherever possible even shopping exclusively at farmers markets to avoid the excess plastic packaging in supermarkets. Now, Lauren has a successful blog Trash is for Tossers that documents her zero waste lifestyle as well as two companies (The Simply Co and the Package Free Shop) both of which aim to eliminate packaging associated with buying everyday goods…. This all happened within the space of FIVE years, five?!
In the space of five years, Lauren’s life choices have gone form not only impacting her life but the lifestyle of her collective 190, 600 followers.
Whilst we still may have long way to go with making a systematic change, through our actions we are getting more people on our side and it is only by doing so that we will be able to implement a systematic change.
I think it is important that if we want to push the sustainability agenda forward, we must adopt a combination of these actions. We shouldn’t underestimate the degree to which our actions influence others but at the same time we shouldn’t limit ourselves either and we should push ourselves in the way that Wicker suggests, that Lauren Singer has done.
Looking at my life now and what I want to do, what am I going to do to make a change? I think the first thing is that I definitely want to promote this blog more, not only to hare my opinion but to create a platform for others to do the same. I also need to push myself in the way that Singer has so that I become more of a person that practices what they preach. Lastly I think I need to stop underestimating my ability to make a change, take the plunge and send my work to editors and magazines and just be open minded to where this path may take me.
What will you do, or what changes are you hoping to make in order to live the lifestyle that you promote? Let me know in the comments below!