When is it Ever Going to be Enough?

We live in a going-green culture of Jones’. The environmental movement is rolling along like a runaway train and I can’t help but wonder to myself if I’m making that much of a difference. I don’t think we have it in us to fully reverse the effects of greenhouse gases, heal the stratospheric ozone depletion, return the ocean waters to the quality they once were or even to turn our waste into usable energy – not globally anyway and most definitely not in my lifetime. Regardless, I have been hell bent and determined to do my part and make a difference, because I have children that need to live here long after I leave. Unfortunately, both the problem and the solution lay within the small things, the daily efforts and the little adjustments we make to our tiny worlds. In a culture of judgement, long-dicking and incredible (perhaps even unobtainable goals) are my little adjustments enough? Are yours? And who are we to say either way?

I have a tremendous circle of intelligent, environmentally savvy, planet loving, ground kissing, nature inspired people in my life. Many of which have been on this journey of minimizing their environmental impact longer and with more dedication than I have. I have gained so much knowledge from these people and have done a good job implementing many adjustments to our life, but where does it end – better yet, when are we satisfied with our efforts?

Truth be told, I have made leaps and bounds in the last two years reducing our footprint. I spent over a year researching gardening and permaculture, designing my beds, planning my seeds carefully to give me the highest yield with the least amount of work – seriously, how busy can a girl expect to get? I now have a beautiful garden that produces more bounty than we can eat, so I learned how to process everything. My husband has always hunted and we now hunt a lot as a family. A few years ago, to save money we decided to learn how to process our own meat. We now process ALL OF IT. It takes us about three full day to process an entire moose and it feeds our family for almost a year. The meat that we raise on our farm we process as well. We’ve managed to create a very self sustaining little oasis here at home, so my focus was driven to the next stage: plastic use.

We spent November making “unsponges” for our house and for family, using only recycled scraps from our old sewing projects – *poof* went the plastic sponges we used to use. I don’t use bags for my produce, not even the reusable mesh ones (because those are plastic too). I have fabric reusable shopping bags and I make my own cloths. In order to reduce packaging we now buy everything we can in bulk and we only buy it at places where I can bring all of my own jars to fill. I have made our laundry, dish and hand soap liquid from pressure canning soap nuts. All in all we have a pretty good little system going.

I know that in general we’re a judgmental species. I try hard not to be but I often struggle. I see it a lot in groups of like-minded people talking about making environmental strides. I mean come on, I can’t think of a worse place to judge peoples efforts and commitments than somewhere where the entire purpose is to improve ourselves and the planet. Maybe an addiction meeting? I’ve never been to one myself, but I can’t imagine the group saying, “I hate to break it to you Karen, although you’ve gone from snorting coke to chewing gum you’re still in fact failing. This is still an addiction.” Fuck no, wouldn’t happen – that wouldn’t be very “supportive”. On the other hand, I’ve joined a couple of groups working to reduce plastic waste and that’s exactly the tone that comes from the discussions. For instance, someone was making and selling the mesh bags for produce. Suddenly, this guy proclaims “Ah, I think you’re missing the point. Purchasing new plastic materials isn’t addressing the problem, you’re only contributing further.” Well yes in essence he is correct, however, give the woman a break. If she makes a thousand of these bags and keeps 50,000 disposables from the grocery stores out of the landfill it’s still some kind of victory.

I have friends that can’t give up paper towels or K-cups, can’t go to town without getting a coffee but never remember a to-go cup, that buy bottled water and still use plastic straws (SAY IT ISN’T SO?!?), does this mean they aren’t doing their part? No. It means that they haven’t adjusted those pieces yet and maybe they never will. It doesn’t mean that my life changes are more significant or better, it just means they’re different. In this house I haven’t mastered making all of our own condiments, so my fridge is still full of plastic, plus we still go through a god awful amount of water bottles every year because we can’t seem to remedy the problem that leads to it – but we’re brainstorming. Does that mean that all the other strides we’ve made don’t count? Nope, sure don’t.

The Dalai Lama says that “Love is the absence of judgement.” In fact, I believe every organized religion in the world asks their followers not to judge. If we know it’s wrong, why do we do it? Perhaps it’s human nature? Maybe we’re just a group of hypocrites not willing to put in the hard work and practice? Who knows. I do know that no matter how hard we try we’ll never get anywhere comparing our progress to others, and we won’t make nearly as much of a difference to this place, if we can’t be proud of the little changes we make.