Save the date! It’s happening on Saturday 28 March 2020 at 8:30 pm local time. For one hour, people all over the world will be switching the lights off in their houses, as a show of support for our beautiful, but tired planet. Will you be one of them?
With the current health crisis that the world is facing, and with everyone staying safely at home for the next few weeks, it sure might not feel like the best of times to be without electricity for an hour. Or is it? I think that we have here, on the contrary, the perfect opportunity to sit down (in the dark), to take a step back from our busy lives and to think about what we are doing to our home, Nature.
On this occasion, I want to share with you, dear readers, my own imperfect love for Earth. I want to discuss some of the little things we can do to make a difference together, even if just for an hour. And I want to make sure we do not forget this big threat to our survival as a species, a threat that the coronavirus is currently distracting us from: climate change.
To join the Earth hour movement, be part of a powerful global action and add your voice to the petition for the planet, please visit: earthhour.org.
Believing in the little changes, one day at a time
I am what you would call, a ‘moderate ecologist’.
Don’t get me wrong. I deeply admire the full-time environmental activists who dedicate their lives to raising awareness and pressuring key deciders. I trust science, I try to stay informed on the facts and I do acknowledge the reality of the problem. Also, I genuinely wish David Attenborough was my dad (that’s not weird, he is half god, half teddy bear). But despite it all, I can’t commit to the hardcore ‘living-in-a-tree-only-eating-organic-carrots-never-touching-a-computer-again’ lifestyle. I would love to, but I just can’t.
Because I understand the level of strength such a lifestyle requires, and I am not perfect. I love bacon, cheese and travelling, and I don’t feel ready to give those things up just yet.
Us humans, we are creatures of habit. We’ll be resistant to change if it means we have to let go of things we have always had or have always done. Even if that change is good for us, in the long run. It’s only natural. Our emotional brain is the alpha male of our soul, it almost always wins over reason: it creates denial to not have to feel fear, until it really has no choice but to. For instance, I might give up bacon one day, but that will probably only be on the day when my emotional brain gets attacked by angry pigs wanting to literally eat it with enflamed pitchforks.
Ok, so. Not perfect. But the good news is: I don’t have to be! There is a whole spectrum of environmentalism in between the profit-thirsty billionaire pouring uranium in rivers, and the vegan angel organising protests in front of the British Airways headquarters. I believe that every little gesture truly does help. Like the saying goes: ‘We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.’
What I personally do is:
I cut myself some slack for not being a practicing full-on Nature Jesus. I try to be self-aware and conscious of the consequences of my actions. I try not to ignore my individual environmental responsibility, and to never use ‘whataboutism’ as a means to do so (‘oh but, but, what about that big corporation doing something bad, but, blah’). And I try to integrate small environmentally-friendly changes into my daily routine with one magical word: al-ter-na-tive.
My list of alternatives
An alternative is just a second option that is acceptable to you. Should your first choice for anything turn out to be bad for the environment, look around for an alternative that is less harmful and that you are still happy with. Basically, an alternative is a great way to keep your emotional brain at bay: you are reducing you impact on the planet while not feeling like you are making that much of a sacrifice. Win-win.
Alternatives are different for each one of us, of course. What is easy for me to abandon, might require years of ‘rehab’ for you. Here are the alternatives I have chosen:
• No to car / Yes to bike: the Netherlands is so small and well-equipped for cycling, it’s actually easier, cheaper and often faster to cycle everywhere (so many traffic lights in the cities!). I don’t own a car and I don’t miss it.
• No to unclean energy / Yes to Dutch wind: there is enough wind around here for all of us! A year ago, I switched to a green electricity provider, guaranteed 100% wind energy and no nuclear energy. My bill hasn’t changed.
• No to online shopping / Yes to local businesses: Haarlem has everything! Really nice independent toy shops, home stores, dress-up and party shops… I am boycotting all the big online reselling platforms and I buy at least 90% of all my shopping in physical stores.
• No fast-food / Yes to home ‘cooked’ meals: by home cooked, I don’t even mean I spend five hours every day in the kitchen. I just boycott all fast-food chains and instead eat my beloved grease in the form of a homemade pizza and in the comfort of my own sofa.
• No to one bin / Yes to three bins: recycling is the easiest thing ever. Do it. Argument over.
• No to cosmetics / Yes to natural beauty: it’s crazy how eating fruits and vegetables works so much better for the skin and hair than foundation and conditioner! I suppose I am lucky I have never felt like I needed make-up. I am also lucky I never bought into the marketing hoax, ‘the 152 products you need for dry hair, as recommended by hairdressers’. I own a bar of soap-free shampoo, soap-free shower gel, some argan oil for my skin, a deodorant, sunscreen and toothpaste. That’s it.
• No to fashion / Yes to wearing the same stuff as last year: I don’t care if it comes from a second-hand store or from my drag queen cousin three times removed. If it’s comfortable and doesn’t have holes in it or uncleanable stains, I am wearing it.
• Less meat and sugar / More veggie meals: oh, I still eat bacon. And chicken. And steaks. And salmon. Yum. But I reduced my meat or fish meals from daily to two or three times a week maximum. I also avoid eating sugar every day (except natural sugar already present in fruits). I try as much as I can to buy my fruits and vegetables organic, seasonal and local. The only thing I buy that comes from outside of Europe are bananas.
What about you, what alternatives have you picked? I am curious! Please do share with me in the comments section below the little things that you and your family do for our planet. Let’s all change a little, to bring a big change about and build a world we can be proud of!
Thanks for reading, don’t forget to switch off your lights this Saturday at 8:30 pm.
There is a whole spectrum of environmentalism – I believe that every little gesture truly does help
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