I was surrounded by waste and excess: styrofoam cups, plastic straws, paper wrappers, thin plastic placemats, and plasticrap toys. Across the table, First Son and Second Son were filling their toothy grins with french fries (deep fried) and chicken strips (probably full of antibiotics and hormones), eager to finish eating so they would have time for the indoor playground.
It was Second Son's birthday, and we were at Chick-Fil-A. My boys were delighted, and I was weighed down with guilt.
I didn't plan to have Second Son's birthday dinner at a fast food restaurant. We were there because of poor planning on my part, and that was partially the cause of my guilt. But these days I feel guilty about a lot of things. Not just anytime I step foot inside a fast food restaurant, but also when I forget to take my cloth bags to the grocery store, or buy a Coke at the gas station because I forgot my stainless steel water bottle, or make a trip to Target because I've searched in vain for a used belt and can't justify to myself spending $40 on a belt made from recycled materials.
And I spend more than my fair share of over-thinking-it time, like when my flip flops broke, and oh, crap, good shoes are really hard to find at a thrift store, but where am I going to find affordable flip flops made from sustainable materials by someone who's not getting screwed for being born in a different country?
This is the curse of being a Conscious Shopper, and it's at those moments that I can understand why some people say, "It's better not to know" and others say, "I try not to care."
But I have a solution...It's during those extreme moments of guilt and over-thinking-it that it's time to turn to the 80/20 Rule.
The 80/20 Rule Defined
You may have heard of the 80/20 rule of dieting that suggests that if you eat healthy 80% of the time, it's okay to blow your diet the other 20% of the time. Put in practice, this means that if you eat healthy Monday through Friday, you can scarf down a burger and fries on Saturday night and indulge in some ice cream on Sunday.
But the 80/20 rule can be used for much more than just diet. Rephrase it a little, and it could say, "If you live green, 80% of the time, it's okay to blow it the other 20% of the time.
Used in this way, the 80/20 Rule can give you some room to wiggle as you transition to a greener lifestyle.
The 80/20 Rule in Action
A few months ago, I mentioned the 80/20 rule as a Jogging Stride suggestion in my post about using fewer paper towels: 80% of the time reach for cloth first. The other 20% of the time, use paper towels made with recycled content.
Here are some other examples:
- If I try to feed my family healthy, made-from-scratch meals 80% of the time, it's okay to indulge in fast food for the other 20% of our meals.
- If I am able to purchase 80% of our food from organic or local sources, then 20% of the time, it's okay to eat hot dogs and macaroni and cheese.
- If 80% of our clothes are from the thrift store or other eco-friendly sources, then 20% of our clothes can come from Target.
- If we try to live sustainably 80% of the year, it's okay to take some vacations from green living the other 20% of the time.
Some people might argue that an 80% effort is not enough. Perhaps they are right...
But as I sat at Chick-Fil-A, unable to turn off my eco-conscious conscience, I could sense an encroaching environmental burnout. And it's at those moments that the 80/20 rule is essential.
80% of the time I give 100%, but 20% of the time, I give myself a little slack.
Can you think of any other examples where the 80/20 rule could apply to green living?