Monday, March 4, 2013

Accepting Inconvenience for the Planet

The Climate Crusader considers how much inconvenience she's willing to accept in an effort to live a greener lifestyle.

"Aw, mom, can we drive today?"

Nearly every morning before we walk up the hill to school, one of my kids asks this question. Nearly always, the answer is No. When my daughter started kindergarten two-and-a-half years ago, I committed to walking to school and home every day. There have been a few exceptions, when I've had somewhere to go in the morning or afternoon, and I've driven. But I can safely say that we walk well over 95% of the time, in any weather. I realize I'm fortunate to have the freedom to do this as a work at home mom, and I want to take advantage of it.

A similar scene plays out when I'm halfway through the grocery store and I realize I've forgotten my reusable bags in the car. I think to myself, "Do I really need to go downstairs for them? They use paper bags at this grocery store, would it be a big deal if I took them just this once?" Eventually I concluded that I was willing to face the inconvenience to head downstairs to the parking garage, hauling my four-year-old with me all the way, while my half-full cart sat at Customer Service.

Reusable bags aren't much good if you forget them
What both of these stories have in common, in my mind, is whether we're willing to accept some level of inconvenience in an effort to live more sustainably. When it's raining and you're running late, do you just hop in the car or do you walk? When your reusable grocery bags are all the way downstairs and you have a preschooler and a half-full cart, do you go and fetch them or do you let it slide? When you forget your reusable water bottle do you buy water in a plastic bottle, go without, or find a sustainable alternative?

The truth is that it's easy to be green when it doesn't take any extra time out of your day. I experience this, myself. I'm lucky to have curbside recycling and compost pick-up, and I use them. But when I have something that I need to bring into the recycling center, I drag my feet and dawdle, and sometimes just end up throwing it out. I try to reassure myself that one little drink box that my kid got from school won't matter that much, compared to every other day when she brings a reusable water bottle. Recycling that drink box just feels like too much work.

I think we all need to make a decision, for ourselves, about how much we're willing to go out of our way in an effort to be green. I would actually suggest starting with a fairly comfortable level. If you take on too much, you're more likely to feel overwhelmed. But once your small changes become habits that you don't even have to think about, why not stretch yourself a little further? Accept a little more inconvenience, walk out of your way a little further, until that becomes habit, too. Slowly but surely you'll be living a greener lifestyle, and it won't feel as inconvenient as it might have at the outset.

How much inconvenience are you willing to accept on behalf of the planet?


Julia (Color Me Green) said...

being green definitely involves inconveniences. this was a source of contention with a previous boyfriend, since i was willing to make sacrifices and be inconvenienced for the sake of a better future for us all and he wasn't. i think it's a big stumbling block for a lot of people. but yes, best to start small until it becomes habit and work your way from there...

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

It's an interesting issue. I think it can be tough to accept inconvenience knowing that individual choices, while important, will not in the end be enough. So I think if you are going to monumentally inconvenience yourself, it should be for political action. As a matter of principle and for the sake of my own conscience, I do try to do as much as I can without burning out...

Christy said...

Inconvenience is a definite part of making changes for the environment. Everyone seems to have a different line in the sand. I am trying to challenge myself to push my line in the sand but it is interesting which things I'm willing to put the effort into and which things are just too hard right now.

I am finding a sense of eco-martyr-ness lately. The harder the change is, the more I am determined to do it. But I am noticing other things where I just ignore the poor choices I am knowingly making.

Green Bean said...

This is so true. If it isn't much of an inconvenience - cost or time-wise - people will go green. But when things get harder . . . I've been recovering from a spinal injury that has left me without a way to cook a meal, go to the grocery store and such.

I finally suck it up and order I spend 30 minutes trying to find organic, non-GMO food. I choose the "green" option where they drop it off at their convenience instead of mine. Then my groceries swathed in plastic bags. I didn't even think of that!

This experience has made me realize that we all have our varying abilities to inconvenience ourselves for the planet. When I'm healthy, I'm a stay at home mom and can inconvenience myself all day long. I realize now how hard it is though for some people and how we really need to mobilize to ensure that the system is changed as well as asking people to make individual changes.

All Natural Katie said...

I battle with this topic a lot! As I was reading your post, I was thinking of the Whole Foods trip where I did not have any reusable bags with me. My cart was full of plastic produce bags. However, I do try to reuse those several times. I find that the most challenging times (and the times when we truly understand our commitment to living a green lifestyle) is when we travel. During our last trip, I wish we were able to recycle all of the plastic bottles, but there were no options.

Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking said...

Your posts always give us something to think about!! I have found it helps me to get into a routine of doing things. Like when I come back from the grocery and empty our bags if I will go right then and put them back in the car I always have them with me.

Kelly Coyle DiNorcia said...

This is a really interesting post. I definitely find that my willingness to accept inconvenience varies depending on a lot of factors. It's kind of the same thing with money - different people are willing to pay for different levels of convenience. If I'm really tired, or in a huge rush, then convenience wins. Other times when I've planned better then green wins. I think we need to all do what we can, be realistic but also be willing to take a hard look at ourselves and live with integrity. The more green becomes a priority for more people, the more convenient it will become!


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