I love that we are making progress toward a more sustainable life! If you want to read about our first steps, check out our earlier post. I feel super proud of the things we do as a family and the way we’ve let that passion lead us to a new business venture. But we aren’t experts at this whole sustainability thing. We don’t have degrees in environmental science and haven’t spent years studying climate change and carbon impact. And believe me, we make lots of mistakes. Some of those we are completely oblivious to because we haven’t learned a better, more sustainable choice yet. Other times, we’re simply… failing.
Failing to Create a Habit
Sometimes we fail because we haven’t formed a habit yet. For example, I know that plastic straws add additional plastic waste and are often found in the ocean, causing trauma to our marine life. As an able-bodied adult, I don’t require the use of straw. Therefore, I know that skipping the straw is a more sustainable option that is low-hanging fruit for me. It’s not difficult to say “No straw, thank you” to a server and to skip the straw when I’m serving myself. But I will admit it; sometimes I forget! Using a straw is so ingrained in my brain in certain contexts that I forget that I don’t need it. So sometimes I fail. And I could beat myself up over it. Or I could recognize that failing is a part of learning. And that it’s progress that I am regretful over those moments when I forget to decline the straw or forget to bring my reusable bags or coffee mugs when I need them.
“So sometimes I fail. And I could beat myself up over it. Or I could recognize that failing is a part of learning.”
Failure Beyond our Control
Sometimes the family’s failure at green-living came in because of circumstances we can’t control. When Rob and I had babies, we wanted to keep the diapers out of the landfill. So we opted to use cloth diapers. Our little one looked so adorable with her fluffy bottom. Cloth diapers aren’t for the feint of heart, but they really weren’t too bad! We learned relatively early on that we had to supplement with disposables, though. Our little’s skin was too sensitive for overnight cloth diapers. We tried all kinds of ways to try to make them work, but in the end, we decided to continue using cloth throughout the day and disposable at night. Then we had a second baby. It became a little harder to juggle all those cloth diapers, but we made a diligent effort. Unfortunately, we learned that this little one’s skin was even more sensitive than the first’s and we had to stop using cloth with her. It’s super unfortunate and you could say we failed when we switched to disposable. But I like to think that we succeeded and kept diapers an estimated 2500+ diapers out of the landfill. I could say that we fail to reduce our waste because I know about zero waste stores. But since there aren’t any within an hour drive of our home, we are have to do the best with what we have. In both cases, we had to recognize that we couldn’t continue down those particular paths to sustainability.
Failing to Find the Funds
Sometimes, we fail because we can’t find a way to afford the more sustainable options. We can talk about priorities and trimming the fat off the budget so that maybe we can afford to put that money toward ethical, sustainable options, but sometimes that just isn’t feasible. When we can get five (5) soft-bristle, plastic, child-size toothbrushes for $1.00, it’s hard to choose the wooden one that costs $6.00+ and doesn’t last any longer than the cheap ones. And we certainly can’t trim enough to make ALL the more sustainable choices. The budget isn’t that thick. So we have to think critically and determine where to put the money and where we can make the most impact with what we have.
Failing to Adjust to Change
Another reason we fail is because we’ve got change fatigue. When you try to change too many things all at once it can be truly exhausting. It may make us forget. It may make us resent the change. Often it means that whatever we’re attempting isn’t something we can keep doing for the long haul. We’ve found that we do much better as a family and a business by identifying areas to change and adopting them slowly. We start with things that seem easy and we keep finding new ways to reduce our waste or lessen our negative impact. We do NOT, however, try to do a bunch of these things all at once.
Failing By Choice
But can I tell you something? Sometimes we fail because we’re just not ready to make the more sustainable choice. For example, I’ve been reading a good bit about the carbon footprint and the negative impact we make on the earth by eating meat. But we’re not ready to go vegan or even vegetarian. I’m not sure we ever will be. But we’ve started doing Meatless Mondays as a small manageable step. Read more about our first month in our post A Month of Meatless Monday Dinners. Or glitter. Man I LOVE glitter. Glitter on clothes. Glitter on bows. Glitter on art projects. But I recently learned that glitter is actually tiny pieces of plastic and that it is making it’s way into our water and to the highest peaks of mountains. I recognize that’s terrible! I recognize that I have the opportunity to make a change. But I am not sure I can commit to never use glitter or to never buy something with glitter again. I know! I know! I should. But I’m being honest with you. I’m not sure I can. And that is unfortunate. I feel ashamed telling you that, reader. How can I say that I care about the environment and still use a product that I know is harmful? I have no real defense. But I will say this, I am thinking about it now. And I suspect that my use of glitter will seriously lessen. And while that’s not perfection and there will be moments of failure, this is what real progress looks like. This is what honest effort looks like.
We’re not perfect. So far from it. But we’re a real family making an honest effort to do more and to do better for our world. We run a business founded on that very principle and share our story with you in the hopes that you, too, will see opportunity to do a little more and a little better without the pressure to be perfect all the time. If everyone took small steps, we’d make some really big progress!
So tell us, what steps are you taking? What are your failures and successes? How can we learn from you? Let us know in the comments.