Exhausting To Be An Environmentalist 24/7

March 23, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Martina Rowley

As I pondered a possible topic to write about this month, I decided to forego my usual research-problem-solutions-focused style and take a faster, more direct approach by writing something directly from my heart.

My columns typically highlight environmental issues, purchasing habits and other consumer practices I want to inform others about and inspire to make some changes to reduce our collective impact on the environment. Talking about all these passion projects and topics gets me riled up and jumping onto my green soapbox to educate, encourage and be part of the change. I am content with and a little proud of all the efforts I make in numerous aspects of my everyday life to reduce my environmental footprint and feel as pleased as punch whenever I have inspired a friend or neighbour to make one change in their habits. But the fact is, it is not always easy being an environmentalist 24/7.

Although I feel good about making choices for a smaller environmental impact, the simple fact of buying or deciding whether to buy certain foods, a new household item or new piece of clothing, or travel somewhere further afield and by which mode all too often sparks an internal debate, questioning, justification or a touch of guilt when I have made a final decision.

I care about my Food Miles and the insane amount of energy it takes to grow many fruits out of season in greenhouses in some other country, only to be flown thousands of miles to my local supermarket. So, I avoid buying such produce unless I can buy locally grown fruits and vegetables when they are available here, seasonally appropriate. I worry about Sweatshops and cheap clothing that is not only environmentally but also ethically dubious and will not last long either, thereby contributing to fabric waste and that disposal problem. It means I generally stay clear of ultra-cheap clothing labelled “Made in Indonesia” or anywhere near there. And I am all too aware of the massive problem with plastic packaging and Canada’s low plastic recycling rates, making me avoid buying condiments, other food items, and beauty care products in single-use plastic containers and instead buy foods in glass, in cardboard boxes, or in bulk or refillable in my own reusable containers. Do you know, by the way, how difficult it is nowadays to find ketchup in a glass bottle instead of plastic? I looked in several supermarkets and could not find one. Let me know if you can tell me where to find it locally! 

The odd times when I give in and cannot avoid buying something in a single-use and potentially even non-recyclable container (gasp!), I suffer a real guilt trip. Here I am, writing this green column every month, striving and pushing for environmentally better practices in all walks of life, and then I go and buy a take-out meal and drink from a burger place, where I have to throw the cup into my garbage, destined for a landfill and staying intact for decades to come. You will not believe the guilt trip that it causes me. And on and on it goes – it can be exhausting!

Still, I take that occasional guilt and continue with my eco habits, as I know other ‘greenies’ do as well—we keep ploughing on. If we gave in to the easiest-option ethos all the time, we could not live with ourselves and in many ways that is a good thing. Environmental change often comes from those who are a little extreme about their views and habits and what they and we are willing to sacrifice to protect our Planet. They need not be the famous scientists, conservationists, ecologists, and other vocal leaders who appear in the media eventually. The change-makers include local eco heroes, the lesser-known or even unknown individuals, who fight for one or several aspects of environmental protection and change. One thing they or we have in common is a constant awareness of how almost every action may impact the natural environment—whether directly or indirectly, and whether it has an immediate or a long-range effect; a little like chess players, who anticipate their own and their opponent’s moves several steps in advance. While I am quite rubbish at playing chess, I am solid in my environmental practices. Here’s to making the next smart, guilt-free eco move. 

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