Last year I presented my class at Northwest Natural Gas over four lunch hours. At the first session, one of the participants said “I just don’t know if what I do matters.” I blurted out “You’ll feel differently at the end of this class.” Then I thought to myself, what if he doesn’t?
It is easy and understandable to feel overwhelmed by the situation we find ourselves in at this time – so many systems in disarray. The way I think about it is this:
- Simply not continuing a “bad” habit or practice makes a difference. Whether that means remembering to turn off the lights when they’re not needed, turning off the faucet when you’re washing dishes instead of letting the water run down the drain, or taking your grocery bag to the store, every small behavior change counts. For example, it is just as easy to put recyclables into a bag intended for them as it to put them in a bag intended for garbage.
- It is so important to live with integrity. We know if we’re living in line with our values. The discomfort comes when we’re not.
- Sometimes it’s hard to take personal responsibility for our actions. I mean, for example, that it can be simpler to blame the manufacturer whose packaging isn’t recyclable. But we might be able to choose a different product that does have recyclable packaging. Or choose to buy the product in the bulk section of the grocery store. Or contact the manufacturer to ask them to consider making a change to their packaging. Very seldom is someone making us do something.
- I love the feeling I get when I figure out another way to avoid having to toss something!
Another participant in the same class shared this:
”Something I really appreciated about your approach (and a truth I’m realizing applies to many improvements- not just sustainability) is that you found a balance between striving and having grace for yourself…and in finding that balance you had/have the sustaining ability to keep making progress forward so that after all these years you are down to ONE can of garbage in 16 months. These changes don’t happen overnight but living with integrity means getting on a path that leads us to a cleaner/better/more responsible future!”
I share this here because what she says about having grace for one’s efforts is so important. We need to know that there will be times that we make mistakes (like forgetting our reusable cup or bags), but we don’t have to let that misstep trip up our efforts, we keep moving on toward our goal of lowering our impact on the planet.
What can you avoid throwing away by making one behavior change? Share that here and inspire others.
Check the website for Far West Recycling. They accept many items that are not recyclable at curbside and have several locations in the Portland metro area. We save up our recyclables, then drop them at a Far West that is near one of the areas we’re going to make a trip to.