I think one of the big mistakes many people make – especially around radical life changes to be more sustainable, is that if it’s easy for them, it’s easy. How well resourced a person is to begin with makes a lot of odds. Resources like time, money, energy, skills, education, and health all make a lot of difference to how hard or easy something will be. Everything is harder when you are already struggling.
I find it easy living without a car. This is in no small part because I’ve never had a car. I am well enough that I can mostly get where I need to go on foot, and I don’t do things I can’t do without a car. For someone who has always had a car, doing without a car isn’t easy and requires a lot of changes in what you do, how you plan and how long things take. For someone who is ill or disabled, being without a car may be impossible.
Not having a car, I can’t drive to the farmer’s market to pick up a week’s supply of vegetables. I can’t park near my local loose goods store and drive all my plastic-free food home. The process of getting food home has made being plastic free difficult to say the least. I would also struggle to afford to buy all my food on these terms. I’ve cut back on plastic every way I can manage, I’ve questioned my food choices and I’ve given things up. I’m not as good as I want to be.
I feel strongly that we shouldn’t be blaming or shaming people whose lack of resources makes it hard for them to be green. It’s good to flag up ways of being green that save money or aren’t that hard, because if lots of people can engage a bit, that’s progress. It’s often the people with most resources who cause the most harm. Be that with buying things that will soon be thrown away, food waste, flying abroad, travelling by car, using a lot of water, buying products with a lot of air miles on them – it’s the things that cost the most that often also… cost the most.
It’s easy for me to give up flying. I’ve only done it a couple of times in my life. It’s easy to do without holidays when you can’t afford them. It’s easy not to support the environmentally damaging fashion industry when you can’t afford to buy new clothes that often and really have to make your clothing last.
But it’s hard avoiding palm oil on a small budget.
And when you’re tired, and sore and you work long hours and your home isn’t warm enough and everything is a struggle… you probably aren’t going to be able to grow organic veg on an allotment to make nutritious stews to feed your family.
If becoming green is easy, it’s probably because you have the resources that make it easy.
If becoming green is easy there’s a very real chance this is because you had far more than you needed to begin with. Cutting back from a place of excess isn’t so very difficult in practical terms, even if you do feel like you’re doing something heroic.
And if it is easy for you, please, please consider that it might not be easy for someone else.