“I could never do that.”
This phrase never bothered me. To each their own, right? But the more frequently I hear it, the more flippant it seems. It led me to question my lifestyle, and subsequently to the title of this blog post.
Why should one person try to make incremental changes? Change is uncomfortable and requires effort.
One person’s efforts will never change the world. But when Antarctica is melting three times as fast as a decade ago, the oldest and largest baobabs in Africa have begun to fall and die, and China has announced their decision to reject foreign waste, which renders recycling in the US pointless, our only option is to question where we went wrong. How does one go about change in favor of the environment?
Your first inclination may be to peruse empirical research about the effect of “eco-friendly habits” on the environment to determine which lifestyle is best. Unfortunately, lobbyists from the meat, dairy or even horticulture industry make it nearly impossible to find unbiased research on agriculture. Consequently, there is debate over the benefits of efforts like veganism toward the environment – some in support and others against. Ultimately, diet boils down to individual belief, goals or intuition. While excluding animal by-products entirely may seem helpful, reducing your red meat intake alone can significantly reduce your environmental impact, not to mention the risk of coronary heart disease, too. Using veganism as an excuse to include more fresh, unprocessed food in your diet isn’t a bad idea either.
Another alternative is the zero-waste lifestyle. A friend of mine runs a fantastic zero-waste blog which I highly recommend reading if you want to transition. Although some may perceive zero-waste as arduous, resources on how to reduce your waste are growing by the day, making it increasingly accessible. What makes a zero-waste lifestyle so appealing is the undeniable harm that unrecyclable materials are causing the environment. It’s incredibly difficult for empirical research to be biased when the tangible effect of excess waste production interferes with everyday life. Thus, drastically reducing your waste will have a guaranteed positive effect on the environment. I’m certain that most people have seen videos of sea turtles having plastic straws pulled out of their nostrils, or more recently, whales washing up on shores, ill and consequently dying from consuming so much plastic.
Rightly so, many people have a tendency to perceive the aforementioned lifestyle changes as radical. It’s no small feat to omit food that is deeply ingrained in cultural practices or exclude pervasive materials like plastic. However, it’s entirely possible – it just requires strong reasoning in order to be sustainable. If not for the environment, then consider the ethics behind either lifestyle – there are plenty of reasons to pursue either if not both paths.
The most important thing to note about transitioning into these lifestyles is that you do not have to go cold turkey. Like developing healthy habits, incremental change has proven to be an effective way to implement behavioral change. I urge you to consider how you can help the environment by reducing your waste or beginning your plant-based journey, whether it be through gradual or sudden withdrawal. I will be writing posts specific to transitioning into each lifestyle in the near future so please stay tuned! Thanks for reading :^)