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Why I gave up trying to save the world

A while back I was big into helping the environment, saving the world, you know, that kind of thing. The problem was that the more I learnt, the more depressing everything seemed. Worse still, the general message was about guilt. People who drove cars, purchased items in plastic packaging, ate red meat, didn’t have enough north facing windows, etc were destroying this planet. In other words, people like me were destroying this planet.

I didn’t want to be destroying the planet. But if I didn’t drive a car it would take me about 2.5 hours to get to work – one way, a crazily high percentage of items come packaged in some form of plastic, I quickly got sick of eating chicken every day and it didn’t seem particularly feasible to do major renovations to the house. I felt more and more guilty and less and less empowered to be able to fix anything.

So I gave up.

Don’t get me wrong, I used low energy light bulbs and I still recycled bottles, cans and paper, but that was about it. I still cared but I figured there wasn’t much I could practically do so I just stopped thinking about it. Problem solved.

…Until recently when a series of comments, articles and podcasts stirred this whole thing up again. At first I let the comments float by (I wasn’t going to get sucked into that old guilt spiral again) but then I realized that I was actually hearing a different message. Rather than being told I was evil for existing, the underlying message was “We all have to live on this planet and so do our kids and future generations. So let’s get on with doing what we can to live in a sustainable way.” So simple. It was not a message of guilt, but rather a practical message of hope. Let’s make the changes that we can towards creating a better world.

And so I’ve started a compost heap in my back garden. I feed it daily with fruit and vegetable scraps. It’s just a baby but it will grow. Each week I save a few kilograms of garbage from being picked up by the garbage truck. In many ways this is small. Maybe even insignificant. I doubt you could even see the compost heap if you zoom in on Google maps. But it’s something. The true power comes as more and more people start taking these little steps. It’s an matter of scale. Imagine if millions of people around the city all began using a compost heap. That would save millions of kilograms of garbage and probably take a few garbage trucks off the road. Now that would be something.

For me this is just the first step as I renew my long journey towards living in a better, greener pattern. And it’s got me thinking about what other steps I can take. At home but also at work. What steps can I take at work? How can our businesses, the places where we spend many hours of each day become greener? How can our businesses all their part in creating hope, in saving the world?

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