Before I delve into my July challenge, I want to point out two things:
a) Completely unexpectedly, my June challenge of talking to strangers on a daily basis, seems to have completely changed the way I interact with the world around me. This realisation dawned on me during my last week’s business trip to Toronto, when I just couldn’t stop chatting to strangers — in trains, planes, client offices, and when walking around the city (all those poor dog owners must’ve thought I was slightly crazy…). So far, of all ‘practices’ we experimented with over the last 7 months, this seems to be something that stuck with me most — more than yoga and meditation. And what’s even more surprising, this was the very challenge I personally dreaded most.
b) Whilst talking to strangers doesn’t seem to amount to much in the UK (unless you manage to bump into a friendly tourist), in Canada every single person I chatted to over a three-day-long trip, invited me for a drink, coffee, walk, whatever, both men and women. Make of it what you want.
Now, this month’s challenge — in July, me and Drew embarked on a ‘no waste challenge’ or, in other words, trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible. This means — recycling, staying away from products sold in plastic packages, using our own cups when ordering coffee, filling up our own water bottles, saving electricity, buying eco-friendly products, you name it.
(You can see how keen Drew was to embark on the ‘no waste’ challenge with me 😜🙃)
And whilst the very beginning of the month started on a very positive note, with me buying fruit and vegetables from little stalls near work and bringing my own lunch box to a salad take-away place I usually go to, things started getting worse after about a week.
Coming back home late from work one day, I was desperate to sort out my grocery shopping as quickly and efficiently as possible, so I headed to ‘the big Sainsbury’s’ near my tube station, hoping I could just run between the aisles and leave the place in 10 minutes or so. Not. A. Chance.
Firstly, finding ingredients in recycleable containers wasn’t an easy task at all — plus I wasn’t sure whether I should go for paper packaging or cans, so it took me ages to decide which tomato passata I should buy. Secondly, most of the fruit and vegetables I wanted to buy weren’t available ‘loose’ at all (or if they were, they were about 50–100% more expensive). In the end, I lost my patience and simply grabbed a (plastic!) box of cherry tomatoes and headed to the cashier. Well, it surely wasn’t hard to derail me from my pursuit for a more eco-friendly life style.
Another interesting thing was that whenever I was in a bad mood and felt like silently letting off steam (as bad mood isn’t something you can overtly express in a client-facing role like mine), my anger took a form of being bad to the environment. One morning I got up on the wrong side of the bed and simply didn’t feel like going upstairs to our office to grab my coffee Keep Cup, so instead I headed straight to our coffee kiosk to grab my morning oat milk cappuccino in the usual disposable cup. Even my ‘coffee guy’ pointed it out to me. On another occassion, after a heavy client conversation, I didn’t bother going to my usual buffet place for lunch, instead grabbing one of the packaged meals from Pret. What a rebel!
Not to mention the time I spent travelling, either for work or pleasure. To find eco-friendly options when eating out or grocery shopping in an unknown environment, is extremely difficult and oftentimes hunger, lack of time, or scarcity of alternative solutions would simply force me to go for the default, eco-unfriendly option. Or maybe I’m only making excuses?
Now, to be fair, there are some consistent changes I’ve made to my daily routine. I stopped using plastic straws, always carried my water bottle with me, and religiously recycled rubbish at home. But then, what’s the point, if 90% of the population doesn’t seem to give a sh*t about these things?
All you environmentalists out there — I now understand your frustration at seeing people around you throwing paper cups in general waste bins or using plastic straws in drinks that really do not require them (Frappuccino might admittedly be one of the few drinks that does indeed require a straw…. but then, could we maybe use paper straws instead?).
I had many conversations with my friends about these issues. One pointed out how ridiculous it is that some places are banning straws, but still keep using plastic cups. Another emphaised that one person changing their habits would not affect the way we, as a society, affect the environment. Another friend yet made it a point to show me at every possible occasion how environmentally unfriendly they choose to be on a daily basis — just to tease me, I get it, but it still highlights the point I’m trying to make here.
And yet, my usual optimistic self cannot help but try to look for a silver lining. Starbucks recently introduced £1 reusable cups, using which gives customers a substantial discount for every beverage they buy in their stores; many places switch from plastic cups and straws to paper ones; and recycling bins are available almost everywhere these days. So it is within our choice to put that extra effort in, to stop destroying our Planet, one step at a time.
The very problem is that environmentally friendly behaviours occupy the very tip of the Maslow’s pyramid of needs : the self-actualisation tip.
Many people in our society, and all the more in the 2nd or 3rd world countries, don’t even meet their physiological or safety needs, so how could they possibly bother themselves with solving global problems which lay so far away from their personal ones?
After 20-something days of really trying to be good to our Mother Nature and Planet Earth, I conclude with deep sorrow and disappointment that, without global increase in lifestyle standards and behavioural interventions or social policy changes, we simply cannot save the Planet.
Everything around us involves, to some extent, non-degradeable materials and people generally don’t seem to give a sh*t about recycling or energy saving.
What’s more, even those who are lucky enough to be in a position to strive to be more environmentally friendly, might struggle doing so on a daily basis.
It seems that the easier, more available or promoted option is almost always bad for the environment.
So what should we do? I seriously don’t know.
I’ll stick to my Keep Cups, reusable bottles and lunch boxes, I’ll recycle and avoid plastic straws, buy eco-friendly products as much as I can, and speak about the issue with those who are likely to listen. Some people will probably laugh at me, but some might (hopefully) join the ‘mission’. Sometimes I’ll probably fail miserably, but 80% of the time should make the difference, shouldn’t it?
Funnily enough, last week I met someone who works in Sainsbury’s upper-level administration. I told him about my “cherry tomato crisis”, and of course he mocked me half of the evening. But then, I got a text the next day, saying that he’d check it out for me. Whether he was serious or not, maybe – just maybe – there’s hope for the Planet after all.