Why eco-conscious living is our ONLY choice (and why we aren’t making it)

While we may have once thought ‘green’ was a lifestyle choice taken up by a fringe or elite minority, it is fast becoming apparent this is not the case. We’ve created a HUGE mess here on Earth and are officially at a crossroads. We are screwing our planet while our smart technology keeps us on fast forward in a virtual fantasy land, heading not to a place of happiness & fulfillment but to the oblivion WE’RE creating with our ‘convenient’ (unsustainable) purchasing decisions. We can’t keep pretending it’s not that bad or someone else will fix it; it’s time for US to step up and make the deep and meaningful changes in our lives that will save our future. Eco-conscious living is our ONLY choice if we want a happy ending on this planet.

We are at a crossroads

Our planet is on the high road to fucked and it’s the 11th hour. Biodiversity is plummeting, with 1,000,000 species under threat of extinction (and yet we’re still buying products that wipe out their habitats). Climate change is accelerating, threatening food security, water supply, biodiversity, oceans, etc. (and yet we’re still burning fossil fuels). Plastic pollution is killing our oceans and microplastics are in our food, water and air (and yet we’re still using disposable plastic). And that ain’t the half of it. And the worst part? Not that we’re letting it happen, that we’re CREATING it.

The green choice myth

Somehow we’ve been led to believe that ‘green’ is a choice. I’ve spent most of my life feeling guilty about standing up for my principles, about making ‘inconvenient’ requests, whether it was for a recycling bin or free-range eggs. But I’m DONE apologising for my ‘hippie-ness’ and I’m actually even done with people who use words like ‘hippie’ or ‘greenie’ to describe the minority of the human population who genuinely and deeply GIVE A CRAP about our future on this planet (and more importantly our children’s future. Yeh that’s right, there are plenty more people to come this way once we’ve torched & burned everything in our path). I live sustainably because I KNOW it’s the right thing to do, not because I’m some hippie weirdo, or because I’m trying to portray some fashionable, eco-chic image. But the good news is things are changing. While we are making the same consumer choices today as we were 30 years ago, they are no longer masquerading as ‘green v conventional’. It is quickly becoming clear that our choice today is ‘green v screwed’. And this is good why? Because it’s the TRUTH. And we can’t fix shit until we know the truth about it. So I can now take some satisfaction in knowing I wasn’t one of the weird ones, I was one of the smart ones, in a minority that was decades ahead of its time.

While there is increasing demand for more eco-friendly products and services this tends to be opportunistic, like when it’s convenient or if we can afford it. So what is holding us back from adopting a more holistic eco-conscious lifestyle? Well, there are a few things:

  • We’re waiting for governments to act (because until they do the problem can’t really be that bad right?). And ultimately we believe it’s their job not ours to get us out of this mess. We can put too much faith in governments. Yes it IS that bad. Governments have a role but so do we.

But aside from all this there is one big reason.

Technology is fucking us over

Never has there been a time in the history of our planet when humankind has been SO disconnected from its origins. And never has there been a time that it is so VITAL for us to RECONNECT. Our technology is pulling us further and further away from the earth. Thanks to smartphones, smart TVs, smart homes, etc. we’re able to pretend like we’re someplace else and AVOID REALITY. Meanwhile right under our noses our planet is being wiped out by plastic pollution, over-fishing, deforestation, climate change (and the rest); things WE’RE creating through the choices we make every day. Thing is, our choices are not only destroying our planet, they’re also making OUR future here look pretty bleak. We seem to forget we KINDA need this place. Having a good job and a comfortable home full of smart technology does NOT secure our future on this planet. In fact, quite the opposite. So maybe it’s time we start wondering if all this ‘smart’-ness is really just one big, fucked-up bunch of STUPID, distracting us from what REALLY matters. We’re not here alone; we are part of something bigger and we have a shared responsibility to care for it.

“We have to consume with mindfulness, with awareness, or we’ll be eating the flesh of our own children” — Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s time to emerge from our virtual world and have a good look around. REALLY acknowledge what’s going on. Feel the pain of the reality we’re living in (and creating). Yep, WE DID THIS. Ok, so we might not be the ones driving the bulldozers that are pushing Orangutans to extinction, but we ARE the ones buying the biscuits/crackers/bread/potato chips/soap/cleaning products that contain the palm oil that was harvested from plantations grown on the land where their rainforest habitat once stood! It’s REALLY simple, but somehow we just don’t want to see it. But it’s only by SEEING IT, FEELING IT, and talking about it that we’ll start to care. And it’s only by caring that we’ll start doing things differently.

Rainforest clearing for palm oil plantations, Malaysia (© Bernard Dupont, reproduced under license)

‘Green’ needs to be the new normal

The time for thinking we have a choice is well and truly past. We need to wipe the terms ‘hippie’ & ‘greenie’ from our vocabulary, and start asking ourselves if we give enough of a crap about our planet’s future to stop making excuses or expecting someone else to fix it, and commit to giving our life the overhaul it needs to reduce our planet consumption from four to less than one (way less than one). It’s time to move beyond the lame-ass stuff we’re clinging to so dearly like recycling and biodegradable this-and-that, the convenient stuff we’ve convinced ourselves qualifies as doing our bit to save the planet (because the truth is, it doesn’t) and get to what’s REAL, what REALLY MATTERS.

So how do we do that? Basically by listening to our heart, not our head. Here are a few ways I’ve listened to my heart:

  • I stopped buying eggs because I saw a picture of day-old male chicks in a big garbage bag (still alive). Apparently males are considered a waste product in the egg (and dairy) industry. I’m NOT OK with treating animals like that. If I kept buying eggs that would mean I AM OK with it (BTW this even happens with free-range or organic eggs).
We need to start questioning our purchasing choices

It’s our mind that tells us it’s OK to send a full (or even half full) bin of waste to landfill each week, to buy products with questionable ingredients, that tries to convince us it’s not that bad, “I’m sure abc brand is doing the right thing… I’m pretty sure xyz company doesn’t test on animals… I can’t imagine how any marine life will be harmed by the plastic packaging on my groceries…”. We want to believe what’s convenient, what makes us feel safe and keeps us in our comfort zone. But the sooner we wise up to this mind-fuck and start questioning our reality, the sooner we’ll be able to start taking MEANINGFUL POSITIVE ACTION to save our planet (= ourselves and our children). I’m not talking about recycling, buying organic groceries when they’re on special or the occasional eco-friendly cleaning product. I’m talking about the full monty, the whole enchilada. We need to start questioning every choice we make as consumers and citizens, and START MAKING BETTER ONES. It’s not about achieving the perfect eco-friendly lifestyle overnight, it’s about waking up to reality and making a genuine commitment to STOP KILLING OUR PLANET. Because once we make that commitment our journey will unfold effortlessly, one decision and one action after another. Deep down we all want to do good. Isn’t it time we start living in harmony with that instinct?

We need to stop thinking things are OK or they will be if we just give it a bit more time, because they AREN’T and they WON’T. Just because governments, the media and our friends seem to suggest they are, doesn’t mean they are! And the longer we wait, the harder it’s going to be. We can’t keep tinkering around the edges, whether it’s our governments taking 3–5 years to ban single-use plastics (which are barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to addressing plastic pollution) or our occasional, opportunistic, semi-green choices at the supermarket. There’s no time for half-assed action because we’re fast approaching the point of no return. We need to make a choice: eco-conscious lifestyle (the real deal), or stick with the lemmings and cross our fingers?

Sustainability educator & activist, founder @ Earth Ethic

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store