It might seem like the biggest hurdle when living an eco-conscious lifestyle would be inspiring yourself to take personal action and following through on that.
But lately I haven't been fighting off bad impulses as much as I've been confronted by people judging or questioning my actions.
The vegan lifestyle has always been steeped in stereotypes and it is a rare occasion that I tell someone that I'm plant-based and they don't laugh or ask me ten follow up questions about why. However, I'm noticing that the judgement extends beyond diet. Even just expressing concern for climate change or environmental hesitations when shopping can prompt friends to probe me with questions about my intentions.
My question is, why do they care so much? Why is climate action a controversial topic? And why does my personal action make them feel defensive?
There are no downsides to living sustainably. It encourages shopping small and local businesses, investing in quality products, and improving your personal health. So why do people feel the need to tell me that what I'm doing is pointless?
Many of these conversations rapidly leap into political discussions with the self-appointed opponent exclaiming that change can only come from policy, taxes, and restrictions. I never said that these things weren't important, they are. But my decision to make changes in my day-to-day life also wasn't me signing up to become a political activist. I support and encourage those who do, we need them! Law and formalities have just never been my style. I prefer to conquer climate change by voting and minimizing my own environmental impact.
Whoever said that one person can't change the world was ignorant. One person has and always will be a force for change. And my climate action isn't just my own, it extends to my friends and family. When I switched to a reusable razor, I wasn't just saving a handful of disposables from facing the landfills. I was following the lifestyle changes of those before me and my actions inspired at least five people I am aware of to purchase their own reusable razor. Now that isn't just twelve razors a year, it's sixty. This extends even further. Who knows how many people those five friends inspired to make the switch? How can you say that that isn't a real impact?
"Each individual may not matter. But individuals collectively matter, and consumer culture matters. Shifting mores and norms would help curb emissions, and would make drastic political action more likely" (Lowrey, The Atlantic).
If an eco-conscious lifestyle becomes something that people admire, respect, and strive for (which I argue it is already becoming), then we will begin to turn our focus to sustainable alternatives, laws, and practices, slowly forming a movement to protect the planet.
Having said all of this, let's get to the bottom line.
YOUR. ACTIONS. MATTER.
I don't care about the statistics or the politics. Your choices matter.
If someone says otherwise, that is truly their own issue. Your decisions are not affecting or infringing on their lifestyle. You are choosing to inconvenience yourself to protect a planet that we are stomping on.
This debate of whether or not your small choices add up is pointless. They do. Even if in the smallest way, they matter.
I'm sure you know by now, but here is my favorite quote which happens to be very applicable here:
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, It's not."