23 May 2012

Doing what you can is enough

Today I'm commenting on Cat's recent comment. She asked me to talk about "green guilt". Add your thoughts on this as well. I'm sure she is not the only one feeling this way and pooling our thoughts on this will help some work their way through it. Here is Cat's comment:

I wonder if you might be able to talk about the whole idea of "green guilt".

I try very hard to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle. I garden and compost - I even compost the kitty litter, I don't use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, I drive less than 1000 miles per year, I don't use shampoo, only use TP for "number 2", keep the house cold in the winter and hot in the summer, pay extra to get all my electricity from wind power, use cloth dish towels, napkins and handkerchiefs, rarely buy things - and when I do I opt for used as much as reasonably possible, bring reusable bags to the store, run most errands on my bike or on foot, I don't travel by air (actually - I don't really travel at all), I make the vast majority of my food from scratch, and a whole host of other things.

But even with all that, there are plenty of ways that I know I could do so much more. And constantly feeling like I "should" be so much "better", sends me into a terrible cycle of guilt for not doing more, and anger at those who do nothing - neither of which is very productive.

When I first read Cat's comment, it surprised me a bit, reading it again now, it makes me sad that trying to do her best is making her miserable. I think this might be similar to wanting to have everything perfect at home and beating yourself up because you want "perfect". I doubt there is such a thing as "perfect" and I also doubt that anyone would have the time or energy to do all the green things they could do, or think they should do. I have friends who are environmental scientists and who work to provide green solutions as part of their jobs. They also live according to those values in their own homes. Even they find things they just don't do because of lack of time, energy or because they have a life to live and there is more to a well rounded life than fixing problems.

When I first started blogging there were few simple living blogs around and those that did write about this beautiful lifestyle wrote mainly about political themes, greenhouse gasses etc. I found very few writing in a positive way  about their own homes and none that reflected how I was living - making the most of home production and trying to live from scratch. I decided that I would just write about what I was doing - that was my special subject, it was what I knew best. I didn't care that no one else was writing this stuff, I hoped that by focusing my blog on my home and the way I worked here, that my ripples would work their way out and help others. I knew then as I know now, that getting angry, being holier and better than the others and TELLING everyone would get me no where. No, for me, the only way was gentle and to show, by example, that living this way is beautiful, satisfying and significant. It worked. 

You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Cat, please remember that by doing all we do, we're all trying to make our lives better, and in doing so, we'll make the world better too. There is nothing in the contract that says we have to do more than we can, there is no requirement for misery or guilt. If people watch you and see you being made happy and content by how you live your life, they'll be more inclined to follow your example. Don't try to do it all. Focus on what you need to do for your own well being and be content with that.

Simply doing what you can do is enough. 

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