Being Perfectly Imperfect

by  DIANA HOLGUIN

This month will be the anniversary of my 45th year on this planet. That’s a pretty long time. Enough to have learned a thing or two, forgotten some, and then had to relearn them. But of all the little bits of wisdom collected and knowledge acquired, I think the most valuable has been simply not being so hard on myself. Seems pretty basic, right? So basic and yet I’m pretty confident that you have also been too hard on yourself, at least once or twice.

Being hard on yourself can happen in all areas of life, but here I’ll address the realm of our personal sustainability and eco-friendly habits. If you’re reading this, I’d say you probably have some interest in saving the planet, and imperfect environmentalism is about all the little things we do to try and shift our habits to do less harm to the already hurting planet. This is one of the toughest areas to work on without being hard on yourself. But it’s not your fault!

The world around us is set up in a way that makes it nearly impossible to be perfect environmentalists with impeccable sustainability habits. Some of us fret over not having our reusable coffee cups on us when we need them, driving somewhere when we could have biked or taken public transportation, or scratching our heads wondering what can and can’t be recycled. And if we don’t fret then maybe we just give up altogether. This is too hard. I can’t do it. What’s the point, anyway? How much difference is one person going to make?

It’s frustrating, but being hard on ourselves when it comes to environmentalism isn’t our fault at all. Did you know oil companies have been thinking about this stuff since the 70s? According to an NPR article, one industry leader said that, “…selling recycling sold plastic, even if it wasn’t true.” So little of what we put in our recycling bins gets recycled and yet we feel the pressure to do it and do it… perfectly! Just like the oil and plastics industries, many have shifted the burden onto the shoulders of consumers as if we were the ones creating the problem. To quote Michael Grant, “We didn’t make this World, we’re just the poor fools who are living in it.”

So what’s the answer to all this? Aside from taking on oil and gas companies and all the other powers that directly put profits over our planet?

Just do what you can! And do it consistently and imperfectly. Tell your family and friends that you are imperfect AND you care about the planet enough to try on different sustainability habits; that might inspire them to try too. Our society’s expectations are set so high for any individual regarding environmentalism, beauty, success, [insert any area of life]. Trying to be perfect is completely unsustainable.

So with that, I leave you with some imperfect sustainability swaps and tips from our talented, planet-loving, tree-hugging voiceover roster. We admit we aren’t perfect but we try and we fail and we try again… because we care.

  • Dani tries hard not to buy berries in the ubiquitous plastic clamshell packaging but sometimes it’s the only way they’re sold.
  • Anne tries not to use the super energy-consuming dryer by line drying her laundry instead but hates how long it takes to hang.
  • Andy sometimes forgets to bring reusable produce bags when grocery shopping but when they have no choice and have to use them they make an effort to repurpose and reuse them.
  • Serge suffers from the age-old struggle of forgetting the reusable grocery bags at home. Who hasn’t been there!?
  • Ally has recently started making a conscious effort to switch lights off around the house. This is a classic but often overlooked eco-friendly habit!
  • Kenita has switched to bamboo toilet paper and toothpaste tablets. Sustainable and plastic-free!
  • Jay struggles to find sustainable and eco-conscious athletic and running attire so for now he tends to use the “big player” brands but is always on the lookout for better options.
  • Kari wants to compost but hasn’t taken the steps yet to put that into action. The VO4TP family has already volunteered to help her get started!
  • Joe hasn’t found a great replacement for regular ziploc bags so he and his family will wash and air dry them outside and reuse them until they inevitably break. The neighbors might think they’re weird but that won’t stop them!
  • I love to travel but I try to limit my airplane trips every year and I make every effort to only buy non-stop flights because as much as 50% of carbon emissions come from take-off and landing.

Perfection is the enemy of good and good is all we’re after because it’s better than nothing at all. If all of us do a good (not perfect) job at recycling, taking our reusable bags and produce bags when we go shopping, switching off lights when we leave the room, composting, being more mindful when (and if!) we shop, travel, eat and live, then we’ll all be better for it.

Sources:

How Big Oil Misled the Public into Believing Plastic Would be Recycled, NPR, September 11, 2020

Opinion: You are not the Problem – Climate Guilt is a Marketing Strategy, State of the Planet, Columbia Climate School, February 15, 2023

Find out more about Diana Holguin

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