Climate catastrophe, environmental protection, sustainability, zero waste, minimalism. All these terms can be overwhelming. Everything seems to be topical and super urgent. "There is no time left", "When will things finally change", "The coming generations are lost" - these are all phrases that are often used in connection with the topics just mentioned. Almost everyone who deals with these problems, even if only slightly, will at some point ask themselves what they can do and how they can make a difference
If you talk to other people about topics such as meatless nutrition or environmental protection, you quickly hear the statement: "It doesn't change anything in the world anyway if I suddenly stop eating meat / do without straws / travel less by plane / ...". And because too many people think that way, we live in the world we live in. I can understand the approach behind the thought. After all, in our society we often get the feeling that an individual is insignificant. The world seems huge and these problems should be dealt with by "powerful" people like politicians
What's behind all this..
...is actually fear. It is easier for me to ignore or deny difficult situations or problems because then I don't have to deal with them anymore. If it is about ignoring personal problems, it will catch up with us at some point. A tax return, an argument, an illness - all these things cannot be swept under the carpet forever.
However, when it comes to sustainability issues, I see two difficulties. Firstly, the effects of the problems seem to be extremely far in the future. As a result, we do not recognize the urgency of the problem and subconsciously think, "I can take care of that later". The second difficulty I see is that one does not directly have the feeling of being personally affected. We are doing so well (at least in this part of the world) that we can't imagine that this might not be the case at some point. Water, a balanced climate or food are basic things for us, which are almost always available - they are just there. The idea that food shortages or more extreme weather conditions can occur seems so absurd that we immediately delete these images from our minds
I think that you can pretty much learn from our grandparents in that respect. Many of them experienced the war - and the consequences of it. The circumstances were different, of course, and they may not have had as much influence on the situation as we have now. But often, sustainable behaviour, an appreciative approach to material and non-material things and an attitude of wastefulness are things we can learn from them or help us question ourselves.
By the way, here are some sustainability tips that we can learn from older generations.
Back to the point
The point is that the effects will very well come and that we are and will very well be personally affected. That's why it's even sadder how many people still close their eyes or feel that they alone can't make a difference
What can I do?
Now let's talk about how you can make a difference
The problem with cognitive dissonance
In my opinion, one of the best things you can do is to be a positive role model for others. However, it's better not to be pushy or missionary, because that can quickly backfire. If I throw the idea of being wasteful or polluting the environment at someone, he or she will go on the defensive. Because in this moment the ego of the other person is hurt - the person realizes that I am actually "right" with what I say, but doesn't want to admit it to himself - because then he or she would be a "bad person". A cognitive dissonance arises in the mind of the person addressed: the behaviour is in contradiction to what one knows to be right
This feels uncomfortable and the person has various possibilities to resolve this cognitive dissonance. Either he changes his behaviour (and brings a reusable coffee mug with him on his next coffee date, for example) or he changes his thoughts (and thinks things like "This one more plastic mug doesn't make any difference now either"). Changing your thoughts is often easier in such cases than changing your behaviour. After all, this requires time, effort and discipline. And at this point we would be back to the denial of problems. People deny that the one straw / plastic cup / whatever in the world makes a difference. So he or she does not have to adapt his or her behaviour for the time being. To the person opposite, in the example to me, one reacts defensively and defensively - since one does not want to question one's own behaviour.
Do your thing!
Long story short - you just do your thing. It will rub off on others faster than you think. Just by paying more attention to what I buy or how it is packaged, by rejecting plastic packaging or straws if possible, or by telling people that I made an environmentally friendly cleaning agent myself or bought my clothes second hand, the attitudes of my fellow human beings can also change. Because this time they do not feel offended, but inspired. They think, "If she can do it, so can I." Or: "It doesn't seem that difficult at all"
So you don't have to become the perfect Zero-Wastler or the next Greta Thunberg (where of course nothing speaks against it). Just by being a positive role model for other people, a lot can change. So you can probably make a difference - and a really big one! This makes you a kind of #sustainability influencer. Okay, maybe that's not a title you want to go for. But the environment will thank you for it. And the "I can't change anything" excuse is now history
None of us are perfect. The path to a sustainable, waste-free and environmentally friendly life is not always easy and requires perseverance. But if you do what YOU can do, then you are already making a very positive contribution to a better world. Take the first step and see how your environment also changes. Sometimes people just need someone to show them how to do it. And that person can be you. Isn't that enough?
If you want to learn more about sustainability, mindfulness or healthy eating, take a look here over.