I already mentioned in many posts that we only buy organic, mostly seasonal and regional, seldomly processed and packaged. I don’t find it complicated or exhausting to live according to this mindset. Perhaps this is due to the fact that we Berliners are very lucky to have so many options to buy and consume this way… let’s see how things turn out in Portugal in that respect 😉
OUR JOURNEY THUS FAR
In the last 5 years, besides the food we eat, we actually changed many more things in our lives. Every year we noticed more and more things that we felt were strangely wrong and at the same time common in our world, and the way most people live their lives. Like throwing away food, or buying for the sake of consuming, traveling by plane and calling it a hobby, eating meat daily, searching for low prices without caring about quality and ethics.
Today we think about how to change all those things constantly. I can’t remember the last time we threw away food. We live a rather minimalistic lifestyle, buy second hand or sustainable furniture and clothes (and only when we actually really need something),we almost never fly (and if we do we compensate), and try to find out every little detail about how something was produced, who made it, under which conditions, and what the impact of it was on people and planet.
THE PERKS OF LIVING SUSTAINABLY
I am not saying that we are perfect. Some would say, we could do much more, for others our lifestyle would be unimaginably restrictive. Our sustainability journey started when we first watched Food Inc, a movie some of you might know (if not… watch it!). Over time, we came to understand that we as humans face an existential crisis. We couldn’t continue to live our lives the way we had until then. We felt the urge to change something. With time it actually felt good, and easy, and so we continued, step by step, to where we are now. We learned a lot, and the changes we made were actually very rewarding:
Owning less (expensive) things relieves you of the pressure of consuming and subsequently caring for them
This frees up a lot of time, for other (more important) things, like family, friends, spirituality
Thinking about the moral implication of your consumption sensitizes you to think less about yourself, and pay more attention to the feelings and situation of other people
This also enables you to see and be thankful for the heavenly conditions we in the western world enjoy
Understanding the quality of the products you use and consume also greatly sensitizes you how you feed your own body
Buying less stuff means needing less money (duh…), which you can either use to save for things you really care about, or to work less, or both…
Travelling less forces you to question if you are happy in the place where you spend most of your lives – why not be bold and live somewhere you really love being?
Perhaps you have less friendships (more about that later), but the ones you have are more intense and meaningful
All of this brings real freedom into your life
WHY IT IS SO DIFFICULT TO GET PEOPLE TO CHANGE
But there is one critical problem with all this. Sadly, explaining all these benefits, and especially the reasoning of sustainability behind them, is quite difficult. We all live in our own little (rigid) bubbles, and there seems to be this general fear of changing things in our lives, our daily routines. Social theory tells us that people generally imitate what the people around them do, perhaps because this is reassuring and makes us feel safe. I think this is kind of sad – if we cared a little less about what other people thought, maybe we would find more time to listen to our own hearts and souls.
The problem in terms of sustainability is that if we are so comfortable within mainstream cultural structures (which obviously haven’t been that good for people and planet), then we are not open and willing to listen, learn and change our lives, even just in small steps.
DIM YOUR OWN LIGHT?
But the crazy thing is, at least we as a couple feel this way, that if you as a person decide to actually change something, you are met with resistance and judgment. Just mentioning that we only buy organic, or that we rarely eat animal products, already seems to make people uneasy. It’s even worse when you talk about minimalism or flying less – you are immediately confronted with at the least condescending questions, or even worse, you are branded as a naive and annoying hippie who just “needs to grow up”.
So, we always have this unpleasant feeling talking openly about the way we live. We almost feel ashamed to ask what ingredients they use in a restaurant, although this should be a standard question, right? I mean don’t we have a right to know what people put in the food we eat?
What hurts us the most is that after we speak openly about our lifestyle or our choices, people that are important to us tend to ignore the topic from then on. As if we were doing something really bad, or are narrow-minded people, living this square lifestyle. Despite the fact that they know how important the topic is for us in our lives, and how much it means to us.
Some months ago a friend asked me if we are going to visit my family in Portugal this summer. I chose to tell her the truth, which I really don’t do a lot anymore because I want to avoid uncomfortable moments. I said “we are not flying this year. We decided not to fly anymore, because of the environment. Jet fuel is one of the key CO2 emitters.” I really feel bad saying it, because I know that my counterpart still flies many times a year. But isn’t it ridiculous to lie, just to make the other person feel good and comfortable to continue the way she or he lives? My friend’s response to that was quite depressing. She said “oh ok, why? Are you one of THOSE hippies?”.
I am not at all this kind of person who always tries to convert people to buy from better sources instead of buying from discount supermarkets, or to eat less meat, or to fly less… although we know that these are all things we really should be doing, if we care about the people around us, and our children’s future. We actually do the opposite: we dim our own light to make others feel better about themselves.
Many times people around us talk about their unsustainable lives, like that they are flying again there and there, or that they bought this and that, or that they will be grilling meat for the third time this week and want to invite us… and we always pretend to be happy for and with them. Because we don’t want to be hurtful and make them feel uncomfortable.
But isn’t this a bit weird? Isn’t there something wrong if trying to do something better is socially unacceptable, while continuing on an unsustainable, more or less destructive pathway is totally ok? This has to change – we need to expect more of ourselves and our surroundings.
We know that we weren’t always on this journey. And we still have a long way to go – which is why we are always open for new ideas and criticism. We have come to the point that we want to tackle this with love. From now on, we want to show people in a loving and respectful manner, that small changes are not only necessary, but also possible, easy, and can be extremely satisfying. It’s just not right to keep your mouth shut – because then nothing will ever change.