There is so much badness in the world. It’s hard sometimes not to get overwhelmed. It doesn’t help when people fight over how bad the badness actually is. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the size of Texas! Actually, it’s bigger than the Continental United States! Actually, it doesn’t exist and is a hoax perpetrated by atheists and liberals.
I went to a fair this weekend (full disclosure…it was a “faire” because I am that cool). The point of this faire was to dress up in costumes and party like it’s 1399. Or earlier. There were things about it that were very enjoyable. We got to have time with friends, watch E. enjoy meeting new people, and see lots of handmade pretty things, to name a few. But everywhere I looked there were plastic or styrofoam disposable cups and plates, and when I asked what kind of oil my (medieval?) onion rings were fried in, the girl behind the grill rolled her eyes and said “The hot kind…”
These things are not a big deal. But it pointed out to me that my perspective has shifted quite a bit in the last few years. When I was in college I never gave a second thought to the amount of styrofoam and plastic disposables that went in the trash as I survived on fast food, ramen noodles and pizza. Things have changed quite a lot for me since then.
And to be honest, sometimes it’s exhausting to live in a way that is not mainstream. I suppose that’s why it’s called the mainstream; because any other way leaves you feeling like one of those salmon that can’t do its thing because somebody built a dam 20 miles into their up-stream journey.
I’ve been trying to make small changes and pace myself in our effort to reconcile the way our family lives to our faith and the planet. I’ve heard if you try to change everything at once it’s a surefire way to burn out and end up not able to even think about it anymore. I’m not quite in that place, but I just feel frustrated and as though nothing I can do will matter. I know that isn’t true, but when I see all the problems and how badly we as humans abuse the planet, its resources, and each other, part of me just wants to curl up in a ball and eat tortilla chips out of a non-recyclable plastic bag.
“But Kate, didn’t you read your own blog? A few weeks ago, you were saying little things do matter and are not pointless. Do you still mean that?” Well, yes. Here’s an insight into my brain, if you’ve been paying attention. I am a very emotional person. Part of the way I work is by feeling things very strongly. I feel completely and thoroughly and sometimes I need to let my emotions subside and then I can take what is useful from them. If I try to stop in the middle and pretend to be fine then it will come up again at some point and have to be dealt with in a much more complicated way. Talking about it helps. So, I feel right now that…well I’ve more than covered that, haven’t I? But some things I know to be true are:
- I should do the best I can, and that it isn’t my job to save the planet.
- It is, however, my job to care for it, my friends and my family the best I can with all the knowledge, skill set and flexibility that I can muster.
- There is room for failure. If I don’t live up to the standard I set for myself, well, I’m the one who set it anyway. What do I know?
- Failure (even in the form of a full bag of trash to put out on the curb again this week) should not discourage me from continually striving to do better.
Having only one full bag of trash a week is an accomplishment. Don’t short-change yourself. I cringe when we put out multiple trashcans filled with bags of trash, but I try to remember that this largely happens when we are doing some sort of construction on the house – as we currently are – and there is construction debris to get rid of.
The impact you make in respecting the planet is not measured purely in bags of trash. Every micro-decision you make, whether it be the use of cloth napkins, reusing jars as drinking glasses, maintaining a share with a CSA, using a reel-type lawnmower, composting, choosing a bike over a car, drying laundry outside, grinding flour, or making your own toothpaste, dishwasher soap, laundry detergent, and shampoo replacements (to name a few) are outward demonstrations of a sustainable lifestyle for other people to see.
And see they do.