Over the past three and a half months, as I’ve shared with you, I’ve focussed on changing my diet and living a more conscious lifestyle. Sometimes this is easy, other times not so much. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing great in caring for the planet – I’m conscious of what I eat, how I shop, of packaging and transportation. But then I realise that there is so much more still left to do and it feels like I’m not doing enough. And while it is all important, and working towards doing as much as possible is fantastic, it is also all quite overwhelming.
I’m trying to organise myself and my sustainability “to-do”. It’s a journey I am on and I know it can’t all be perfect from the get-go, or honestly, maybe ever. But what I do know is that I can work on doing my best, on working to be as sustainable as possible. But also not to feel bad when there is a day that things don’t go happen in the most sustainable way. I’m trying, learning, and that includes being human.
Additionally, I think of those major corporations who are responsible for a large percentage of the CO2 emission and harmful actions towards our planet. And then their lack of action makes my attempts to minimise my carbon footprint feel small and useless. Yet I also know that every little bit helps and that we have to start somewhere. Maybe if enough individuals act on their own behalf, we’ll be able to help the world.
Sometimes I worry about the ways I still am contributing to CO2 emissions and climate change, like air-travel. And while, when I am in Europe, I find it easier to avoid it, as I can easily take the train or bus, it’s a little more difficult to get to New Zealand or Australia without an airplane. Not to mention time consuming. And I guess you could argue that there is no dire need for me to go there. But I do, inside, feel a strong desire to see the world and it’s treasures, and then I wonder, at what point should I draw the line. And I’m still figuring this out on many sustainability-related topics.
Who knows, maybe I’ll make time to get to Australia and New Zealand without a plane.
Since becoming more sustainable and environmentally aware, I’ve started looking for free-time activities that coincide with a sustainable lifestyle. Living on a 25km2 island tremendously helps with this (just a fun fact, this is smaller than my hometown of Hilversum, and about 9 times smaller than the city of Amsterdam). When I am looking to be outside, I can spend my free-time going for a run, hike or walk, going to the beach, which is within walking distance, doing yoga outside, or just sitting outside and writing in my journal, reading on my kindle, or blogging on my laptop. And I get that a journal is made of paper, and my devices require electricity, but for the most part these activities are largely eco-friendly.
It’s not always much, but it’s little ways in which I (mostly) don’t affect the environment in my free-time.
Another way I have tried to enjoy more sustainable free-time activities, which coincides with my goal to eat in a more planet-friendly manner, is cooking and baking. I’ve worked on finding recipes that have alternatives (or don’t use) butter, milk, cheese, meat, fish, and sugar. So far this has actually worked out really well. Some of the recipes I’ve tried making are up on my blog. It’s been surprisingly easy and tasty to cook (and especially bake) “alternative” recipes. My favourites are still the vegan-curry, Zucchini Brownies, Banana “muffin/bread”, and the Vegan Ice Cream.
Increasing awareness: A process not a light switch.
I think the biggest learning point for me in the whole process of becoming more sustainable is that it is exactly that: a process. When you start diving into being sustainable, and focus on the things you can do and are trying to learn via Google searches, social media, blogs, or anything else, it can feel like an overwhelming amount of information, but also the feeling that you haven’t been doing enough. And yes, maybe you haven’t, but isn’t that why you are here researching how to be planet-friendly?
A large reason why I became more environmentally aware was due to all the photos that were being shared about trash landing up in the oceans, and the trash I was seeing everywhere: in cities, parks, nature – just everywhere. And I just kept thinking that this couldn’t be right. So my family and I started focusing on cutting out single use plastic, like buying non-pre-packaged vegetables in the supermarket. We slowly learned more about concepts like the Italian kilometre-zero and bio versus non-bio food and the affect that pesticides have, not just on food but on nature too. Just little things here and there which have slowly accumulated to us focusing on the continuous awareness to try and eliminate plastic, be more aware of what type of products we buy (non-dairy milk vs. regular milk), to buying the sad looking vegetables which are delicious but won’t be bought because of their looks, and many other little things here and there.
Another thing I came to realise was that it’s more than just food waste and plastic usage. Becoming more sustainable also has to do with consumerism, like shopping for clothes and “stuff”, it has to do with the way we travel – whether we choose to take the train or plane, public transportation or a car. Becoming sustainably aware requires us not just to build a stronger connection with the planet, but also with ourselves. We have to feel comfortable confronting ourselves on our actions, behaviours, thought patterns and work on shifting them in ways that benefit both the planet and ourselves.
A Shift in Diet and Health
I previously mentioned that I thought of moving my diet towards a vegan one. Yet deciding to shift to this kind of diet isn’t because I want to be a full-time vegan, rather I am deciding to shift my diet because I want to challenge and increase my awareness of what food I put into my body on a daily basis. Especially when this affects our collective home: Earth.
Not eating meat, eating minimal fish, and working on substituting certain dairy substances like milk, yoghurt, and completely avoiding butter hasn’t just been great for the environment – it has also been great for my overall health, skin and physique. I look fitter and healthier and I feel stronger. This with a mix of my active, sustainable free-time activities like yoga and running have only enhance my excitement for healthy, environmentally friendly eating and activities.
A journey to sustainability is something that is constantly in progress and while I’m for sure no expert on what I read and write, I think it can be helpful if we continue to converse with one another about the little things we are doing to save our planet and ourselves. Every little bit helps.