>> Wednesday, January 6, 2010
One of my green blogger heroes is Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man, who spent a year trying to produce no environmental impact. He conducted his experiment in phases, starting with trash and then moving on to transportation, eating, shopping, etc. in an attempt to move gradually toward zero impact.
At one point near the end of his experiment - when his family had turned off the electricity, given up toilet paper, and were washing clothes in their bathtub - his young daughter got sick and threw up in her bed. Beavan stripped off the sheets but (understandably) couldn't bring himself to wash them in the bathtub, so down into the basement washer and dryer they went. With that, Beavan realized that there was a point in going green that was too far - a point where a green lifestyle feels too much like a sacrifice.
Beavan later noted in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor that "with either extremely high or very low resource use, quality of life was poor. But there was a virtual sweet spot, right at the peak, when they had enough to be happy but not so much that they were weighed down."
The point is to find that sweet spot.
Going Green = Being Happy
I've always maintained that going green shouldn't make you miserable. If you're sacrificing to save the planet and it's making you unhappy, you've gone too far. But on the other hand, I also think we can get complacent about certain behaviors that feel comfortable to us - certain aspects of our lives that we're not as willing to work on or give up because we're so used to them.
It's possible that giving them up might be too uncomfortable - as handwashing clothes turned out to be for Beavan. But it's also possible that we're holding on to those things out of habit rather than need, and that we could actually give them up and still be happy.
In fact, except for occasionally feeling like my green lifestyle changes are more time-consuming, every change I've made so far in the name of going green has either made me happier or made no impact on my life whatsoever.
Push Yourself to Find Your Sweet Spot
So in addition to the weekly challenges in the Conscious Shopper Challenge, I will also be doing a monthly Extreme Challenge to work on some of those habits that are dying hard.
The basic idea is just to give up one thing for one month (but nothing as extreme as turning off the electricity or handwashing clothes!) and then at the end of the month, analyze how we felt. If we didn't mind the change, we'll stick with it, but if it was too much of a sacrifice, we'll know we went too far.
Here's the list of Extreme Challenges, I'll be working on this year:
- give up eating out
- give up processed/pre-packaged foods
- give up disposable paper products
- try no 'poo
- go car-free
- go without A/C
- give up TV
- buy nothing new
- be a locavore
- limit special occasion foods
- freeze your buns
As with all of my challenges, there will be varying degrees and ways to modify the challenge to fit your lifestyle. I hope you'll join me!
You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the latest challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays.
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- image by terren in Virginia