In a conversation with two of my friends, we dabbled in opinions about conscious living, eco-friendliness and a zero-waste lifestyle. One of them was hell-bent on proving a point about how there was zero consequence in the individual effort (while I backed it up by stating how it boils down to consumerism and larger policies that dictate consumptions). As an afterthought, I should have clarified. It does boil down to consumerism and larger policies – and we know the system is far too corrupt to change any of these because all the people who can make significant change are making a lot of money out of the same consumer bull shit. So, what do we do? Give up? Uff, too defeatist for my taste.
She also spoke about how lots of people are shifting to this lifestyle to be trendy. She also spoke about how this lifestyle requires a large amount of privilege. She also spoke about how she hates the far too common “holier than thou” narrative among those who do make an effort to live consciously. While she is one of my more intelligent friends, and while I do agree that these are numerous truths, I must also admit it is a rather pessimistic view. It is too negative in recognising an increasingly popular movement that is fruitful for the self, the other and the Earth. Of course this doesn’t mean it should be enforced upon individuals (unless the government does it by making things more sustainable and making new policies that make it easier to adapt sustainable alternatives). Now let’s really really break it down.
Why do I strive to be eco-friendly, zero waste and organic?
These are very much my personal choices. Do let me know if I come across as one of those “holier than thous”. After shifting to Goa, I had an interaction with a friend who was already trying to be eco-conscious. I was suddenly very aware of how much waste I produce, how many unwanted things I buy and a perception of an unhealthy system that contributed to environmental damage that I could see first hand in Goa’s beautiful landscape. Also, I realised plastic is creating havoc to wildlife and especially ocean life. Also I understood how terribly non-sensically unsustainable plastic is – it takes a minimum of 450 years to decompose aka fall apart and disappear. So, there you have it. That’s why! And I have not been successful. Zero-waste is hard as hell. Being eco-friendly a little less hard. And organic – expensive as hell (I can’t afford it, so it’s not going too well, guys).
It’s a wholesome trend, you guys – you have to admit.
While I might not be a fan of people shifting to a certain lifestyle just because it’s trending, I don’t see anything bad coming out of it. I mean, did somebody just become zero-waste because it’s trendy? Good for them, and good for the environment which will have that much lesser waste thrown into – a few lesser plastic bags and straws choking fish, seals and turtles. Somebody just went organic because it’s trendy? Good for them and bad for the mass-production industries that exploit animals, forest lands and what-nots who lost demand from one more person. I don’t think it’s a bad thing just because it’s a trend. The purpose of spreading the word is to have a virality that lands us in a solution for this unsustainable living or at least lands at a problem for all these unsustainable consumer-driven industries (more on this later). So, keep those hashtags rolling, bbs.
I’ve made a lot of changes and it honestly seems to be more pocket friendly.
I have a bamboo toothbrush that cost me about Rs 120 and it has lasted me eight months!! The bristles are still great and the bamboo’s sheen is still going strong. It’s great! I use a stainless steel razor that cost me Rs 60 with replaceable blades that’s lasted me about four months and will probably last me a good another year. I bought 2 menstrual cups for Rs 350 (great deal) and honestly, I cannot stress enough on how much cheaper my periods have become. I also started buying my groceries in bulk to avoid plastic packaging and my sweet sweet Jesus, budgeting has never felt better! What else? Oh! My organic soaps! They last a whole lot longer than face washes and body washes – at least I was lucky enough to come by good quality ones that cost me between Rs 80 and Rs 150. I found a dishwashing powder that’s all-natural, vegan and eco-friendly that cost me Rs 120 and lasted me more than six months. It might be my privilege speaking but I don’t earn a whole lot of money (and my income is extremely unpredictable) and these prices were extremely cost-effective for me, and more so because of its longevity. I also know there are lots of alternatives that are far more expensive but I am yet to use any of them. I don’t buy metal straws because I realise that as a fully-abled person, I don’t need straws. Also, I truly enjoy drinking things without the plastic straw and the plastic after taste that I only started noticing after drinking without straws.
Just doing simple things that are so easy to do, that seem so inconsequential, and that are great for your own lifestyle can be very very satisfying.
And this doesn’t mean you have to do everything so perfectly. Things like carrying your own water of bottle to avoid buying packaged water, carrying a clothe bag, saying no to straws if you are an abled person, and avoiding single-use plastic in general and using alternatives you have at your home (like spoons, forks, etc) are so so easy to do. That’s not true. It’s not easy to do because we are so used to having plastic normalized in our lives that unlearning definitely takes a bit of an effort. I mean, I realised that juice vendors give straws even without us asking for it. Anyway, it’s still something super easy to act upon.
If enough people do it, the demand could die and the production must stop
That’s the idea, you know. If we all start carrying cloth bags to our local stores and stop taking their plastic bags, the store is going to stop buying them for packaging. And eventually, when more stores do the same, the demand for its production could come to an end. Is that overly optimistic for you? Well, at least if enough people could come together and agree that this is not something we need in our lives and prove it, then we could demand a legitimate ban on it (not like the fake ass ban Bombay and other cities have had) and bring in accessible and affordable alternatives.
Once my ex-boss said (in response to my efforts), “Oh you still have hope”
Actually, I still do. I think human beings are incredibly intelligent beings. Even if we don’t all shift to alternative, less convenient lifestyles, if we bring the concern to the forefront and demand for accessible, convenient and sustainable products, human beings will bring it to fruition. As a matter of fact, they already are. Currently, there’s not enough demand for it, so it isn’t accessible yet. But, if each of us makes an effort to find these alternatives (even if that means you have to order things online and still produce some extra carbon footprint), the demand will increase and they might get popular enough to be at your nearest supermarket. After all, isn’t that how consumerism works?
[If somebody’s being “holier than thou”, call them out on their shit and tell them their condescension is only being counterproductive to the movement by being a jerk.]
I understand that these efforts might be a tiny blimp in the larger picture, but it also has prospects for positive outcomes sooner than later. I understand that I am not perfect at my conscious living and I might be a hypocrite by being unaware of what are the other exploitations I unintentionally do not recognize, but it does not invalidate mine or anybody else’s efforts. I know humanity has come too far into the Kalyug to reverse this damage but I do believe that we as human beings can undo the wrongs of humanity, and can co-exist with nature that was here before us and will be here after us. I understand if you won’t be as convinced as I am (sometimes I’m not convinced and I feel pretentious AF) but I do hope you do not bash this movement or make fun of it. It takes tremendous energy to motivate oneself to make these efforts because of the tempting convenience of all things unsustainable. And you joking about it or bashing it is bound to demotivate active individuals and honestly, there’s nothing more disheartening than giving up.
That being said, all this is only possible if the Third World War is averted ofc LOL.