You Don't Have to Hug a Tree- Everyone can be an Environmentalist
It's Earth Week! That glorious time where we can all do a little something for this island planet we call home. This week, everyone can be an environmentalist.
And I mean everyone.
Now maybe you are saying to yourself that you don't think you are an environmentalist. I say phooey on that! You may just be a starter environmentalist, and it is a title worth having.
The word environmentalist comes with all sorts of images and cultural baggage- picketing, granola-eating, long hikes-loving and animal-hugging. In movies or tv, it seems to mean sleeping in trees, wearing bohemian tops, and never brushing your hair. You get a picture of people who are all or nothing, breaking with most strands of mainstream life.
Now the hipper "zero-waste" comes with its own clean, minimalist, cool as can be aesthetic. They carry their mason jars and have nearly empty shelves. Even the name "zero" waste implies a 100% commitment. No waste.
I don't fit any of these descriptions.
I am not particularly outdoorsy, and I would rather go to a museum than a hike. I haven't camped since I was a kid. I don't really get the big deal about animals. I mean, they are fine, but I don't totally get the pet thing. Also, give me a cookie, not granola.
I am not cool (I have always cared way too much to be cool). Though I like the style, I am no minimalist- I love a wall of pictures or a shelf filled with books.
You Just Have to Care
But I don't have to want a pet to care about biodiversity. I don't have to love the great outdoors to understand we need trees to survive. I don't have to be a minimalist to understand how important it is not find a balance around stuff. I don't have to be all in to be in.
I can't keep up to these ideal images, and you don't have to either. In fact, I think this idea that you have to be all in to be useful is doing more harm than good, because it excludes efforts that matter and discourages people from making progress (it's all progress, not perfection peeps- one step after another).
People of any lifestyle, any political persuasion, and any income to help take care of the environment. No single image can apply, because honestly it is a path all of us should be on, even if we aren't all on the same step.
So what does calling yourself an Environmentalist even mean?
Easy, you care about the environment, and you care enough to do something about it. Not everything, something. No one can do everything. But everyone can do something. So before you shrug off environmental changes as someone else's problem or so big you won't make a difference, hear me out.
You don't have to be an expert environmentalist to do some good. Being a beginner can have just as much power because those first steps (even if they are small) can change your life and the world. Some of those early steps, like giving up one time use plastics (like water bottles, grocery bags, and plastic straws) will add up so quickly (and when other people see you, they will start to think about it too).
Do you like shopping local? Do you recycle? Do you ever buy things at consignment stores? Would you potentially make more changes if you thought it would make the future a little bit better? Then you might be an environmentalist. One just getting started, but that is good. You don't have to change everything about your life, you just have to keep making tiny changes and they will add up to greater health, happiness, and positive impact.
If you are just getting started thinking about these things, you are not alone, and your efforts are so important. This is not an all or nothing game, and this isn't a line of thinking for just a few of us.
Environmentalism is not an alternative lifestyle.We can do a lot more good with everyone doing something good than a very small few doing everything "right." I read and write about environmentalism everyday, and I still get overwhelmed. There are so many things worth worrying about, and some days it feels like there are so many things we are still doing wrong.
But let's break the misconception that you have to look a certain way or be outdoorsy or eat a certain way to be an environmentalist. It cannot be an exclusive club, where you only count if you check so many boxes. It can't be all or nothing or it will fail (with all of us, because some days you do great, others not so much.
You just have to care, and you have to keep doing something about it. So you may just already be an environmentalist.