March 7, 2024

Three Things for Everyday Environmentalists to Remember

By: Kelvey Vander Hart

I recently took a friend to a sustainable supply store. As soon as we walked in, I could tell they were overwhelmed. Where do you start? What do you change first? 

I’ve been a self-described environmentalist for years, and I can testify to often still feeling overwhelmed. It can seem like the world is on fire, that I’m responsible, and that what I’m doing is not nearly good enough to solve the problem. 

Is that your struggle too? Here are the three things that can release us from the burden of trying to become the “perfect” environmentalist: 

Environmentalism is Often About Less, not More

Social media environmentalists often heap a heavy load upon their followers’ shoulders. The list of things to do and advocate for grows every day. And while environmental advocacy and action are good things, everyday environmentalism is often about less, not adding more to our plates. 

In my life, many of my most sustainable habits are from simplifying things, not making things more complicated. I eat a plant-based diet where I have eliminated meat and usually don’t eat dairy or eggs. Instead of buying new containers or storage bins, I repurpose what comes into my house through normal packaging. I buy very few single-use products. I try to live without instead of buying everything that I think I need right away. I have a few animal welfare organizations that I financially support and am not always looking for others to fund. 

I could keep going. I’m not prescribing my life to anyone, but I am saying that for me, environmentalism has often been a matter of simplicity instead of filling up my calendar and my life. What is one area in your life that you could simplify for sustainability?  

You Don’t Have to Change Everything at Once 

Being an environmentalist doesn’t have to happen overnight. Instead, slowly start asking yourself about your habits and purchases. Is there a more planet-friendly option? Could you try something else? Attempting to change everything all at once will leave you overwhelmed and may keep you from living the planet-focused life you want to live. 

But swapping a normal purchase for an option that’s plastic-free, refusing to replace a single-use product, or starting to carry a reusable water bottle around? Those types of small decisions are easy, and the small stuff that stacks up. If you keep making small choices like that, at some point you will look up and realize you are living an environmentalist lifestyle without stress.  

The State of the Planet Isn’t Only on your Shoulders

In our internet age, we have horrifying headlines, dismal social media feeds, and loud opinions on a constant loop and only a click away. It can be suffocating, making us feel as if the future of our planet truly hinges on whether or not we get a straw at a restaurant or take home our groceries in a plastic bag after forgetting our normal tote. 

But I can rest in recognizing that the state of the planet isn’t determined by every single action I take, and it isn’t determined by your individual actions either. Instead, it will be determined by the tidal wave of individual actions coming together, little positive choices made by people across the planet that add up every single day. You cast votes for what you want the future to look like each time you take positive environmental action, but you are not powerful enough to undo that future with a single non-environmentally friendly decision. 

Every environmentalist came to be so because of discontent with the state of our planet. But we don’t have to live in a perpetually anxious state, wondering if we’re doing enough or are good enough at taking care of the world around us. Everything helps. Every individual counts. Go forth and do good for the planet.