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Stop Suppressing Sustainability

Sustainability isn't always obtainable or accessible, so why do we demonise what people can do?

By Amyleigh CraigPublished 6 years ago 5 min read

I think in the current climate of sustainability and zero-waste becoming "popular movements," we sometimes overlook how much of a privilege living a sustainable lifestyle can be and/or the amount of criticism those trying to become more sustainable can face. Becoming sustainable—in any capacity—can be difficult for a number of reasons and it's extremely hard to be perfect in every realm of it. I feel like it's an area of life similar to when someone is turning vegan and they are criticised for still eating cheese or questioned as to why they do one thing and not the other—sustainable lifestyles seem to be coming under the same fire recently, and it needs to stop.

It is a privilege, and that cannot be denied.

As I just mentioned, sustainable living of any sort is a privilege. Achieving any level of sustainability can be limited for a variety of reasons, and it will also be different from person to person. Becoming sustainable will mean different things to all sustainable advocates and the fact that you have the choice to live this lifestyle, no matter what form it may take, should keep you grateful and humbled that you are in a position to make those positive changes in your life freely without major restrictions denying you of any of those desired changes.

Your upbringing and surroundings can dictate your sustainability.

If you had asked this small, ex-mining village girl about sustainability when she was a teen growing up in such a place, she would not have been bothered or understood why someone would even care. That reaction wouldn't have been because I didn't care about the planet or because of just sheer naivete, but it would have also have been influenced a great deal by my upbringing. Growing up for the majority of my youth in a very working-class, single-parent household on the bread-line, sustainability wasn't a concern because surviving and thriving was more important. This all links back to privilege, as my mam wasn't in a position to be picky about her purchases depending on their materials/packaging etc, so it's taken a lot of educating myself further about the environment and our impact on the planet for me to begin a more eco-friendly journey, as it wasn't nurtured from the start.

Even now as an adult, I can't be completely zero-waste as I don't have bulk food stores near me and have to rely on a supermarket for a lot of fresh produce, so even minimising my plastic pollution can be a struggle. Luckily, I've found a few ways to continue to minimise this latter problem, but it's just worth noting that where you live and the life you come from can project opinions and limitations onto you about sustainability so don't beat yourself up if these things are factors in your journey.

It can be goddamn expensive.

Gang, it's no secret that plastic-free fresh produce or bulk products can oddly be more expensive in my stores, natural and organic products in beauty etc. can be more expensive, and of course, ethical/eco-friendly clothing can definitely be more expensive than what you find on the high street. The main reasons behind this is simply because you're purchasing purer products—natural ingredients are being used and therefore are more costly, and, along the production line of things such as clothing, there are fewer processes, and employees are paid fairly for their work and thus, the retail price needs to be reflective of this. Therefore, it's so important to not beat yourself up if ethical or eco-friendly clothing etc. is just not attainable for you. Not everyone is in the position to even save up for a particular item and might just need the £10 alternative from Primark due to necessity, but as long as you're learning and trying along the way, you're doing a great job no matter what.

You will be criticised at some point and you need to ignore it.

Ah, god bless the internet for making us all feel inadequate. But really, in a journey of a more sustainable, eco-friendly life, you are bound to come across some negative nellies who want to point out flaws in your approach and what you've achieved thus far. Whilst I think it's extremely important to listen to constructive criticism and any advice thrown your way, it's also good to grow a thick skin and be proud of any and all changes you're making in your life. Just as I said earlier, becoming sustainable isn't a "one size fits all" thing and your version can and will be different to someone else's, and that's OK. Building each other and supporting positive changes is so much more constructive than questioning why someone is not doing X, Y, and Z. Celebrate what they are doing instead.

Take small steps—it can be overwhelming.

In all of this, it's vital that you remember that you're making some pretty big changes. Choosing to live more sustainably is a great thing, but it's a total lifestyle overhaul and you've got to give yourself credit for that and time to truly adjust. Something I'm pleased I've done so far is taking small steps to changes, as trying to change it all at once would just make it all completely alien to you and potentially put you off the transition. Change just your wardrobe one item at a time. Change to just eco-friendly or zero waste cleaning products first. Start buying less plastic or just make small changes around your home. Take it all in your stride and you'll be proud of how far you've come.

Sustainability is always changing, so don't beat yourself or others up about it.

The last thing I wanted to say is something I touched on earlier and that is the fact that everyone should build each other up and celebrate their changes and accomplishments, not tear each other down over what they're doing "wrong" or what they're not doing. Something I've noticed since around October 2017 (when I first starting making real eco-friendly changes myself) is that so many things are added into the sustainable mix each month. Whether it's new statistics of what is truly polluting our planet, there's new ideas and options coming into play each day, so if you are struggling to change it all—take a step back and assess what you're doing and what is right and good for you to change.

Although I will always advocate sustainable living, there's no pressure or "perfect" way to do it and it's good to remember that. Enjoy your journey, enjoy the positive moves you're making, and be proud of the goodness you're putting out into the world. Every small change and conscious effort will make a difference so doing what feels right and attainable for you is paramount for sustainability to thrive.


About the Creator

Amyleigh Craig

A pint-sized northerner living down south with a background in Archaeology. Enjoys writing about sustainable living, books & comics, gaming, astrology, simple self-care, nature, travel, & music.

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