Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Keeping Keen and Green

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

Someone asked me the other day how I keep motivated about being green, or in other words, how and why do I keep striving towards a sustainable lifestyle.  I couldn't really answer them without going into why I started living like this in the first place and what the benefits of the lifestyle was.  I sounded like a walking advertisement for Mother Earth or Grass Roots magazines.  I don't think they were bored, just surprised that it took so long for me to finish the answer.  It is hard to list the reasons why I keep keen about sustainable living into a short conversation!

This got me thinking long and hard about how to describe it better to a wider audience.  Long time readers of this blog would know about my green epiphany and how that one day back in October 2006 changed my life forever.  When I think about it, I could have walked out of the cinema and not given the message in the movie a second thought, but I didn't.  But why?  Anyone who has been to a motivational speech would know that listening and being pumped up at the end of the talk is one thing, and taking the first step towards action is another entirely.  As soon as you walk through the auditorium door, you usually fail to act because reality is waiting for you on the other side of it, and most of the time you are rarely given the next piece of the puzzle. That missing piece of the puzzle is what usually stops people dead in their tracks because of the fear of change, or not knowing where to begin.

So, how did I take that next step?  Well, the very same day as my epiphany, I began to seek knowledge.  It was like a thirst that I could not quench.  That is, I felt compelled to find out what simple steps I could take to lower my carbon emissions and in turn, and without realising it, lowering my consumption of resources which I now know is what sustainable living is all about.  So I went headlong into a journey that will probably never end, with a burning fire in my belly, determined to change my behaviours and, again without realising it, influencing those around me by my green actions.  It could have been the guilt for sins past that I felt, but I think it was more.  It was the feeling of wanting to make a difference, no matter what the cost that drove me.

I found that it took continuous baby steps, or mini projects if you like, to stay focused on lowering my carbon/environmental footprint, and it is a method I still use to this day.  Once a project is complete, (I only do one at a time which must be a man thing) and I have learnt the basic skill, I maintain that now embedded behaviour and start looking for the next challenge or project.

All of the above doesn't mean that I am a perfectionist or have found the holy grail of "greenness".  Far from it.  After three and a bit years, I still have an office job, I still commute each day, and I know that I will not be about to grow enough food, generate enough electricity or harvest enough rainwater to be self sufficient.  Self sufficiency is difficult to do alone.  Just look back a few hundred years to see that even a small village had people with many skills living in it, who all helped each other out to survive.  Self sufficiency is more for your Survivalist types (there is nothing wrong with being a Survivalist).  I am convinced that a strong, well skilled and resilient local community is the key to surviving future events, like climate change and peak oil.  A community who can and do grow some or all of their own food will be able to trade amongst each other for a fair price or exchange of labour, and able to survive better than being in isolated out in the sticks.  They will also be able to trade surplus to other towns and communities and suburbs.  Look I know it sounds a bit medieval, but I am afraid that the reality is, that without cheap sources of energy, it will be difficult to maintain the suburban lifestyle that many of us lead, without major changes.  However, I digress and sorry for the rant.

Other things that keep me focused are events like this unwarranted personal attack, whereby people challenge my beliefs in a very nasty and anonymous way.  Narrow and shallow minded people, hell bent on growth at all costs, and not being able to see the bigger picture like you enlightened readers.  This makes me even more determined to prove that it is easy to lead a sustainable lifestyle and in the process, increasing my overall happiness, which is exactly what I have found to happen.

However, the ultimate motivator is the thought that the steps I take will hopefully ensure that we have a habitable planet for my four children, the oldest being 22 and the youngest being 10, and for unborn generations to follow.  As global emissions targets are debated at Copenhagen, it recently struck me that the two important years that keep getting discussed are 2020 and 2050.  In 2020 I will be 55, and in 2050, 85 years old (if I make it to that ripe old age).  If we don't act now to combat the impending climate chaos, I will most probably live to see the tipping points.  I know that my children will definitely see either further deterioration of climate stability, or with my motivation, help and guidance, be integral in being part of the solution for change and its ultimate success.  This is what motivates me on a daily basis.

So, with all of those ways to keep green, keen, and focused on the road ahead, I don't think that my journey will ever end any-time soon.  It's not like I am going to get bored or anything like that!  One thing I have learnt so far on my green travels is that you must take time to saviour the little things along the way.  What I mean by this is simple pleasures like eating your first home-grown tomato that actually taste like the tomatoes you remember when you where a child and to watch your own children enjoy them as you do.  The very first omelette made with eggs from your well cared for chickens.  The joy of a full rainwater tank after a long dry spell, and actually looking forward to energy and water bills because you know that they will be as low as the belly of a tiger snake!

I find that keeping my lifestyle green and keen is easy if you take time to plan every now and then, and by visualising your personal goals foremost in you mind.  Enjoy the journey, as you travel towards your destination, because it is all about the journey, and when you don't think you are doing enough, just pause and reflect upon the path travelled so far.  You will probably find that you have come a very, very long way in a relatively short period of time.  Give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate the journey once in a while.

Go ahead.  You deserve it!