When I wrote the Minimalism Roadmap, I thought it was a hard one to do. Then I tried to write this one, and hell, I found myself a real challenge! How do you give people an achievable, useful, and realistic roadmap to living a more sustainable life? And while doing that not make them (1) want to punch you in the mouth, or (2) not want to quit modern life, move to a smallholding and make their own clothes from hemp cloth? Not so simples. By the way, the second is ok if you really want to do it, but the first one will definitely get you punched back! Just sayin’
As you may have read in my post introducing sustainability, my shade of green isn’t that dark. In work, and in life, my aim is not to make everybody see the light and convert 100% to being the world’s most passionate advocate for environmental justice (I hate that phrase). What I really want is for everybody to be at least a baby environmentalist, maybe even an adolescent, or stroppy teenager, environmentalist. A few of you may even make it to adulthood, but it’s not completely necessary. I want to help people understand there is a world out there, and give a fuck about it. Take a few steps to make things better, reduce your impact, be more purposeful.
Let’s be honest, in the modern consumer-driven, social media and image-obsessed world, lots of the aspects of a sustainable life can be contentious. We aren’t exactly living in the middle of the hippy movement at the moment! And then on the flip side, in the environmental/sustainable living arena, there are a huge amount of people that have passionate beliefs that are almost impossible to discuss unless you have drunk the Koolaid and 100% agree with them. Not convinced? Try to engage a vegan in a discussion about their diet and convince them you don’t need to be one to be an environmentalist. You ain’t changing their mind!
The plus side for us on this little journey is that this is what I do for a living (because this blog is definitely not “a living”). My training and education are in this area, so I can try and cut through some of the bullshit, make sense of a few things and point you at some more detail if you want to do that.
And that’s the idea of this plan. It’s a guide to help understand the issues, and then a few ways to take a few purposeful actions on the road. And then a few more. True, we are all small cogs in a big machine of the world, and its 8 billion or so people, but try taking one cog out an engine and see how the truck runs? We can all do our little bit.
Right about now if you are a real hard-core environmentalist, you may want to skim through the plan and maybe check back later and see what gets added as we go. Subscribe and I will let you know when we go a bit deeper!
Otherwise, there is a bit of an education piece to come, and then some key areas to look at, if they are relevant to YOU. And if so, we can suggest some tweaks and changes! The Roadmap goes a little like this…..
The Big Wide World
“Think globally, act locally” some 80’s environmental campaign went (it was Friends of the Earth if you care). Cheesy, but it’s kinda right for when we are thinking about sustainability and living a more sustainable life. We live in a globalized world and whether we like it or not, it’s true.
Global travel, global commerce, global food systems, global communication, global networks. In true Pandora style, we are all connected and what you do at home has an impact somewhere else in the world. Look at your food, your clothes, your home electrical equipment. The same goes for the systems – water, air, climate, carbon, nitrogen, and others all move in cycles that are global. Part of understanding a sustainable life is understanding the links we have with the wider world.
I made this acronym up on my first ever formal environmental course oh so many years ago. I did it to try and remember the key parts of “the environment” that I had to consider. Land. Air. Water. Nature. OK, “Nature” is pretty broad, but essentially it’s plants and animals. Flora and Fauna. Ecology. But let’s face it, LAWN is pretty easy to remember.
I have a love-hate relationship with “Environmental Impacts” because of the way it’s used in business management standards. But it has its uses as a simple way to make a start and essentially we are going to use a way to find out which areas you really do have an impact, and then use that to find out what you can do.
Pareto analysis is the 80/20 rule. It says 80% of your profits come from 20% of your products. Or 80% of your problems come from 20% of customers or products. So you find out what that 80% is and fix it, and you can make massive strides. That’s what we need to do for a more sustainable life. Work out where we can it the 80% of impacts that come from 20% of our actions. Then we can fiddle with the bits left at the end. Because if we all did 80% (which we won’t), we are well on our way!
I love Richard Attenborough. Jurassic Park was a great film. I also love his brother, David Attenborough. I think he has changed the world when it comes to environmental and ecological understanding. Watch his documentaries and you will know more about how the world works. Honestly, he has done some amazing work over the last 50 years. A proper national treasure.
However, I do have a bit of frustration with him. The great Plastic Panic of 2018. His Blue Planet series highlighted the awful impacts of plastic on ecosystems (where animals, fish, birds, etc live). He showed millions of people the problem plastics caused. And everyone went into a moral panic and went to war. Fish that eat plastic pellets, birds stuck in plastic loops, turtles with straws up their noses. All awful. But we went mad about everything plastic, public, and politicians alike, and sorry to be a contrarian, but plastic has its place and we shouldn’t ban it all. Let’s be clear, plastic is a problem that we have to fix. But we need to understand what plastic we actually need to act on and where we need to try and get bigger change about. We will explore…..
The Carbon Challenge
If you don’t think climate change is real, I am going to have one go at convincing you in one article, and then if you still don’t agree, then fuck off. 🙂 I will post my link to Why Climate Change is a Thing here (when I finish writing it) and you can take a look. All I ask is you give it an open mind. And if you still think it’s not an issue, you probably aren’t going to do anything else on this roadmap anyway, so jog on back to the Roadmaps for FI:RE / Career / Minimalism because they are probably more valuable to you.
But for now, trust me for a few minutes. Its a real thing, a MASSIVE amount of the change is caused by human activity and it is going to fuck us up royally. Well, maybe our kids. Or some people on the other side of that big old world I mentioned earlier. But its a problem.
I’ll try to point you to how you can think about what your impacts on climate are, and what you can do about it. I won’t force you to join XR or get a Greta poster. But you need to make this a bit of very clear thinking in your sustainable life.
This is the one that will piss people off. I will try to be as science-based as possible, reference as much as possible, and be as clear and emotionless as possible. Well, I will at first.
I’m not a vegan. I’m not even vegetarian. And I work in the food sector, so to some people, I am already all sorts of evil. But I will try and give you the facts, my opinions will be clear, and you can make the choice. Because diet is not as black and while as everyone leads you to believe. And we all should be having a diet that’s healthy for us and healthy for the rest of the world wherever we can.
Recycling – Do or Do not?
All hail the mighty recycling! It seems that this was once THE great environmental cause. Then everyone realized we were shipping our shit to China, Thailand, and Africa and it was a fucking mess over there. So people got pissed off and it started to fall apart. It’s so bloody complicated and so hard to work out what is recyclable and not that it’s almost too frustrating to do. But we can try and unpick it a bit and see if its actually worth it. Or not.
Traffic jams. Commuting. Price of petrol (that’s what we call gas over here). Flying. Trains. Planes. Automobiles. Walking. Biking. HYbrids. EVs. Tesla. Nikola. Prius. What the hell should you do? Not do? Drive? Not drive? Does it even bloody matter? Let’s find out!
A pet subject of mine. We have a MASS of water on earth. It’s just that most of it is full of salt. Some say we have a water problem. Some say we have a salt problem. And then there are the videos of American rivers on fire and any image of the Ganges makes me want to vom. Water keeps us alive. Literally. And it doesn’t have to come in plastic bloody bottles. Well, not always.
Newsflash. Other things live on this planet. Plants. Animals. Birds. Fish. Funghi. All sorts of things. And we are pretty good at killing them off. Again, there are things you can do near you, in your garden, or in what you spend and do. We can make a few simple choices to do the basics, and decide if there are bigger things to go after, depending on how active you want to get!
If you REALLY want to get active, and really want to create change, getting governments to move is the way to do it. I do it at work. You can do that. Or you can go direct. Or you can look at one of the many pressure groups out there. Some are quite fun. Some are shit. I’ll try to share what I know in a balanced way. But I do hate a few of them, so I can try and reign that in. A bit.
Controversial. Malthusian. Population Control. Scary subject. But there is a great deal of evidence that the best thing you can do for the planet and leading a sustainable life is to have one less child. Not that I suggesting you cull one you already have. But if you thought we wanted 11, maybe just have 10. Or 2. This is really not my area of expertise, and there are people dedicated to population control, which is a bit scary, so I will do some research and see what we can come up with. But for now, know that another you in the world doubles your impact. So it makes sense on a very basic level.
And there it is……
That’s the plan. Not every single thing you could ever do to be an environmentalist, but the basic things you need to consider, be purposeful, take action, and understand. They are critical issues and considerations that have a big impact. They all need each of us to REALLY think about them. You probably aren’t going to do everything on every step, but any step is a step forward. Baby environmentalist, remember?
As always, each of these steps will be the subject of a more in-depth post, as I write them (I’ve got a lot to do, sorry), so please subscribe and I will let you know when they keep coming out.