One of my favourite things to do before falling asleep is to pop in the old ear buds and listen to a podcast. My podcast of choice is usually Stuff You Should Know, both because I am a nerd and because there is nothing funnier than unscripted banter and the inevitable tangents that grow out of two guys explaining something they don’t completely understand. In fairness to Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, they do an incredible job and I highly recommend their work to anyone with ears (I’ve linked to an episode in the references section). But I digress. The reason I mention all of this is because during a podcast on green renovation and construction, they touched on a lesson that is one of the hardest to get across to people: You don’t have to revamp your whole life to be considerate of the environment.
It’s a constant challenge for the environmental movement. When you tell people over and over again about all the things that are wrong with the world, you risk overwhelming them. When people get overwhelmed they switch off and you are worse off than when you started. For that reason, a little optimism goes a long way. If you want people to make lasting and impactful changes to benefit the environment, you have to teach them that not only is doing nothing harmful, so is trying to do too much at once.
I completely understand the initial urge that people feel when they learn about sustainability. Most of us are inherently passionate about nature. It’s hard to find someone that honestly, at the core of their being, hates a walk through a forest. However, that ubiquitous connection inspires people to take on too much, too fast. If you try to give up eating meat, sell your car, buy an all-hemp wardrobe, and change every lightbulb in your house to those efficient curly ones that give off harsh light, you might feel good about yourself for a day or two, but then you’ll start resenting the changes you’ve made.
To take things back to the podcast, one point in particular stood out. If every person in the United States changed a single light bulb in their house from conventional to high-efficiency the carbon savings would be equivalent to taking 800,000 cars off the road for one year. That is incredible. Regardless of how you feel about the light those things give off, that is a message that hits close to the heart. So next time you find yourself preaching to a non-greenie about the evils of everything (and we’ve all been that guy at one time or another) remember that small changes can make a big difference and can gradually lead people down the path to a more sustainable lifestyle. It’s gets to the heart of what The Starfish is all about. You might not be able to change the world single handedly, but you can certainly help one starfish that washes up on the beach.