Can’t change the world? Then change yourself

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I feel very concerned about the way we are destroying our planet, and at times I have felt helpless to stop it. Sometimes it feels like our own small changes are insignificant when the issues we are facing (global warming, peak oil crises) are so large. Normal living pressures and trying to juggle work, family, fitness, friends seem to be enough, let alone worrying about the planet as well.

Then, while speaking to a close friend Brother Bruce, he said something that really made a difference to how I see my role in all of this –

You can’t change the world, but you can change yourself’.

I can change myself, although I do find radical changes hard to sustain. So I believe in making smaller changes, inbedding them in, and once ready to move on, challenging the next thing.

I don’t believe I can change the planet (not me personally, not on my own, and not in between feeds, nappy changes, blogs and and laundry loads). There are others out there have more powerful positions, or are in better financial positions, or with greater knowledge who can make much bigger differences than I can. This leaves me wondering what is left.

Over the last few years, I have made choices that are better for me, my family and the environment. These choices have occurred over time, when practical, when possible, if possible at all. I believe in a pragmatic approach (hysteria would be so much more entertaining, but rather exhausting). For instance, I would love to recycle grey water in my house, but I am not going to jack-hammer up the concrete slab to get to it….so I will focus my efforts elsewhere.

We have made small changes/adjustments, including:

  • install water tanks, water efficient toilets, restricted flow shower heads
  • use recycled toilet paper
  • purchased a front-loader washing machine
  • use biodegradable laundy and dishwasher products, shampoos and soaps
  • use the clothesline as much as practical (I have moment’s of weakness where I resort to the dryer)
  • recycle food scraps using guinea pigs, a worm farm and a compost bin
  • reduce water loss in the garden by mulching
  • reduce heating and cooling bills by replacing better insulation in the roof
  • reduce cooling bills by placing heat and light reflecting film on the North-facing windows
  • reducing summer cooling by installing an adjustable sunroof controlling light on the North-side of the house
  • ensuring the windows and doors are sealed properly
  • minimising the use of central heating or cooling as much as possible
  • collecting shower water in a bucket in super dry spells
  • using a shopping basket when going shopping
  • minimising the collection of plastic bags
  • using public transport to travel to work
  • walking instead of driving locally (doesn’t work when it’s hailing or 40 degrees C with an infant!)
  • breast-feeding instead of buying formula
  • using cloth nappies where possible (today after changing the clothes, sheets and bedding 2 times, with all of the laundry associated, I am starting to wonder about this one)
  • buying local food where practical
  • purchasing Australian-made products over imported goods
  • making our own things, where possible.

None of these changes is very radical, or very ground-breaking. If you walk past me on the street, I look fairly normal… We also do things that aren’t very environmentally sound, like drive a canary yellow big throbbing V6 car (Tom’s favourite show is Top Gear and his favourite place to drive is the German Autobahn). I am sure the next time we replace our vehicle however, we will try to make a better choice.

It’s funny how hard making more sustainable changes can be to embed into your life when you are so used to opting for conveniences or taking short cuts. A friend of mine, Sue, uses a great analogy about change – the green shopping bags. We all think they are a great idea, we probably all have 3 or 4 in the cupboard, but how often do you turn up to the supermarket without one? Making small changes can be hard, even when you fully support and agree with them. Or maybe it’s the changing of old habits can be harder.

I did a course a few years back that looks at why change can be so difficult (called Psych-K). It has a lot to do with what your conscious brain thinks and wither it is aligned to your subconscious brain. Basically, if they aren’t in agreement, then you won’t be seeing a change without major amounts of stress or personal willpower. That’s why resolutions are so pointless (for me) and giving up chocolate is just silly. Your subconscious brain is 40 000times faster than your conscious brain. Your green shopping bag will remain at home until you can align the two! You can learn exercises that help reprogram the subconscious brain (which is what the course was about), and I use these techniques on a regular basis these days to remove any hindrances (I also tried to see if I could convince my subconscious that I am a supermodel, and well, the results speak for themselves!). I didn’t do anything about the chocolate problem.

Any minute change that is within anyones capacity is a change for the better. Applaud the small efforts, however small!

Photo from mum and dad's garden, Lavers Hill

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