This post has been a long time coming. I’ve been feeling this way without saying anything, or knowing how to form a coherent post, for weeks.
Working in the space of ethical this, and sustainable that, you tend to find the same approach is always being taken. For many people leading the way into being more eco-friendly, there’s a certain pressure of showing how they’re perfect in all their actions, to the point of lying.
I’m really, really tired of it.
I want to make it clear, I’m not tired of writing. I’m not tired of discovering new people launching businesses with the planet in mind, new designers creating beautiful pieces that consider their garments’ lifespan and beyond. I’m not tired of trying new, kinder ways to live, which has always been the central focus of Curiously Conscious.
What I am tired of is the fake eco perfectionism that can be found across social media – and not only tired, I’m worried that it’s preventing people from sharing their own sustainable changes, without being called out for not doing it 100% right.
Do what works for you
As I’ve told many people I’ve met, my road into this space comes from a place of passion and study. For a year of my degree, I lived alone in Paris. I worked hard, explored the city, and fell in love with great French food. I loved the French way of cooking, but also their approach to protecting agriculture, their appreciation of provenance. We must respect where our things come from: the people who sewed the seeds, the land from which they grew.
It led to me focusing on sustainable agriculture in my final year at university. I wrote an entire dissertation on the importance of local food – in French. I’m most inspired by that level of care – for our planet, our people, our things, our selves.
Almost five years on, I still feel that inspiration. I’ve applied it to my own interests: fashion, beauty, travel. I’m still a foodie, but it’s not my only focus. And I’m not an expert, but I’m certainly willing to learn.
What I do find frustrating is the strange culture that has formed around following this type of lifestyle, especially for the people who put share their lives as an example to follow. There’s almost a re-writing of who they were previously, frantic covering up of previous fast fashion purchases, archiving of photos with Starbucks cups, deleting anything that would paint them differently to who they are today.
My issue is this: by removing your journey into this field, you’re removing the vital steps that many others want to follow. By saying you’re 100% perfect now, you’re not only lying, but you’re giving others an unattainable goal that is simply discouraging.
Please, stop bowing to the pressure of eco perfectionism.
Perfectionism is not the answer
When you’ve been exposed to the awful processes that most of our possessions have been borne from, it’s hard to stay upbeat. It’s even worse to consider the people who have been subject to unfair treatment, poisoned water supplies, lacking voices and lacking respect. And then, worst of all, is the fact that this crippling capitalist system is causing climate collapse, with finite time to reduce or reverse it.
(Cue, eco anxiety).
We have to make change happen. But as committed individuals, we’ve made that vital step – of becoming conscious of the issue. In our own separate ways, we spread that consciousness, into our lives, our homes, our workplaces, our polling stations. But, we’re also limited in how quickly we as individuals can turn this wheel.
No two people wake up to the fact that our climate is collapsing in the same way. Sure, there are documentaries, books, films. I’ve even been hosting events and giving talks on the subject. But we all must feel our way into a place that works for us, be it turning vegan, no longer buying fast fashion, no longer buying any fashion, whatever.
We’re all doing our best, and that deserves to be praised.
With all of my work, my aim remains the same: to get people thinking. Consider the journey, learn to love what you have, and aspire to do even better. Take time to understand the impact you have. It may be a small, mindful moment, or it may be months of research. It’s really up to you.
And no, I don’t expect you to even think that way 100% of the time. Of course not. I certainly don’t. On the weekend, I used a plastic cup in the cinema. Uh oh – where’s the plastic police?
We have to recognise that we can’t be perfect. And it’s so crucial that’s understood too. There are systems in place that make it extremely hard to be perfect anyway – shouldn’t we be tearing those down, instead of spending so much energy pretending we’ve just circumvented them and found a new, unattainable eco utopia on Instagram?
Personally, I’ve found eco perfectionism creates a number issues:
- Unattainable goals discourage others on their own journeys
- Businesses and brands don’t want to be criticised when they’ve only been able to take certain steps, so they avoid the eco/sustainable narrative altogether
- Personally, it makes me an absolute kill-joy
Yup, eco perfectionism is something that plagues me personally too. I’ve got to a point where I can so easily suck the joy out of things, because in my head, I’m considering all the negative impacts of everything we do. I cringe at my friends or family’s new purchases, at their new outfits, at their shopping trips. It sucks. It’s no fun. And that’s not been my intention at all, ever.
I’m starting to learn that letting go, having fun, and making 80% of the right choices, is better for everyone. Sure, the birthday presents I buy will still be hand-made, maybe recycled, possibly made in the UK. The recipient will love that present just the same, but they may be none the wiser. I’ll be proud of my gift, but I also won’t get upset by their new Zara handbag, or the filet mignon they had for their birthday meal.
Do what works for you, and have fun with it.
Plus if we don’t make it look fun, and make it inviting, how will anyone else want to change?
Let’s make caring cool again.
And so, I’d like to declare a whole bunch of promises. I promise to never shame you over using the occasional plastic bag, or shopping the conscious ranges on the high street. I promise to never comment if you choose a diet different to my own (and mine’s mighty complicated anyway – I eat fish, I eat eggs, and if it’s unavoidable, I eat dairy). I promise not to tell you what to say, how to say something, or say something on behalf of you. I promise to respect our differences, and the bond that unites us: to love the earth, its people, and our own lives.
Let’s invite everyone to the conversation – and have fun with it
As I said in this month’s newsletter, I genuinely believe that we need to make finding eco-friendly options more appealing, easy to access, and open to all.
My own mission is to create and support independent media that champions kinder ways to live. I want to be part of huge community of different people with different approaches, and offer a platform for each person to stand and tell their own story, to their own audience, in their own way. It’s why I set up Ethical Influencers – offer encouragement, invite collaboration, appreciate diversity.
Because if we’re going to achieve that saying – getting lots of people living sustainably imperfectly – we have to invite everyone to the table, and make this “eco buffet” look better than every other option out there.
What dish are you bringing to the party?