It was a brilliant conversation. We also talked about that uncomfortable feeling you sometimes have when you want to do the right thing for the environment, but you feel self conscious because you don't want to make anyone feel awkward or to stand out too much by being different.
My Living Smart friend remembered hearing an older woman speak up at a workshop recently, saying that she has gotten to the point where she doesn't care anymore. She wants to act in the ways that she feels are ethically right and (pretty much!!) to hell with anyone else if they aren't on board. My Living Smart friend and I thought it was a liberating way to think. It does raise an interesting point. Why do we sometimes feel uncomfortable about doing things differently to protect the environment?
We discussed my friend's workplace and how they use styrofoam cups instead of real cups. This horrifies my friend who has brought in her own mug and uses it instead (note: doing things differently). She has only been working there for a few months though and doesn't want to "rock the boat" and be pushy in her approach to trying to change things.
There are a couple of issues of concern here. One is the waste generated from single use disposable cups being used by not just visitors to the workplace but staff too. The other concern is the impact of styrofoam on the environment as a toxic and non recyclable material. I reviewed 6 local government websites across Perth (Perth, South Perth, Bayswater, Rockingham, Kwinana and Gosnells) and 4 of the 6 do not accept styrofoam in their domestic recycling collection.
As far as I am concerned styrofoam should be banned. I think it is in many places but sadly Perth is not yet one of them. If I get take away served in a styrofoam container that is it - I am never to return to that establishment.
It was so inspiring to chat about ways that my new friend's workplace might be able to switch from styrofoam. I am so admiring of her motivation to take on creating this change despite it not being her paid role. It was great to be able to suggest some ideas to help her to connect with colleagues and create change as part of a team. I don't often find I am able to discuss my work experience in such detail so I really enjoyed it.
After this discussion I am further convinced that influencing and encouraging others to protect the environment requires individuals to lead by example and demonstrate how. This is something you have to do naturally and because you care. It is obvious when you are making a show of doing something and people are not fooled by it. When you do it because it works for you, however, and it adds value to your life, that is inspiring. People are likely to, therefore, be inspired. They can see the benefits that they can also have if they take on a new way of thinking about, or doing, things.
Going back to the point of why we can feel uncomfortable about openly caring for the environment. I guess it's because it doesn't fit with the mainstream culture of buying and disposing of things. Ok, I'll say the C word: "capitalism". It is so ingrained that we buy, use and throw, rather than make, mend and repurpose, that it challenges our way of life. Heaven forbid the economy take a back seat. Even for a second.
I do think times are changing though and I am going to make it my mission to be more proud and less pained while I help to pave that new path.
What inspires you to create change in your life? Do you think leaders are important?