Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I spent a lot of time thinking about yesterday's post, "Is it all just a fad?" and what kinds of more permanent changes I was suggesting each of us make (changes beyond riding out the financial crisis). Honestly, it's really hard to say. There are as many ways to be simple, green, and frugal as there are individuals. 

There are things I do to achieve a more SGF life that would be unthinkable for someone else. For instance, I bike almost everywhere I go. Someone with a 9-5 job, or a child, or a home in rural Alaska might find biking completely impossible. I buy my veggies year-round from the farmers market, but I live in central Texas. Not everyone has the luxury of a year-round farmers market. And there are a ton of things that other people might consider a "no-brainer" that I don't do. For instance, I still use my dryer instead of a clothesline; I  mow my yard with a gas powered mower and not a reel mower; I use regular-old shampoo, every single day. 

The point isn't that we all need to aim for the same utopian ideal. Rather, change (real change) is about becoming mindful. Mindfulness is nothing more than being aware of how the things we do, the things we say, and the way we consume affects the world (people, animals, earth) around us. But here's the catch, and why I think a real mindful kind of change isn't happening: MINDFULNESS IS HARD.

Mindfulness is a 24-7 job. Anyone who has been on a diet knows this all too well. You're doing great, you're loosing weight and then BAM! You've eaten half a chocolate cake. What happened? Maybe, like me, you were eating local fruits for 6 months, then you decide to relax the ideal a little to give yourself some much needed wiggle room, only to return to a life long addiction to imported bananas. What happened?

Mindfulness is hard. It means change and change can be scary. It means slowing down in a culture that pushes "the faster the better". It means cutting back our consumption in a culture that pushes "the more the better." It means tackling tough issues in a culture that pushes "the easier the better." 

Mindfulness happens when we start asking questions: Organic or local (when you can't do both)? Paper, plastic, or neither? What happens to my trash after it is collected by the city? How much water goes down the drain every time I take a shower and can it be put to use? We know mindfulness is in action because of the effort it takes to make a decision. And the effort, the struggle to do the right thing makes us stronger, it makes us more educated, and it makes our own little world just a little bit better. 

Is the present economic crisis creating a culture of mindfulness? Maybe, maybe not. But we each have a very independent choice to be mindful in our own lives; to take our own path; to make the world just a little bit better. Sure, it's hard, but it's worth every simple, green, frugal minute.


ttammylynn said...

So, we plant a garden, we donate our unused or used items. We plan our trips to include more stops. We try to remember to bring bags, egg cartons, mason jars, for re-use. We save more, we use less. We try to smile when we feel bad because that smile will return to us, manyfold. We do the best we can; we can, we freeze, we save.
So, though our homes look like a recycling center, we will fear no evil...because we are trying to do our part.
I don't have much time in each day to be mindful...and some things are done because of lazier tendencies, such as using things until they can no longer be used. Anyone who has talked to me on my ancient cell phone can vouch for this. I won't buy shoes or clothes until I have no other choice. I won't see a doctor unless I have to. I pay many of my bills paperlessly. Some of these are choices, some of these are just living with who I am...still, I see ways that I need to change...and, I would like to make a few things happen. For me, it often starts with a list. I write a list and then, I check it off as I do each of the tasks. This helps me to find completion when I feel I need to do things that I put on the "back-burner". I have my completed tasks to motivate me towards more completions.

Michelle said...

That's funny, I was thinking about that post all day, too. I love to read your blog because you seem miles ahead of me in the eco-mindfulness. It gives me something to strive for. I don't think about local food. I tried to find a local dairy but have not had any luck at all! I mean, if you cannot find a local dairy in Minnesota....

(small victory - I don't use shampoo!) Anyway, you are right. It is about each person's journey and doing the best you can with where you find yourself (say, if you need a car due to distance, etc.).

I have a mental list of all the things I want to get to make change with, and it can be overwhelming, but I just try to focus on one thing at a time. Occasionally, I look up and realize how far I have come.

I think getting people to be more aware is the key.

Billie said...

I have become much more aware and have done some little things but most of it simply overwhelms me. I don't know how to do some of the things I would like to do... like consume less plastic. We consume a ton of apple juice that comes in? plastic. I don't think I have seen it come in anything else. And so on and so forth. It just seems impossible to do some of the things that I have seen other bloggers do.

I have switched to a shampoo bar for soap (but now I hear I should get rid of it because it has SLS). I have switched to reusable bags for groceries and cotton produce bags. We aren't much into consuming but I have bought clothes and some toys from the thrift store. I am trying to take some baby steps but it is difficult.

Christine said...

This is a great post. I am a big believer in making yourself aware and changing what you are able to...and if you can't now...keep it in mind for later!

Heather @ SGF said...

ttammylynn - I'm a big list person too. I even have a list for things in my life I want to change (like put that clothesline up, etc) and a list of things I've already done. That way, I can remind myself of the things I have yet to do, while looking at the amazing distance I've already come. Lists are a great way to stay motivated!

michelle - One step at a time is the way to do it. If we try to do it all at once we can easily become overwhelmed and go back to our old ways because, well, it's just too hard. But making small changes here and there can add up to BIG things over the years and make a wonderful difference in our lives (and in others we may not even know about).

billie - just keep with the baby steps. Maybe you can't find an alternative for plastic apple juice containers, but you can recycle those while you look for other ways to cut back on plastic. For instance, take produce bags with you to the grocery so you don't have to use new ones; buy in bulk whenever possible and take your own containers; take a piece of tupperware with you when you go out to eat for leftovers (use one that will fit nicely in your purse); take your own water bottle, fork and napkin to restaurants that use disposables; buy laundry detergent in powder form in a cardboard container instead of the plastic liquid containers since the cardboard can be composted; etc.... But remember, don't do everything at once. The key is to become more and more mindful. Identify a small change, make it, and put it on a list of changes you've accomplished. Then later on, make another change and put it on your list. Constantly remind yourself how far along you've come and you'll be less likely to be overwhelmed. And keep up the good work!

christine - I've learned this as well, mostly over the last 2 years. Mindfulness is powerful in every single aspect of our lives. It's amazing when you put your mind to it, the changes it can make in our lives!

Going Crunchy said...

Durn, excellent post. Rather timely as I'm getting tired of a few things that I do. It isn't really tired, just "harder" in many respects. If it is harder it is easier to shut your brain off and look the other way.

I'm rather a fan of clean air, water, and a stable climate so those thoughts keep me pumping a bit. Shannon

Green Bean said...

I think we are moving toward a culture of mindfulness. Maybe not in mass droves but in meaningful trickles. The first and biggest change is just paying attention, looking behind the walls and making smart decisions.

Great topic.

Heather @ SGF said...

Shannon - keep plugging along. Do you do anything in particular to stay motivated. I know it's hard sometimes...

green bean - I SO hope you are right!