The Challenges with Becoming Sustainably Minded

How to stay happy and positive in a non-sustainable environment.

After discovering our personal need to save the world, our ability to understand the non-environmentally friendly people around us is often challenged. We may feel scandalized by people who choose to drive their brand new BMW’s to campus, people who eat meat every day in the canteen and print course materials using just one side of each sheet of paper!

1Not only may we feel helpless and frustrated in our study environment, but also back home where we might be confronted by parents or other relatives who just cannot understand why one would become vegetarian / vegan and is no longer grateful for uncle Harry’s best barbecue meat.

While becoming an environmentalist it seems almost impossible to avoid this stage, where you just cannot understand people who live non-sustainable lives, and they cannot seem to understand you. This period often creates conflicts with family and friends, which can make a happy living situation feel like a distant dream.

It is therefore crucial to find methods which help you to not completely lose your hope, motivation and empathy – to get the strength to stay above any negative comments. Here are some tips to help you in such times:

  1. Stay Connected
    Most universities nowadays have societies for sustainable issues. It can be very helpful to discuss problems that arise everyday in a peer group. Sometimes it just helps to realise you are not totally bonkers for deciding to live a sustainable lifestyle. It is a great way to get inspired by people who think about sustainable issues and are willing to share their ideas. For me, YouTube was a great help too, as it is full of sustainability channels advocating similar ideas.
  2. Try to Understand the Comments
    After the 20th time you get asked “Why are you not eating meat?” you may no longer feel the ambition to answer the question with excitement, and that’s totally understandable. Still, try to remember that people might just be interested and that everyone will get used to your new lifestyle.
    Questions like this can carry offensive connotations which make you instantly furious. In this case try to keep in mind that people often cannot express what they really mean. Parents, for example, are often just scared and insecure because you chose a lifestyle so different from theirs. Comments often arise from anxieties which are caused by missing knowledge.
  3. Be Grateful
    Gratefulness is the best remedy on Earth. By being grateful for all the events that happened in your life that lead you to the now will help your positive energy to recharge. Be grateful that you got the chance to get the information and strength to start this new lifestyle. To be on the way to a sustainable lifestyle is a huge achievement for which you should be proud of yourself.
    Also, keep in mind that negative emotions against your family and friends (who just won’t stop buying fruit and veggies in plastic bags) will mainly have an impact on you and will not help to create a supporting environment.Tree
  4. Be Honest with Yourself
    We often feel that we need to be perfectly sustainable from the start, especially when advocating sustainability to people who do not agree with our lifestyle. Our non-sustainable traits sometimes seem to stand out for everyone to comment on. But mostly it is our own ego which is unhappy about being not perfectly environmental friendly. Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to adjust to the changes.
    Never forget that it is you who decides how far you want to go. Create your own definition of sustainability and what you want to achieve, and live by that. Do no try to reach goals which are not yours.
  5. Keep Distracted
    From time to time it can be a great relief to occupy your mind with something other than sustainability. Sports, cinema, meditation, music… whatever makes you happy. Distraction for me is incredibly important for getting my mind clear and creative again.
    Being happy and confident can help you to argue wisely and empathetically with other people about your lifestyle. I find it much easier to understand other opinions and present my own opinions in an understandable manner when I am feeling good. I still consider myself to be on the way to leading a sustainable lifestyle for which I am very grateful. Although it can be terribly challenging, you have every opportunity to move your life in whatever direction you want. Try to enjoy the journey and keep your head up, this is just another stage of your life.

I still consider myself to be on the way to leading a sustainable lifestyle for which I am very grateful. Although it can be terribly challenging, you have every opportunity to move your life in whatever direction you want. Try to enjoy the journey and keep your head up, this is just another stage of your life.

 

About the Author: Saskia Bacher is currently studying Geoecology at the University College Cork, and also works for the Polar and Marine Research Institute in Germany.

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