Sustainable Living Challenge

Week 22: Be the Green Sheep

This is not exactly what this week’s blog post was supposed to be about…I think that topic may have to wait until next week, because right now this is the topic on my mind. When you start making the switch to green living, you may find that the transition is relatively easy on a personal level. Throw other people into the mix and it can be more complicated. As I wrote earlier in the week, it can be easy to forget that your green bubble does not encompass the entire world. Not everyone is going to be as conscious of plastic or pollutants or chemicals as you are. So this week I want to take a moment to talk about being the green sheep. As a wise frog once sang, “It’s not easy being green”.

Life As the Green Sheep

My family is fairly environmentally conscious, especially my mother who has a Master’s in Environmental Studies and spends her Saturday mornings watching shows about green innovation and wildlife. That being said…we still butt heads. This weekend, my sister (who is also living at home to save money) and I had a fight about cleaning the bathroom because she doesn’t think that the homemade products I use actually clean the bathroom. And since we’re sisters it should go without saying that we did not sit down and have a friendly debate about this subject…I butt heads with my family all the time about my “green” lifestyle. My homemade deodorant raises eyebrows, my tirades about the horrors of sponges elicit groans, my complaints about unethical bananas makes my dad want to pull his hair out.

I try to live by example rather than being preachy. When it comes to my family though, I probably fail at the whole preachy thing though. Living in a way that reduces my impact is extremely important to me. I spend every moment hyper aware of how my behavior affects the planet. I find it to be a rewarding and mindful way to live. But it can also be frustrating, because plenty of people on the planet don’t live like that. So it’s easy to feel like the green sheep when you think you’re the only one that cares…even though you’re not.

At some point, all of us ecowarriors need to embrace that sometimes we will be the green sheep. We may be the only person who brought their own spork in a crowd of people using disposable utensils. It’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen regularly. It may be hard, but we need to accept this reality and keep trying to change our own little corner of the world by working on our own behavior. Embrace being the green sheep and keep on fighting the good fight.

Getting Over It

First and foremost, I am telling you now that you are not the only person who cares. There are tons of people on this planet who care (including my family that I fight with). You are not alone, even if like me you feel like the green sheep sometimes.

Second, you have to learn to let it go. My sister and I yelling at each other is not going to help the planet. Hopefully we can sit down at some point and have a constructive conversation about it. But I may need some chocolate first. I’m writing this so that maybe you can avoid having the same fight. It SUCKS to let it go, because the planet is important and green living is important. But fighting with someone is not going to change their mind. So let it go. Take a deep breath. Eat some ethically sourced chocolate and woman up. That doesn’t mean that we stop advocating or protesting or fighting, it just means that we look for different routes.

When you become passionate about something, you have to learn how to let go when you need to. If you feel like the green sheep, try to focus more on your own behavior rather than comparing it to what other people are doing. Sometimes, when you see someone doing something harmful for the planet you need to let it go. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but fighting with someone is only going to reinforce their opinion that you’re a crazy tree hugger who’s smoking something. Instead take a step back. Look for opportunities to have a calm and constructive conversation. If you can’t, let it go, walk away, and get back to being an ecowarrior in your own life.

Leading By Example

It sucks sometimes being the green sheep. And you know what, it does suck when other people just don’t get it! But remember that you were not always an ecowarrior. I hope that ten years from now, we all look back on our lifestyle and remark about how much cleaner we are living. We should always be working to be greener and more eco-friendly. So we need to give others a chance to grow as well.

The best thing you can do for the green movement is to lead by example. BE the green sheep and embrace your role as a leader. When I bring my own spork and Mason jars to restaurants, my friends and the waiters notice. Maybe one of them will start doing the same thing. One of my good friends who does not have an environmental background informed me about the Final Straw before I even knew about it! People do see you even when you feel like the green sheep. So keep doing what you’re doing. You don’t have to preach, but when someone asks you a question about your reusable bags or straws or homemade deodorant, be open and enthusiastic about why you are using those items. Maybe in the process you’ll add a few more sheep to the green flock!

In Summary

It sucks to be the green sheep sometimes. It really does. But it’s also really worth it, I promise. Remember, there’s no planet B. This is a fight worth fighting. In the meantime, here’s my advice for getting used to being the green sheep (and maybe avoiding a fight with your family):

  1. Don’t lose hope or forget that you are not alone. There’s a whole environmental movement out there fighting for the same things you are. We have your back, so keep fighting!
  2. Let it go if it’s not worth fighting about. If having an argument is not going to end in an outcome that benefits the planet, which it usually won’t, walk away. Protecting your sanity and mental well-being is part of being an ecowarrior.
  3. Fight in other ways. Try to have calm and meaningful conversations with the people you are butting heads with.
  4. Lead by example. Other people care and your behavior can show people greener options.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you think this was a good follow-up to my article about life in the green bubble by leaving a comment below! And if you like what I write, consider clicking that subscribe button!