Sometimes I wonder if any of this makes a difference at all. For the first month of this journey, I was riding high on my newfound passion for reducing my consumption and waste. I was thrilled every time I spotted an opportunity to cut back, or found an alternative product or solution to my plastic-filled life. But in the last few weeks I’ve started to despair and fear that nothing I do will make a difference in the long run, that most people in the world won’t change their habits, and that my efforts are for naught. Is the world on an irreversible path straight to hell?
I walk around India, and I see trash everywhere, and it upsets me. But the truth is, Indians don’t make nearly as much trash as Americans do. They just don’t go to the same lengths to stash it away out of sight. If Americans treated their trash the way Indians do, no one would be able to walk out their front doors. We’d all be boxed into our houses by the mountains of garbage we create each day. So we haul it away in compactor trucks and stash it in plastic-lined landfills so that it doesn’t seep into our groundwater. But it’s still out there, somewhere, in landfills and in our oceans, waiting 5 lifetimes to decompose.
I sat on a plane two days ago and politely refused the meal that was offered me in order to save some packaging from the trash. But for what? Every other passenger accepted, and created the waste I was trying so hard to avoid. And they did it without a second thought. I’m not saying this to be self-righteous; that was me one month ago. What I’m saying is, for every enlightened person, there are a million un-enlightened people out there carrying on contributing to the mess in which we now find ourselves.
Just when I’m ready to say screw it and throw in the towel, I think back to what got me started on this in the first place. I can’t be the only person in the world to have looked at my lifestyle and said “something needs to change”. And when I needed guidance on where and how to start, I looked to the many inspiring zero waste and minimalist bloggers out there for inspiration, who were a tremendous resource. So I’m hanging in there and continuing on my quest, because if I can someday be that inspiration and resource for someone, it will all have been worthwhile. And if the world still goes straight to hell, at least I’ll have saved a little money, and I will have gotten better sleep knowing I was trying every day to do the right thing.