Preface: this is neither an inspirational piece on environmental consciousness nor useful advice. This is merely a musing on what it means to be green.
A few days ago, I drove two kilometres to my brother and his girlfriend’s house to sunbathe in the afternoon. On my way over I had a wave of realisation and guilt that I’d jumped into my car to drive a distance that I could have easily walked.
Feeling bad about my environmental faux pas got me thinking about my travels; what I’ve experienced elsewhere and how we can define or benchmark ‘being green’.
My year living there turned me a deeper shade of green. Australians seem to have a greater awareness of the environmental impact of human activity. Perhaps because it happens quite dramatically on their doorsteps. High standard of living also means accessibility and ability to purchase ethical and sustainable options.
There is so much of Australia that is untouched by humans yet still so vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
Something I found quite frustrating was a general lack of understanding or engagement with environmental issues. Plastic water bottles are widely used, even at home and in places where the water is perfectly clean, although many people do recycle. Alternative options are definitely less easily come by.
A line of recycling bins in the background.. and a nice sunset!
I visited Galapagos where protecting their unique environment is high priority, and then Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. Again, a lot of plastic water bottles although, particularly as a visitor, that’s often a necessary. They benefit from fewer food miles on fresh produce – I still dream about the most delicious and guilt-free avocado I had in the Andes.
The unique biodiversity of the Galapagos islands makes it particularly precious.
Home: it’s pretty hard not to be aware of the problems our planet faces thanks to media coverage. We have some great ethical and sustainable companies and I was happy to see recently even Boots stock environmentally friendly products. That’s not to say we’re doing well enough though. Because we’re not.
So what does it mean to be green? Countries differ in their attitudes and options, likely dependant on a range of factors including economy, politics, practicalities and education. And these aren’t easy to change. We may all share one planet but there is no one size fits all approach.
So I'm concluding that being green is about changing our own status quo. It needs to be challenging, it needs to be uncomfortable. For some that may be splashing out on a decent reusable cup and bottle and making that effort to always use them, for others seeking out local stockists of sustainable and environmentally friendly products, for others petitioning and making noise about these issues.
Wherever we are on the scale right now, it’s time to take it up a notch and go a deeper shade of green.