Let’s talk about a topic that holds many of us back: why being an imperfect environmentalist is okay and how we can use it to empower each other.
Carrying shame for “not doing enough” plague people on their journey to becoming more eco-friendly and slows down progress.
From my experience, I do not see a lot of forgiveness when someone is imperfect and the truth is imperfect environmentalists can make a difference.
Social media can be damaging to the cause when we hold people to unrealistic expectations and wait for someone to “make a mistake” in order to question their success or character. If you do this and you think you’re helping, I’m here to tell you that you’re not. Calling people out and educating them is not the same thing.
Let’s address this issue together and learn how to be more understanding and patient with others and ourselves.
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Who is an Environmentalist?
Chances are if you’re reading this post you consider yourself to be an environmentalist or working towards becoming one.
I have a more in-depth post about what it means to be an environmentalist, but let’s summarize what it takes to be an environmentalist.
- You care about the environment.
- You speak up and advocate for the environment.
- You are aware of your impact on the environment.
- You’re trying your best given your current circumstances.
Being an environmentalist starts with a mindset and this post is to remind you of that and to remind you of how to make progress with this mindset.
How Imperfect Environmentalists Still Make Progress
I see a lot of negativity in the vegan/vegetarian scene, and I know some people have ethical reasons for their diets, but let’s talk about it from an environmental aspect.
For example, I would love to be vegan, but due to personal dietary issues, it is not as easy as I would like. When I feel I cannot commit 100% I become discouraged and it leads me not to try.
There is a lot of pressure to fit into a dietary label, but is this realistic for everyone?
I learned this was a ridiculous way to view it.
Suzy Amis Cameron, an environmental advocate, and an author discusses One Meal a Day and how “by switching one meat- or dairy-based meal a day, we can slash our personal water and carbon footprint by about 25 percent.”
Earth Day highlight that substituting one poultry meal a week for a vegan option could equate to taking more than 500,000 U.S. cars off the road.
This is why we need to be more patient with people and their flexible diets. Every change matters.
If you always use a reusable water bottle, but find yourself thirsty and having to buy a plastic bottle of water. Does this mean every effort you made meant nothing? See how silly it is?
The climate crisis does not consider politics, race, or class, but it is our responsibility as the people and collections of people that have created the inequality influence on vulnerability and resilience to climate change.
There are many reasons why some of us can commit to more when becoming an environmentalist such as financial, physical, and mental health, ethics, and general life circumstances.
Let me make something clear, of course, we celebrate people who do everything they can for the environment, but people who are doing their best in the circumstances they’re in deserve just as much praise!
Environmentalism is not a competition.
If you’re not being empathetic and understanding in someone’s process as an environmentalist then you’re not an ally.
Why Accepting Imperfect Environmentalists Will Promote Progress
Once we realize that different circumstances allow for different levels of environmentalism, we will be able to move forward with positivity.
People are allowed to make mistakes and people are allowed to still call themselves environmentalists.
If we relieve the pressures we put on people to be perfect it will allow people to commit to the process and power through any obstacles. When we normalize imperfections it will encourage people to continue their efforts and strive for more.
When we attack or shame others for efforts they become discouraged and ashamed which could influence them to give up entirely. When we give up entirely we see no change.
The next time you think about “calling someone out”, consider if you are doing them a favor or if you’re doing it for your own ego.
If you want to educate people on how to be better environmentalists you must first learn how to communicate this with kindness. You want to be part of their progress, not what hinders them.
I hope I empowered you to embrace being an imperfect environmentalist or inspired you to try being more understanding and patient. Please comment with any questions or advice and let me know if you would like a post on how to communicate/advocate for the environment effectively.