My 11-year-old nephew asked me the other day if I thought I ever polluted the earth.
“All day every day,” I replied.
That might come as a surprise. Most people look at me and my life and see someone who cares deeply for the earth.
I own an organic grocery store and co-own an organic cafe, catering, and product development cooperative that uses little to no disposable packaging or take-out containers. I don’t offer plastic bags as a carrying option neither in the bulk section of my store nor at the check-out.
I carry a metal water bottle, a thermos, a food container, and my own wooden utensils pretty much wherever I go. I haven’t eaten meat in 20 years, and I do my best to eat locally and seasonally grown food.
I’ve never had my driver’s license, so I use a bicycle as my main mode of transportation. And I walk a lot.
I often purchase second-hand clothes and household products. I use only natural body care products, cleaning products and food products. I compost and recycle, and have lived in off-grid, solar-powered homes for the majority of my life.
I support local environmental activism organizations to help them keep doing the work of protecting the earth’s natural resources. I spend a lot of time outside communing with nature. I do what I can to create positive change in the world while hopefully inspiring other’s to do the same.
And then, on the other side of the coin…
I regularly travel long distances by airplane. I let my friends drive me around in their cars.
I buy food and other goods that are over-packaged in plastic and shipped around the world. I use electronics daily that have been made from mined metal and gems. I use the internet (a lot), which apparently is a huge contributor to the carbon load in the atmosphere.
I consume more than I need to, because I can. I buy too much and often forget about food in the fridge, and it goes bad before I can eat it. I burn wood for heat. I use acrylic paint to create art. I print photos to make art cards. I shower more than is probably necessary. I buy things I don’t need because I want them. I drink coffee and eat chocolate that required more water to be grown and processed than an average person drinks in a year (yes, I just made that statistic up, but isn’t that how statistics come to be?!).
If you put all these things side by side as I have just done, I could look like a huge hypocrite. Yet I don’t consider myself to be one. I see myself as a very dynamic person who takes conscious steps to care for this planet we live on, yet at the same time, recognizes that I’m not a saint. I’m not without lazy tendencies from time to time, tossing what could possibly be recycled into the garbage because I can’t be bothered in the moment to either find a proper recycling bin or clean the item to the standards of the recycling depot.
What I’m trying to address here is that there really is no room for judgment when it comes to our lifestyles, because nobody is perfect. We could ridicule an SUV driver for their gas-guzzling vehicle, but what we might not know is that that person may have never been on an airplane, or may live in an off-grid tiny home with a solar roof and personal water catchment system, or grow all their own veggies and primarily get around by bike, only using the SUV for long distances or hauling heavy loads.
It’s a shame that we might think we are better than someone else because we only ever ride our bike and would never dream of getting in an SUV.
We all have our strengths and our weaknesses in every area of our lives. We are all human. Therefore, it is important that we practice non-judgment when it comes to the ways we all choose to live our lives.
When I feel judgment in myself, it’s almost always a clear indication that I need to look at the broader picture and perhaps get to know more about the person or situation that is causing the judgment to arise. I can ask more questions and look deeper to get a more in-depth perspective on the person or situation, while also remembering that I too have flaws and sometimes don’t meet my own standards of what it means to be good steward of the earth, or citizen of the world.
I love shopping. I really do. In-store and online, I have a deep affinity for well-made, thoughtfully-sourced, tactile goods. I love things, especially beautiful useful things like paper notebooks, candles, boots, and jackets.
Yes, I do try to shop locally whenever I can—often checking every possible store in town to see if they carry a particular product before I search online or go looking in the city. And I also love “window shopping,” both on the street and on my favorite websites.
What I’ve noticed in myself is that I actually like the shopping part more than having the actual product (I bet this is true for many of us). I like being able to support local makers and producers, so I will often purchase something just to support the handmade or artisan market. I shop a lot, but I also give away a lot, regularly putting a free box outside of my home or business to pass along what I am no longer using.
Being present in this cycle of acquiring and releasing has brought me into a place of deep knowing that I will always have what I need, when I need it. It’s the way the universe works: I receive, I give. I give, I receive. This is my unspoken mantra for the way I have chosen to walk in the world in all aspects. It helps me to contextualize my belief that everything is happening for a reason, and that we are all learning our lessons and evolving at the right pace for ourselves, as individuals.
May we all know the totality of our existence and be conscious of the ways we both contaminate and preserve this beautiful earth. We are all human after all—perfectly imperfect, acting from our personal awareness in each given moment.
If we can consciously tune into our own balance of giving (stewarding the earth) and receiving (using the earth’s resources), we have the potential to create a more harmonious relationship with the planet upon which we live. It is a simple act of awareness and mindfulness in the choices we make in each moment of our lives—and where there is awareness and mindfulness, there is much less room for judging others.
Author: Morgan Leigh Callison
Image: Elephant archives
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Travis May