Written by Tara McKenna
All environmentalists are hypocrites, at least that’s what the world would have us believe. One minute you’re drinking Fair Trade coffee in a reusable coffee mug and being praised for your efforts, the next you’re driving across town in an SUV and the guilt is off the charts. Don’t even bother adding a steak dinner to the mix because you’ll undoubtedly be roasted if you’re trying to be green.
The thing is, we need more people to be environmental hypocrites, or in other words, imperfect environmentalists, who want to live more sustainably. When the world consumes more than one million disposable plastic bottles per minute, we need everyone on board to live lighter on this planet.
Even David Suzuki, an iconic environmental activist, has been blasted for flying: “I was in Calgary at the airport, taking a leak. This guy pulls up at the next urinal, and says, I hope you flew in on a solar-powered plane, otherwise you’re a g--damn hypocrite!”
Meanwhile Suzuki has received several accolades for his academic, broadcasting, and environmental activism accomplishments. It’s doubtful that Suzuki’s airport bathroom critic had the same curriculum vitae. In the words of vulnerability and shame researcher, Brené Brown, that guy had probably never even entered the arena.
So, does everyone else gets a free pass? You’re either a perfect environmentalist, and you must follow a strict set of rules, or you’re not an environmentalist at all and you can pollute the planet without a second thought? In the latter, you get the right – no questions asked – to be the frequent-plane-flying, so-much-meat-eating, four-car-garage-McMansion-owning, all-the-single-use-plastic-tossing, trash-littering, non-recycling, electricity-sucking, fast-fashion-shopping person, and live that way guilt-free?
Why should environmentalists be the only ones who try to live more sustainably? The answer: they shouldn’t. Also, no one has to be perfect. It’s impossible, anyway. It’s about time for some middle ground.
In Jonathan Safran Foer’s book We Are the Weather, Foer states simply that eating fewer animal products is probably the most important action an individual can take to reverse global warming. While I’m sure the world going vegan would be better for the planet, it’s not realistic – the world’s meat consumption is instead projected to increase – so Foer’s approach is much more palatable. It sounds a lot like middle ground.
What else does middle ground look like? Perhaps some of these instances:
The vegan who occasionally flies for a much-needed vacation
The low-waste enthusiast who might be seen with a plastic straw
The sustainable fashion blogger who bought fast fashion but will keep it for 10+ years
The climate change activist driving a gas-guzzling SUV
The green parents who buy all secondhand toys and clothes but choose disposable diapers
Living more sustainably isn’t just reserved for environmentalists. And for those who do identify as environmentalists, they shouldn’t be held to impossible standards of perfection.
What is a perfect environmentalist anyway? Someone who lives off the land, grows their own food, uses renewable energy, and is completely disconnected from modern society’s conveniences? This is highly unlikely for most of us.
Sustainable living needs to be accessible and available for the majority to participate. It’s better to have more people choosing to fly less, eat less meat, reuse more often, and overall choosing to consume less stuff, than to have a select few aiming for perfection.
As for people who do try to live more sustainably, but don’t get it right every time, at least they are in the arena. We should all be environmental hypocrites doing something, and not nothing.
Want to be an imperfect environmentalist too? You'll love the book, Don't Be Trashy!