Step 1 of the Journey
Zero Waste action as an example and a metaphor for activating our future.
Why are we so reluctant to take a step?
Is not the first step half the journey? Aren't we trying to get somewhere, to improve and to thrive despite everything?
It seems to me (and I am consistently finding in my role as change instigator) that the biggest problem is simply getting people to take step 1, that first and all empowering step. It looks something like this: (Zero Waste action is as an example here. but also a metaphor for actions in any other subject)
Step 1: You carry your own water bottle and bags and you don't litter... you are inspired by others, it makes sense and you want to fit in. (See here for Zero Waste tips)
As a result and simplified you then take either a positive or negative route (with potential to change of course) Step 1. Positive Way: You adopt more zero waste habits, you start to care and notice, you want to do more. Step 1. Negative Way: This first step looks like green-washing. It distracts you from the bigger issues. You feel you are doing enough so you blank out seeing beyond and you do not feel motivated to do more. You have ticked this box. You need a good role model and incentives to help you become Positive.
Step 1. Makes us all: Notice the lack of systematic change, you are worried by the damage consumerism and big business is doing.
If your route has not been disrupted you will continue in the same direction (negative or positive) to: Step 2: Step 2. Positive Way: You stop buying many products in single-use packaging and become more involved, you notice details and do more such as boycott and petition the companies regarding packaging, campaign for legislation, you activate others. Step 2. Negative Way: If you are not stuck at Step 1 you can continue to notice things and to blame others. You feel angry but not motivated enough to give up on your Starbucks (though you may take your own cup). You feel there is no point as the fault is with the corporations. Here intervention and inspiration is necessary to shift you to the Positive! Step 2. Makes us all: Feel betrayed, anger, grief. You feel small and insignificant and disenfranchised from the whole and others who don't seem aware. You also feel a deepening connection to nature as you too are being exploited.
Again, if your route has not been disrupted you will continue in the same direction (negative or positive) to:
Step 3. Step 3. Positive Way: You realise the small zero waste efforts are, just like everything else; interconnected. You find yourself able or inclined to see beyond a product down the entire supply chain. You question and you wonder about everything. You realise most of what we live is an illusion, a lie and exploitative. You suffer grief but are activated by the awareness. You have to figure out how best to move ahead because standing still becomes an intolerable option. You are ready to connect with people and groups who feel like this and you want to activate others. You are an activist but you have much to learn before you can move beyond loneliness and frustration. If you continue deepening and sharing you will find yourself a part of a huge movement that might just be life changing. Step 3. Negative Way: You give up. You buy a mocha latte (whatever that is) in a disposable cup and take three extra straws..... Business as usual for you.
So by taking a single step you activate the possibility of becoming a more conscious and connected being. By caring about the implications of a single-use plastic bottle we start on a journey towards whole systems thinking. The first step is a doable independent action which is then followed by deeper thought which can take us to the positive or negative option in simplistic terms, or for most of us to a mixture of both, but either way without the first step the potential for positive progression and a desirable emergent is thwarted. For many the decisive, kinetic, empowering involvement, the collaborative energy and the sense of belonging along a collective journey are the only ways to activate progression through to awareness and connection.
I advocate the idea that a shift in our cultural paradigm or a phase shift in the level of being for humanity will be triggered by first just taking that Step 1.
My Zero / Less Waste life is a Journey.
This is my 'less waste' home. It's not for everyone. Others have found ways that are more efficient and suit their homes and family better, but mine might inspire some as it is not somewhere hard to get to. It is not glamorous and chic, it is not ultra anything and not full of fancy gadgets or designer Zero Waste products either.... it is just home.
Home for me has become a series of steps that take us along with them. We haven't arrived and no doubt we never will. There is always something to learn and things to improve upon. Since I embarked upon the Zero Waste journey I have become increasingly aware of the steps ahead of me... steps that absolutely must be taken. It's as if once you have entered the magical realm of possibilities your curiosity to dig deeper and to discover more ways to become independent and free entice you in. I started by ensuring we all have refillable water bottles. We still haven't bought dedicated ones, I was gifted one and we simply use glass bottles that we fill up as we leave home. If we are out and our water runs dry or if we forget and only plastic bottles are available then we simply go thirsty, after all we are adults in a moderate climate. So I took that first step and as my foot touched the soft ground I felt more at peace with myself and with this my eyes opened wider. Venturing into a supermarket became more challenging; I saw that the sweets and candy bars are all wrapped in single use plastic. What was to be done? I simply gave up eating them. Easy for me, but try that on your teenage kids and your 5 year old. Well my big children are grown up now so are within their own jurisdiction, but they are certainly informed, aware and sensitive. Mia on the other hand is at my mercy, bless her, so I have the utter pleasure of filling her life with home made cookies and treats wrapped in nothing but fun and activity. The shop bought stuff has no place in our home and the contents (such as palm oil and excessive sugar have no place in her diet!) Again I sense my foot falling onto the soft mossy ground of an enchanted place, trees ahead beckon me towards them, towards consciousness and connection.
The simple chore of shopping (that we have been brain washed into finding recreational) and walking along littered streets seem to pave a toxic path to the stores and malls, each a confusing and hypnotic cave of fiendish malevolence.
Plastic shopping bags had disappeared from my life, but had left a problem in their wake, no shopping bags meant I had nothing to place my waste... So I had to think about that. Buying bags for waste was obviously counter productive (and even 'compostable' ones don't biodegrade in landfill or anywhere except dedicated composting facilities) So I took a look at my waste; what did it consist of? I had eradicated the water bottles and the single use wrappers from candy and such, but we still had so much left over from cheese packaging, milk cartons, yoğurt and labne pots, detergent and.... oh my.... all that bathroom stuff; shampoo, conditioner, creams, soaps... ( See here for homemade package free products tips) Then there's the meat containers and the packets of frozen produce or tin cans of cooked chick peas for when I'm in a hurry....There's the pasta and the rice and legumes packets. .... So slowly I figured out ways to minimize or eradicate each of the above. Each step took me deeper in to the embrace of the woods. The trees are most forgiving.
Each day took me deeper to the depths of the ocean too. The seas are most cleansing.
As my journey took me deeper, wider, clearer, higher I was increasingly sensing the desperation of a planet, our amazing Earth that both cherishes us and rails against us while it tries to gag up the poison we have thrust down its throat.
My minuscule steps are the tickle of an ants feet on the back of a mountain.
My feet are the thud of a herd of horses dashing over the plains.
My feet are the flaps of the herons wings as she lifts herself airborne.
My feet are the pad of the leopards paws as it stalks it's prey.
My feet are the grip of the beetle as it clambers the stem.
My feet are the stampede of the elephant herd as they charge to crush what threatens them to the ground. Crushed into the hard ground.... buried, broken and bloody.... bury me and my mistakes and let me rise again....
A tree, firmly rooted in understanding.
Compatible... Connected... Conscious.
Yep. so that's where I am with the journey (see above Step 3. Positive:......... You suffer grief but are activated by the awareness.)
But don't worry, this stage is not all melodrama and anguish, there's also a whole lot of fun to be had along the way.
And beyond this are the next horizons, ones that as yet I cannot see, so I'll just keep on taking my steps.....
Care to join me?
For an article that is alignment with this and has loads of useful links: Individual-Zero-Waste-Action-Counts
For more tips on Zero or Less Waste see The sustainable Living category of my blog posts.