For something a bit different today, let’s talk about morale.
For those interested in green living it can be challenging at the best of times to have high morale. There’s always a bad news story about climate change doing the rounds. Sometimes there are good news stories but you really have to seek these out. But the bad ones? It seems like they fly right at you as soon as your switch on your computer.
It’s also tricky to keep morale up when green living has so so many gray areas. For example, is buying an fairtrade bag made from recycled materials in Guatemala better than buying a locally made bag made from non recycled materials that has zero air miles? Is wearing vegan shoes made from plastic better than wearing vegetable tanned leather made from by products of the meat industry? Is criticising people who aren’t vegan or vegetarian ok when you drive a car on a daily basis or holiday abroad twice a year?
Trying to find an absolute answer to the imponderable is nigh on impossible and would drive you to a pit of despair if you contemplated them for too long.
The truth is there is no perfect way to live greenly. I firmly believe it simply is not humanly possible for a person to be 100% green in every single aspect of their life.
But if that’s the case then shouldn’t we just give up the quest, and just live our lives recklessly without any regard for the environment? My answer is no – we keep trying to be as green as we can. So how can you keep morale up when you can’t be 100% green?
Let me let you into my secret as to how I keep my morale and enthusiasm for green living up.
While I write here on Moral Fibres on a regular basis on green living, as much as I try to be upbeat and positive, it’s not all sunshine and roses. I’ve always been upfront and honest about my struggles and challenges with green living. One of my first posts in 2013 was about my then un-green habits. I’ve mentioned briefly about my struggles with veganism on my about page and about my struggles with avoiding palm oil. So yes, I happily put my hands up and admit there are things that I don’t do so well at.
At the same time, there are things that I think I do really well at. Not perfectly by any means, but pretty well. Despite living semi-rurally (not through choice, we were completely priced out of city living) and having two kids, I have lived car free for 10 years now. I have been a long term vegetarian for over 10 years, and I consider myself to be an eBay ninja at procuring secondhand clothes. I am trying to clean my home as greenly as possible. In short, I try my best.
And do you know what? It certainly 100% improves my morale when I know I can’t possibly be THE best at every single aspect of green living, but I can do MY best. That’s what keeps me going. Knowing I’m doing what I can, and the fact that where and when I can do more, I will.
Of course, not everyone shares the same view and I sometimes get emails from people who are disappointed in me for when my best doesn’t match up to their own standards and values.
The most recent one was from a vegan who was angry and disappointed because in my sidebar was a link to a post on how to test egg freshness to help reduce food waste. She said I should be vegan, and should be urging all readers to go vegan. I explained that I have tried to go vegan in the past (most recently just last year) and really really struggled with it, so instead I have cut my dairy consumption as a compromise. She didn’t agree this was an acceptable compromise. It’s not the best, but right now it’s my best.
Sometimes people get angry at me because some items I recommend don’t match up to their own personal purchasing criteria. For example: if I’m wearing or recommending clothes that can’t be composted. I personally don’t have the facility to compost clothes at home and as far as I’m aware my local council doesn’t compost clothes, so it’s not something I factor in to purchasing decisions.
Instead I wash my clothes appropriately to help prolong their lifespan; repair where possible; donate or sell second hand clothes when I’m done with them; or when they are too far gone, donate to charity in a bag marked as rags. Almost all charity shops which sell clothing have an arrangement with a textile recycler, who buys any unsold items from them for recycling. Maybe it’s not the best, but right now it’s my best.
I’m not against criticism when it’s constructive, but criticism for criticism’s sake serves no purpose other than to sap morale. Who knows – maybe one day I’ll manage a successful transition to veganism. Maybe one day I’ll successfully be able to compost my old clothes. In the mean time, I’m not going to get too down about the things I’m not doing perfectly.
Not everyone has such a thick skin though. Not everyone believes that their best is, right now, the best. For another green blogger getting these kind of criticisms may make them think they should stop blogging because they’re not good enough, when really they are doing a great job at helping to spread the word about green living and challenging others to do more. Or for a blog reader reading these kind of criticisms/comments it may, for example, stop them trying to seek out more ethical clothing because they may feel apathetic or completely overwhelmed, when really they are doing a great job in realising that fast fashion isn’t sustainable, and that looking for alternatives is a great place to start.
So how can we spread morale amongst the green community and beyond? We could applaud and encourage people who are trying to do the right thing in the best way that they can. We could tell them they’re doing a great job. We could offer constructive support and guidance where we can, but leave negativity to the side. Telling people that they’re not doing enough, or that they’re not doing something correctly isn’t a great way to spread enthusiasm or morale. Because surely someone trying to do something good is better than them doing nothing?
So let’s champion the small baby steps. Let’s celebrate our trials and errors in trying to find greener ways that work for each of us. We’re all human after all!
What are your thoughts on morale? How do you keep yours up?