Sustainability Under Stress

Current Location: London, UK

I’ve just completed a marathon of an exam period — and my last one ever! As much as I enjoyed my degree I am thrilled to be finished with the study portion of it. Now all that’s left is a 10,000 word dissertation…

I dropped the ball on new challenges in April and May because I didn’t have time to do the research into something I want to change in my life. I’ve said before that I want my monthly challenges to be permanent changes and not just month-long experiments. During finals I was simply not able to make any commitments.

However, I am a bit upset with myself because I let a few of my challenges slip with the stress of exams:

I recognize that I am my own worst critic, and that I am generally doing my best. I didn’t eat meat, eggs, or dairy. I properly rinsed and sorted all of my recyclables. I used eco-friendly cleaning products (when I could be bothered to clean…), and I composted all of my food waste. But I could have done more, and I could have done better. I try to live by one of my favorite Jon Stewart quotes, “If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values: they’re hobbies.” To me, living sustainably and ethically is not a hobby. I don’t do it because it’s trendy (actually it’s definitely not trendy), it’s because I genuinely believe that every person can make a difference in the way they live. So I am very hard on myself when I make choices that are inconsistent with my beliefs out of ease.

“If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values: they’re hobbies.” – Jon Stewart

However, what this did highlight for me is the importance of changing systems. Of course there are limits to what individuals can be expected to do. Even if every person was committed to environmental consciousness, there are limits to time, budget, information, etc. It’s not just about encouraging people to make different choices, but making those choices easier and more accessible. There are great examples of this happening all of the time: Tesco is getting rid of misleading ‘best by’ dates on produce to help reduce food waste, Pret a Manger offers a 50p discount for reusable cups and is trialling a plastic recycling scheme, and the UK government* has been taking huge steps towards addressing plastic waste at a national level.

I’ve said from the beginning of this blog that I wanted to show that living sustainably doesn’t have to be hard. I still stand by that; there are lots of easy ways to be a little more eco-friendly. But not everyone can be zero waste yet. Until then, I’ll keep trying to find new ways to reduce, reuse, recycle, recommend organizations trying to change the system, and remember that perfect is the enemy of the good.


*It remains to be seen what concrete actions will actually come from these initiatives but it’s worth mentioning that this is a CONSERVATIVE government initiative so take note Republicans.

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