Being Green

It’s European Green Week. To celebrate I’m joining in with Humans of Code to chat about how life is aiming for eco-warrior status and falling short, more like eco-weary, just at a time when there is no time to lose. A friend recommended I see ‘Kiss the Ground’ – a new documentary on Netflix.

She said beyond the cheesy but lovely Woody Harrelson narration, there was a brilliant format for reaching us tired folks. And it is really worth a watch, soil and its inhabitants are incredible. What also struck me was what she said about its impact on her thirteen-year-old daughter.  After viewing it together, her daughter swiftly pressed play and rewatched it alone, writing 12 pages of notes in the process, determined to share it with her class at school. That’s some energy right there – and I want some!

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the huge number of decisions to be made in order to ‘turn the boat around’ and head in a greener life direction. I think my boat is creaking round to due north, maybe there’s some comfort in that, but it’s minor compared to what’s required. Harder still is dealing with my daily/weekly/yearly discomfort of breaking or never quite forming new habits.

I thought I’d explore these two themes in my own life – choice paralysis (where do I start?) and the regretful, stress-inducing feeling of my actions not matching up to my beliefs about Climate Change, a psychological situation that could be an example of cognitive dissonance. It begins then with a little green audit, finding where my mini victories lie and what’s holding me back on the rest.


Forget the social media green-chic, when I look closely, any boot into action has consistently been delivered by my friends and family. Being in another person’s home (remember that?!) probably serves the biggest motivational punch for me and offers some immediate solutions. The “show,  don’t tell” is powerful.   Maybe I’m nosy,  but I am fascinated to see how other people tackle the same domestic issues. Their choice of tea, the strictly seasonal fruit and veg buyer, the inventive ‘use it all up’ cook, the new parent’s approach to nappies, the Tupperware filled fridge,  the bulk buyers, the natural remedy makers, the homemade snack makers, the handmade furniture-makers, the waste-free gift-wrap, the free-cycle converts, the local library supporters and local-everything cheerleaders, the walkers, the cyclists, the train-goers, the salad growers, the vegetarians teaching me about lentils and the vegans who have found a way to live without cheese. I am amazed and then encouraged to try it all out. Knowing these people face similar barriers as me; time, space, budget, and in their own way still cope with any discomfort of change and seem at peace – if not thriving with their efforts.

Keep the embers hot

The intention must be strong. I notice I have to find a way to keep the environment on my own inner agenda or it falls away. Reading the news is alarming, it’s a tricky balance not to be scared away. I’m ashamed to say I only got half way reading Naomi Klien’s “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate”. I gave up, I felt so hopeless and then my confidence diminished and with that a dose of disengagement about the whole topic. Watch out for that! What has helped keep the glow for me? Joining the Extinction Rebellion’s mailing list is a breath of fresh air and an antidote to mainstream news. Reading “Homo Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari – made me fall in and out of love with the human race and but mostly want to cherish all our living beings. His future-looking follow up title “Homo Deus” helped me consider my role in tech and the choices ahead to protect what we know as human.

Chit chat

They say we are a product of the five people we spend the most time with, their influence in how our lives look and feel is inevitable. That’s where my confidence gets re-built after the fall, a phone call, a long walk, watching someone else cook as you get to unload your guilt. It’s in the conversations that intentions move into goal setting. My two examples involve a child and Santa!

I’m a bit of a nomad and in other pre-Covid times, love nothing better than to career (sustainably) down the country to someone’s house (to spy in their cupboards, haha!). Travelling has been my weak link.  It’s taken me a while to gather the ‘stuff’ – the reusable cup for tea, the water bottle and the Tupperware of snacks (see fridge inspiration). But I couldn’t kick the disposable wipes habit. Fast forward to a camping trip and an unforgettable conversation with a friend’s seven-year-old son.  He was chatting away to me as I lazily cleaned my face with my handy face wipes and he paused when he noticed what I was doing and said, did I know how bad those are for the environment and for my skin, they’re full of chemicals… I was so shocked at his observation and his directness. He wasn’t trying to preach to me, he said it like he really cared about the planet and for my skin. It was unnervingly humbling.

The second story is a small win for sustainability but some might say a big loss for Santa. On a relentless descent of the Cobbler one July, an old friend and I got talking about managing the upcoming Christmas. I’d say her eco-life boat is a bit further along than me, with the wind in her sails she is doing all the green things. But when it came to a green Christmas vs Christmas traditions, her family stood firm, so she turned her attention to my family! What would happen if the adults agreed to do secret Santa, buying one present for one person instead of everyone? Well, three years on we’ve reduced total gifts from 126 to 18 items and all the fancy wrapping and grief that goes with it. It’s a small change but one I wouldn’t have had the will or nerve to propose, if not for that chat down the mountain to fully figure it all out.

What’s helped manage my choice paralysis? Chipping away at the list.  One at a time.  Finding out which one feels the most important at any given time- which if you are lucky might be nudged along by a chat with a nature-loving child. And tackling the actions vs beliefs mismatch? The stress of doing and thinking opposing things? Make some time with a non-judging, tea making person, who’ll show you how to build up your confidence and try again.

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Clare McEwan
Clare McEwan

Software Developer at Hymans Robertson / Textile Artist / Human of Code

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