I love those gifs (or are they called memes?) that do the rounds on Facebook – about life in the eighties pre-technology when we rode our bikes everywhere, could only contact each other via landline, Pac Man was the only video game around and we never watched TV. A much simpler time, when we were told to make ourselves scarce or read a book if we were bored. Being scuttled off to OT, swimming lessons and pottery? Pah!
Incredible how things have changed in just one generation. Seems like right now, our kids, and us, have a lot more to worry about. Rhinos are nearly extinct. Our bee population is fast dwindling. By 2050 there’ll be more plastic in the sea than fish. The ice caps are melting and the sea rising. We’re running out of water. The Indonesian forests are burning. We’re consuming so much our landfills are running out of airspace. The food we eat is toxic and laden with preservatives. We’re hyper-connected yet many of us are still lonely and isolated. And while some of us gorge ourselves on meat and junk food, many of us are still starving to death. The pressure on our kids to perform has reached new heights (I’m pretty sure we didn’t write exams in Std 4?!). Trump. Brexit. ISIS. Zuma.
It’s hugely overwhelming and can make you want to curl up in the foetal position or be an ostrich and bury your head. Ignorance is after all bliss. But once you know something, you can’t un-know it.
Something that has also helped, for me, is to start small. Baby steps. Pick one thing that resonates with you, however tiny, and start doing that thing. Stop buying straws; take your own bags to the supermarket; eat less meat; join a beach clean up; stop shopping; be more patient and present with your kids; give the guy at the traffic light the courtesy of eye contact and a smile. Start small and don’t beat yourself up when you forget to do it or slip up.
For me, stuff is a big thing. I can never resist a magazine, covet just about any coffee table book ever published, and have an embarrassing amount of jeans. But I often feel crushed by the weight of the rubble in our household – the wrapping paper, party favours, broken toys and kids paraphernalia, old gadgets and shoes from yesteryear. This year, I’m going to tackle the mountain of crap that threatens to bury me. It’ll be donated, repurposed or upcyled. I have much to learn about the most responsible way to dispose of stuff (what should we be doing with foil and food packaging that isn’t recyclable – find alternatives and stop using them altogether probably!).
This is the year we lighten the load and start making some tweaks. We’ll tweak and tweak until eventually the small habits become ingrained and effortless. In the same way that I’m now unable to throw food waste into the rubbish bin without a shudder, I’m hoping, eventually, that one day, sooner rather than later, every decision around accumulating is a conscious one, ever mindful of our responsibility to tread a little lighter. Number 1 on my hit list – packaging! Watch this space.