Over the years of living a sustainable lifestyle (or at least trying to) I think I have learned why I have never given up. I am still determined to live my best life. And for me, the best life is the most sustainable and ethical life. That’s the base. I think I am not giving up because I keep growing in this journey. And because of that there is one very important lesson which makes me continue: a sustainable and ethical lifestyle is about compassion. The core of this lifestyle is compassion and that’s why I would never quit alltogether.
A Disruptive System
I can understand why most people in my country don’t live sustainable or ethical. You have to start the journey to really see how things can be. You have to experience the feeling it gives you. I mean, our society isn’t built to make us behave sustainable or ethical. The system we’re living in encourages us to live our worst life. Work as much as we can, buy as much stuff as we can, see as much of the world as fast as we can. The most disruptive behavior is cheapest and seems to be the best option. So, I can sometimes understand why people don’t start in the first place. It’s like sticking your head out.
And then when you start it takes effort to do things differently. When the system you’re living in and the people around you aren’t doing things just as differently as you it’s difficult. You can get discouraged. You think: Does my behavior matter? I’ve had those moments too. But when I realized that sustainable and ethical behavior is about compassion I haven’t had those moments anymore. Compassion is the red line of my life.
You choose compassion when you travel by train instead of plane. Compassion for the people who are suffering because of climate change. You choose compassion when you buy secondhand or fair fashion. Compassion for the people working in the garment industry, barely surviving. Your choose compassion when you cook and eat a vegan meal. Compassion for all the animals suffering and dying for food. You choose compassion when you buy organic food. Compassion for the people who work on the land and get sick from of all the pesticides that are used. You choose compassion when you shop zero waste. Compassion for all the animals chocking on plastics.
Every decision we make, every purchase we make, it matters and it’s all compassion. I feel this very much. Where I started this journey with a zero waste lifestyle because I thought it was just a better system (which I still think), it’s now about compassion. You simply have to feel that we’re all here on this planet together. That’s when it becomes impossible to be selfish. Because well, when people make unsustainable or unethical choices it’s because they value theirself more than the whole system*. Flying to a holiday destination because it takes less time for yourself. Not buying organic food because it’s cheaper for yourself or not buying renewable energy because it’s cheaper for yourself. It’s usually about money and anything else selfish.
That’s why there is no more doubt in my mind about sustainable or ethical choices. I have asked myself what kind of person I want to be. What do I want to leave behind when I leave this planet? Is it destruction and suffering? Or is it positive impact and regeneration? For me it’s the latter, I choose compassion. I am not always optimistic about the future, but I sure know that I am not contributing to the horrible things on this planet.
I am not saying that I am doing this perfectly. There surely are some things I don’t know about or could do better. But when I do have to make decisions it has become a lot easier. When I am booking a holiday or when I am choosing a brand of shampoo for example. What’s the compassionate thing to do? I never doubt whether things matter. I know that every decision is important and can make a small change. That’s why I’ll never give up either. There is simply no other choice than compassion.
*not all people have the resources to make the right choices. Not all people have the money or the time. But if you do, then this is applicable to you. If you can afford to do things differently like me, then I urge you to do so.