Choice, principles, willpower & sustainability

I was with a friend sifting around a high-end bookshop in a fancy mall at the heart of a busy shopping district. She picked up a nice piece of glassware. It had a cork grip around its mid and a gently colored lid with a little snap top sippy-cup feature. “These are marketed towards people that are looking to have a re-usable cup for going to Starbucks on the reg and feel wasteful getting a disposable cup each time.” The price: $35. A $35 cup and it didn’t even have a tacky gold feature.

I’ve grown up thinking about the uncomfortable reality that green and sustainable technologies are as much a mode of marketing for an “educated” (and statistically speaking wealthier) demographic. It’s about figuring out ways to take your average everyday item and marking it up a few hundred percent to people who genuinely believe their choice is a good service.

The problem is choice is easy. It’s a given. To choose is but a determining factor in the greater fabric of who you are and what sort of impact you have on the world around you. Choice sways with convenience, sloth, avarice, frustration, confusion and ignorance. So as a consumer, choosing’s not enough.

Everybody has principles: Values that steer an individual’s choice to act as a reflection of what that person respects and desires. For me, sustainability is a principle. Principles are outstanding and require practice and reflection over time. Principles require willpower.

Exercising willpower is not easy. Nobody really likes it. Creating a positive habit of something reinforces it but doesn’t strip it of it’s bitter flavor. Nor is it usually propped up by convenience: Oftentimes an exercise of willpower strips expectation of immediate gratitude, casting aside a choice that would have provided an instant reward.

To live sustainably in the modern world is difficult. The myriad of products and services at our fingertips is insane and growing fast. They’re often convenient and cheaper. Sometimes they’re just plain cool as hell. To actively defer choosing to buy these products or utilize these services is difficult but arguably more sustainable.

Take for instance, Adidas’ new recycled plastic shoes. Sounds pretty terrific right? More terrific yet would be cutting all single-use plastics from your every day life. Give it a shot and you’ll be amazed at how much plastic garbage you make. The easy choice: buying another pair of shoes. But a single choice doesn’t carry the same outstanding benefit of willpower exercised over time and underwrites the real problem: plastics are laying waste to ecosystems around the world.

I’m not trying to advocate for a granola-filled harmonious lifestyle, just general responsibility. As a consumer it’s an oft-overlooked duty you serve to yourself and others to know how to wield your choice as an individual. It’s knowing when to withhold despite your desires; Of regularly choosing “not” for the generally more fulfilling “lets get it!” Sustainability should hold the holy ground of a personal principal and willpower as a way of exercising reverence, homage to a respect you cast outward on the people and world around you.

TL;DR. Waste less water and energy. Throw away less plastics. Eat more vegetables. Practice doing these things every day until you die even if it’s difficult.

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