It’s a privilege to live within your values. Society doesn’t make it easy for everyone to live with less waste, shop for local produce only, and cycle to work. Our systems do not encourage everyone to live more sustainably, and most often they leave the most vulnerable behind.
Over the last seven years of engaging in the sustainability conversation, I’ve realised most people value sustainable living. Most people want clean oceans, thriving environments, time to make their own food, space to grow a garden or to buy delicious produce from someone else. Most people care about others, want to ensure the people who make their clothes are paid fair wages, and would love to avoid putting their rubbish bag out every week.
But supermarkets are plastic coated, the cheapest food can be the most unhealthy, public transport hasn’t been invested in enough, and our supply chains generally involve the exploitation of others somewhere down the track.
As a sustainability educator, I wanted to find out what the biggest barriers to people living within their values were, so I could help.
In 2020 I went on a tour around Aotearoa New Zealand and hosted 11 events to encourage sustainable living. Through an event activity, I gathered more than 600 little pieces of paper containing everyone’s main barrier to living ‘the perfect sustainable lifestyle’.
You won’t be surprised to know that ‘time’ and ‘cost’ were the most common barriers. Twenty two percent of the barriers said the word ‘time’ and 17 percent mentioned cost. Other issues included flatting/space (7.4%), accessibility (4.6%), lack of motivation (12.2%) and convenience (11.2%).
I hope you find support in these statistics, knowing others struggle too.
The world feels heavy right now, and while our climate crisis is still the most pressing issue of our time, we must only do what we can do, and honour our personal capacities and restrictions. It’s important to realise that you can do small things, rather than strive to do it all.
And most importantly, I hope you accept that it’s a privilege to live within your values (no matter what they may be). You can love the ocean while purchasing rice in a plastic bag. Don’t let guilt rob you of joy.