Living “sustainably” may seem like a life of restrictions—giving up certain foods or having to hassle with reusable water bottles and bags. It may seem stressful, or even like a waste of time. And let me tell you, since I started this journey and incorporated it into my life more and more, it has felt like that from time to time. Yet I am forever grateful for finding this way of life; for ending up here. Because while it’s not always easy, it has given me so much. While I’m doing something to improve the life of the planet, I have found that my own life has improved at the same time, and for that, I am deeply appreciative. Here are some of the ways that environmentalism has made my life better.
Being an environmentalist means I have to prioritize more. I have to figure out what is most important to me and how to live in alignment with those things. When I do this, my actions can align with my values, which gives me joy, a clear conscience, and pride in what I do.
I’ve learned a lot about preparation. Having decided that I’m not okay with using disposable plastic and wasting things unnecessarily, and because of my veganism, I’ve needed to become a planner. I have to ask myself what I’m doing today or tomorrow, and what I’ll need to do to make my life easier while staying on track with sustainability. This lifestyle has taught me to think ahead and always be prepared. I’ve learned to take the time to anticipate my needs, which helps me manage my time better and be more organized in all aspects of my life. In this way, I also have more peace of mind. When I bring my own food when traveling, for example, I know that I won’t be hungry in case there’s no food that I can eat. And I’m able to eat the foods that I want to eat; that I know will make me feel good.
I drink water all the time. I make sure to never put myself in a situation where I need to buy a plastic water bottle or get a cup of water in a plastic cup. I bring my water bottle with me everywhere, so I’m always very hydrated. I can’t explain how much this has improved my life. Being constantly hydrated is truly life-changing. Water helps everything. To me, water tastes much better in a glass or in my Hydroflask than in plastic. I also feel better mentally, knowing I’m doing something positive; that I’m helping the planet. It heightens my mood, my conscience, my energy. I feel better about the way I’m moving through the world. And I also just love carrying water with me—maybe it’s the Pisces in me.
I’ve found myself going through a phase where I don’t need as much. I don’t feel the need to buy unnecessary things, which has a positive effect on my finances. In fact, I’ve found myself wanting to get rid of anything that doesn’t serve me, which feels amazing. In this way, I’m also more mindful about what I buy and what food I eat. When I go to the grocery store, I don’t buy things I don’t need. I don’t deprive myself of the simple pleasures, though. I still get popcorn and chocolate bars sometimes, but for the most part, the more aware I am of my packaging intake, the more I find myself realizing how much I don’t actually need, and thus make better choices.
This doesn’t mean I’m missing out in any way. This is a very common misconception about people who are trying to reduce their impact, but it is not true at all. Living consciously doesn’t mean giving anything up, but simply considering the other, more sustainable, and ethical options. It’s easy! There is an alternative to everything; an abundance of options out there. I just have to choose wisely and thoughtfully.
Becoming vegan and taking action to reduce my environmental impact were big changes for me, but they were based on compassion and my love for animals and the planet. These reasons made the lifestyle much easier to stick with, no matter how tough or inconvenient it sometimes was. And I have extended this point of view to other parts of my life: motivating myself to be productive, being a good owner to my cat, being a loving partner, holding myself accountable for my mistakes, practicing yoga even when I don’t want to because I know it will make me feel good… all coming from a place of compassion and love rather than obligation or guilt.
Lastly, considering my effect on the planet has caused me to consider the effect I have on others and on myself. I always speak about having compassion for animals and for our Earth, and as a result, I have witnessed that compassion extend to other parts of my life. It has been such a beautiful and gratifying thing to experience within myself. I have less judgment for others, and I judge myself less. As I am aware of how I treat the planet, I am aware of how I treat myself and the people I care about. I honor my body as I honor the environment as I honor animals as I honor you. It has helped me extend love outwards, as well as inwards. It has made me love and care about myself even more. Lao Tzu said, “Love the world as you love yourself.” That’s one of the most beautiful things that I’ve come to experience through this journey thus far.
Also by Julia: 10 Products For Environmentalists Who Love To Self-Care
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