I’ve written in the past about walking the Path to less with other people, about having a buddy who will support you on your journey. But having a buddy is not enough, and you can’t turn every single person you interact with into your PathToLess buddy (though obviously, you are welcome to try, we need a lot more people doing what we do).
At the same time, people are social creatures, event introverts like myself. We don’t leave in a void, and so there will be a point in your journey, probably very early on, when you’ll need to talk to other people about what it is you’re actually doing.
It might be that a coworker asks you about your lunch, when you come in several days in a row with your own, instead of going to the cafeteria. It might be explaining to your family about trying to reduce the amount of plastic in your home. It might be talking to your friends about your decluttering efforts. Or it might a random stranger talking to you during a random encounter.
You might respond eloquently and leave a great impression that will motivate that person to try some of the things you’re doing yourself, helping lessen our impact on the environment. Or you might be like me: embarrassed, shy, stuttering, and trying to cover up my social anxiety with lighthearted humor…
Yeah, I’m not the best ambassador when my communication channel doesn’t allow to editing, rewriting and spreading my thoughts over a period of time.
But whether I like it or not the moment I decided to take the first step on my Path To Less, I became an ambassador of the Low Impact Movement. I’m doing something that isn’t widely accepted as the norm (though it’s getting more and more attention), and requires a certain amount of effort, and as a result not that many people are doing it (because let’s face it, by the large, people tend to lean towards solutions that will encourage our laziness).
What brings me the most trouble when talking to people about zero waste or minimalism is that a lot of the time, people will take my journey as an attack on their consumerism. As if me getting rid of things, or spending time to try and find plastic-free alternatives passes judgment on them and their way of life.
Sure, it would be great if that small seed of guilt in them became a catalyst of them trying to make similar changes in their lives, but it’s not the reason why I do it. I’m not doing it for other people. I do it for myself, the planet and hopefully the next generation. I know zero waste is super difficult. I know minimalism comes with its own set of challenges. I’m not trying to convert every person that speaks to me about those issues.
None of my conversations start with why other people can’t do what I do. And yet a scary majority of them ends that way. And I honestly don’t know how to respond to that seemingly inevitable turn.
I’m lucky in that it’s more of a norm to bring your lunch to work. Everybody knows it’s cheaper and there’s no conversation about why people bring lunch with them. When we go to lunch as a team, we check in who has lunch already and who needs to buy it. There are microwaves in the cafeteria to warm up your lunch and still eat together as a team.
The part that I’m struggling here is bringing an unpaper towel with me to work and my loose tea, so I don’t use the tea bags already provided by my employer. Maybe it’s because I’m still relatively early on my journey, but it feels weird to carry a cloth with me to the communal kitchen so I can wipe my hands and my mug with it. I’m awkward about the possibility that someone would ask me about it. Yes, I know I’m weird, I’m still working on it.
Currently, I don’t have to answer too many questions from my family. My mom has been a great support when it comes to my diet and my sister and her family benefited a lot from my decluttering, as most of my scrapbooking supplies and books went to them. I don’t know what I will do and how detailed I will be in my explanations if the environmental topics come up. I feel like my conversation about donating books went over well. Keep your fingers crossed for me on that front
That’s the area where, unsurprisingly, I struggle the most. After people in ice-cream shops and cafes refused to use my containers over and over again, I kinda stopped trying, though I realize I need to go back to it. Maybe grow a thicker skin and see if I can negotiate some more, not give up after the first refusal… But at the same time, my anxiety is the strongest in situations like that, and I need to psych myself up for it. Practice more. Maybe come up with a strategy I could fall back on when my social awkwardness is threatening to take over…
Watch this space, because my fight is not over and I know there will be more conversations in my future. If only because I don’t plan on straying from my Path To Less.