Keeping a positive attitude can be challenging when you are facing a global problem like environmental issues, plastic pollution, poverty, climate change etc.
It’s hard not to fall into a circle of negative thoughts some times.
But if you want to fight against these issues it’s even more important to stay positive and encouraged.
Pessimistic but trying to become optimistic
I’ve been a rather pessimistic person for a long time in my life and just started to work on being more optimistic for a few months when I first got pushed head forward into the plastic pollution problem. So it’s been even harder to work on any positive thoughts…Good timing Jule…
I couldn’t stop seeing it everywhere. I’ve been devastated by seeing all the litter everywhere. I complained and got annoyed about people who weren’t aware about plastic (I forgot quickly that I haven’t been aware like I do now before too) and I didn’t know where to put those feelings until I realized (when I was sitting on a beach in Malaysia surrounded by plastic bottles):
“I feel better when I do something rather than just complain, so I started to do Clean Ups regularly. I started to connect with likeminded people and I started to do research for solutions and alternatives to plastic.”
And still when I arrive in a city like NYC I am struggling to stay positive….
It’s me and my reusable cup getting one coffee a day, against thousands of people getting a single use cup every minute. In coffee shops here in America they don’t even ask you anymore: for here or to go…
If you don’t order “for here and in a real mug please”, you just get a throw away cup. They don’t care anymore if it’s for here or to go. It’s just too convenient to serve in a single use cup so the customers just can toss it when they go. You might even get a lid and a paper sleeve straight away.
Single use or no use
In one coffee shop I recognized that all of the customers took off the lid straight after they arrived at their table. So it’s been a lid for a 2 second walk, not even used, ending up in landfill if the city can’t recycle it (like in Toronto where they don’t recycle the so loved and so common black single use lids, because the sorting machine can’t see them …).
Then there are shopping malls and all the cheap dollar stores where you only can buy plastic products and mostly cheap plastic. I know these products are loved from many people because they are cheap but I also know they won’t last long (companies love to sell stuff that breaks fast so that you need to buy more of it regularly), they are mostly unhealthy and then they just won’t get or are non recyclable in the city you live in.
Supermarkets, small food stalls where everything is wrapped in plastic or even worse on a styrofoam plate and then wrapped in plastic, everything packed in double plastic bags at check out.
I could feel discouraged every day.
But then after a while I realized, hey, its actually a little fun for me to go plastic free shopping, the big smile on my face if I find something unwrapped, or to discover a recipe how to make something you cant find unwrapped, or check out a new store because the other store just don’t sell unwrapped Broccoli. Make it a challenge, a fun game, a treasure hunt. We need to focus on things we can get plastic free, rather than focus on thing’s we can’t get. (Plastic Free Shopping Tips)
Sustainability can only grow if you are feeling good in the progress. You are growing with every little challenge, focus on small goals you achieve, like: the amount of waste in your house gets smaller, be happy about the happy choices you can make every day, don’t focus on the stuff you can´t buy anymore, focus on the things you still can buy or new things you maybe even haven’t tried before going plastic free.
Your money your choice
If you face a situation where somebody dosn’t want to fill coffee or food into your own container/mug, just say ” ok, thank you but I don’t pay for single use plastic” and just walk out of the store (our money and our choice is our weapon). If you feel comfortable ask if you can talk to the manager to share your thoughts about single use plastics and tell them about the alternatives, or write an Email to the Boss.
Normally there are always other choices you can make like just try the next coffee shop around the corner, get some fruits and veggies in a store, get a sandwich or croissant in a bakery.
It’s something like “environmental courage”. And I know that if I take the drink or food in a single use cup I would feel double bad. Because of the fact they refused to use my cup and the fact that I then didn’t refuse the drink and even payed for something I didn’t wanted (the plastic trash).
Or when walking down the streets, watching people throwing their cigarettes on the streets, leaving their trash on the streets, on the beach and if you try to say something they snap at you.
Or if you travel to a destination where you know they don’t have any recycling or no good waste management and you see all the people don’t knowing, using all the plastic they get offered (you can find some tips for a more responsible holiday here: Plastic free travel).
In many of those situations I feel helpless and angry and I feel like I don’t make any difference. Not me, one little german woman, not me and our small plastic free community, in between 7.5 billions of people.
But if I weren’t a fighter, you wouldn’t read my blog post today.
At the end of the day, it’s about believing in the power of good, not bad. It’s about turning off the negativity, whether it flows from your mind, your family or colleges, your neighbors or your TV.
It’s about saying no to pessimism and yes to optimism. To be an optimist, you can’t let others get in your way.
My top tips to stay positive are:
Take control over what you can, and stop worrying about what you can’t control.
–You can control what you are buying, you can’t control what others buy.
Read and listen to no or only positive informations/news.
–Like Seattles Straw Ban, The Tree of Nagasaki that survived the nuclear bomb, Big Companies are getting aware and on board like Dell Inc. (They will form a collaborative and open-source initiative called Next Wave with Lonely Whale). People all over the world are inventing edible cutlery and more great products like a drinkable/eatible plastic bag.
Be with positive people as often as possible.
–Surround yourself with positive and happy people, make your feed on IG or FB positive.
Celebrate accomplishments, whether big or small.
-Discovered a new bulk option, found unwrapped fresh produce, or a coffee shop where they give you a discount if you bring your own cup.
Build your own support team.
-this can be online or in social life. Find people to meet up with, get your family or friends on board, find an organization in your city you can join.
Fight For The Good Every Day.
Try to find the good in every person and in every situation.
I actually just got a Newsletter from SumOfUs and they wrote something that really fits in here: ” It can all seem like too much. Threats to our families and the people we love – like climate change, or dangerous far-right politics – seem far bigger than something one good idea, or one good person can fix. At SumOfUs we agree.
That’s why we believe it’s only people power – the power of millions and millions of you working together, all over the world –
that can take on these challenges and turn them around. Corporations are big and powerful, but they are built by people just like you: you are their workers, investors, and customers.
When those people – you – come together to challenge corporations doing the wrong thing — that’s how we win.”
That’s it, that’s how we can win. That’s how we can turn the ship around! We need to believe in People Power!
I was lucky to read the Book “Reasons for Hope” from the wonderful woman Jane Goodall when I faced a depressive phase a few weeks ago. She witnessed so many things and still she believes in HOPE. To read this helped me get back on track and I thought I share a few sentences with you. I can just really suggest to read this book!
Jane Goodall, Reasons for Hope:
- “My reasons for hope are fourfold: 1) the human brain, 2) the resilience of nature, 3) the energy and enthusiasm that is found or can be kindled among young people worldwide, 4) the indomitable human spirit.”
- There are, in fact, success stories everywhere. The trouble is, most of us don’t get involved. Most of us don’t realize the difference we could make. We love to shrug off our responsibilities, to point fingers at others. “Surely”we say”the pollution, waste, and other ills are not our fault. They are the fault of industry, business, science. They are the fault of the politicians. This leads to a destructive and potentially deadly apathy. Let us remember, always, that we are the consumers. By choosing what to buy, and what not to buy, we have the power, collectively, to change the ethics of business, of industry. But you say it costs a little more. Yes it does. But as more and more people buy these products the price will drop. ” (Our votes count! In supermarkets and at election.)
- “The trouble is that we suffer, all of us, from “just me-ism”. I’m just one person. What I do, or don’t do, can’t possibly make any difference. So why should I bother? Imagine: as more and more people around the world become aware of what is good and what is bad for the environment, and for society, this means there are thousands, then millions, then billions all thinking the same: “it can’t make any difference what I do- it’s just me”
- Think how it would be if we could turn that around- thousands and millions and billions of people all knowing that what they do does make a difference.”
I asked a few other activists/blogger/environmentalists what they do, think or can suggest in situations where you feel like getting sucked into a black hole of negative thoughts and this is what they recommend.
I was so happy to read all these different and helpful thoughts and I hope you can get some useful input for yourself.
“How can we stay positive as environmental activists despite seeing, feeling and fighting these problems every day?”
“This year, participating in an official capacity at the United Nations Climate Change Conference- COP 23 at Bonn, Germany, I realized that the one word that sums it all up is COLLABORATION.
COP23 was a big melting pot of governments, institutions, cities, NGOs, companies, startups, … all with the same vision of finding the smartest, safest and fastest way to stop our planet and eco-system from going crazy. So the key word for me is COLLABORATION because everything and everybody is connected through our eco-system. We all need to work together. Which is why when you think of yourself as a single person trying to make a difference you’ll feel overwhelmed and will doubt your individual contribution even counts at all. Everyone can end up feeling like their work is a drop in the ocean.
I am convinced that one needs to be a part of a community to keep on plowing through and feel empowered. That’s one of the reasons why I started UrbanMeisters – the first sustainable lifestyle community aimed at making urban green living easy & fun through collaboration. One of the things I find particularly inspiring is the work and energy and upbeat vibe of youngsters when it comes to going green – they are a source of tremendous inspiration and power. Speaking at length to young negotiators at COP23 showed me how amazingly dedicated they are and so optimistic. Real doers! They can’t wait to go out there and take over the world! To keep my green energies high, from time to time I look up on the work by the two such kids – Olivia & Carter from US who started One Less Straw campaign and follow their progress enthusiastically! These teenagers started a no plastic straws campaign when they were 8 & 7 (!!) and now they have thousands of students who have taken the pledge as well as restaurants who have become partners in this fight!
So you should also take power and motivation from your community and collaborate as much as possible with others especially the youth. “
from The Story of Stuff Project , climber of rocks and surfer of waves.
“With the constant barrage of negative news, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless.
What helps me stay optimistic is knowing that I’m not alone in this fight and that there are others wanting to make a difference, all you have to do is find them.
The reality is, we are living in the greatest moment in history where almost anyone in the world can be reached online. So reach out to like-minded people in your area and form your own local group of activists and fight for a cause you believe in together.
Individual action like using reusing and recycling is a great start but it is an isolated experience, collective action is what will create the change we want to see in the world.”
“Personally, I feel that remembering that almost every big change happens because a small group of incredibly passionate and determined people followed through with what they believed keeps me positive. That way, you don’t have do feel like you need to convince the whole world- just team up with some fantastic people and connect to the people that make changes. “
Shia is the founder of the Website www.wastelandrebel.com there you´ll find practical tips about how to reduce your waste and how to reduce your ecological footprint. All the tips are uncomplicated and for your every day use.
“Personally I just don´t want to be part of the problem. Even if we cannot contain climate change in the end-which I certainly don´t hope for!- I dont want to contribute to making things worse. To me, it is about compassion. Seeing all those huge problems every day just reminds me how much more important it is to raise awareness.”
(Check out www.goingzerowaste.com for more simple and easy tricks to save the world. )
“It’s easy to feel negative and close in on yourself. I encourage you to fight that. We can ALL make a difference with small every day actions. Remember there are so many people around you fighting to make a difference, and all of our actions have a ripple effect positively influencing others. Never give up. You change the world by changing yourself. It all starts with you; it starts with one. “
Anita Horan: #PlasticFreeProduce activist. (My objective is to ‘research plastic production and plastic pollution and share my research. Its about educating customers and providing support for them to refuse plastic and for us to make our complaints in a public domain to pressure corporations to reduce plastic packaging.)
“Hope prevents despair!
Activism makes me feel I have some control, some power of the outcome. Doing ‘something’ gives me hope, without the doing, I sense my hope will fade, at least ‘trying’, fuels my hope and thus my optimism.
I have received incredible support and my page followers send me beautiful encouraging, appreciative messages and they are wonderfully motivating to me.”
Sian from GiliEcoTrust:
“we are constantly fighting the ups of the achievements and the difference we make! And the downs, when we see the next week is exactly the same, or the kids you taught about using a plastic bag with a new plastic bag. It is very hard sometimes and as I studied physical geography and climatology, it was a constant struggle learning about the earth and how to save it from the beings who are destroying it – us.
My personal motivation stems back to a story I was read in a school assembly when I must have been around 8 or 9 years old. About a man who found a beach with hundreds of hundreds of washed up starfish, he slowly started to throw them back in the ocean, knowing full well he would never be able to throw them all back that day. A boy came along and noticed what he was doing and told him – why bother, you will never be able to throw them all back and save them all. But he answered that to save even a few, is better than saving none at all.
Just like us, better to make a tiny little difference to the world, than none at all and wonder in a few years why it all went wrong. Whatever I’m doing now, no matter how big an impact it is having, I feel like it is more of an impact now that I was making 7 or 8 years ago.”
Delphine Robbe, Co Founder of Gili Eco Trust:
She has set up a zonation of marine protected areas around the 3 Gili Islands (Indonesia), set about restoring the reefs with Biorock technology, installed the first recycling depot on Gili Trawangan and now set to make the island a zero waste eco touristic destination!
“I used to pass by illegal dumping and cry… but i have learned to not take it personally and as if it was all my fault. I now observe a illegal dumping with distance and counting how much is recyclable in our facilities as well as how much nature still grows and blooms even covered of plastic.
I stay on the garden side of the situation rather than the street side. I see the illegal dumping differently; how much money the boys could make and grateful towards nature taking over the plastic so i don´t see it anymore!”
This is it! Do what you can, see the good things, find your private driver, become a member in a local organization or get in touch and connect with fellow activists (and yes, we are all activists. You don’t need to do crazy stuff and getting arrested to call yourself an activist, if you might juste chose a greener product, make clean ups in your neighborhood, if you refuse the single use plastics, if you talk to people and spread the word, the awareness, then yes, you are an activist!)
Let me know in the comments: what keeps you going!
What is it that makes you believe in a better future.
What are you doing on days when you are facing a bad day! (Chocolate is good I know, but sometimes we do need a little bit more 😉