i remember using a bathroom at a radical youth's community house in oslo back in the late 80's. i was there to participate in a large demonstration facilitated by the community. the walls of that bathroom had writings all over; basically, a never ending list of what corporation/country/brand/organisation/political party etc etc to boycott. i remember thinking; how silly. no matter if you boycott all of these, there will still be hundreds (thousands!) of unethical corporations etc out there, that you don't even know you're supporting.
whether we see ourselves as saving the earth, saving humanity (the same thing from two different angles), or just living an interconnected and meaningful life, i do believe that the obstacles in our culture are too many for most of us to be able to live out our ideals 100%. whether we choose to do a little here and a little there, or pick a couple of subjects that we dedicate ourselves fully to, most of us will never be able to live completely sustainably or ethically. i believe in doing our best, but i also believe in not preaching. the (so far) self imposed tasks and responsability before us might seem overwhelming. i've been practicing 'a little bit here and there' until recently, when i decided to be more systematic about it. but i started out with one subject that i dedicated myself fullheartedly to: food.
as a true child of the 80's neo hippie/post punk/goth/general freak sub culture of my town, my interest in counter-culturalism had been spurted from an early age and i, along with most of my friends, became a vegetarian. a lot of unguided experimenting, including over eating on daal (i'll never eat yellow lentils again) proceeded. i had a go on macrobiotics (but never could stand the umeboshi, nor the seaweed, and what's left then? :)), and finally got some good cooking lessons living in a yoga ashram in copenhagen. i was a vegetarian for 7 years.
when i got pregnant, i already had decided to go with my food urges if it included meat. it did. chicken, big time. i reevaluated my reasons for being a vegetarian, and i understood that the whole thing had come about as a product of two things: the subculture that formed my teens and early 20's, and my mother's bad cooking. my experience with meat was that it was a highly yucky, unchewable substance that kept growing in my mouth. my reencounter with meat was chicken only, until i met my future mother in law (a former cook) and tasted her food. (i still prefer chicken, though).
i am aware of the grain vs meat debate, and that, along with health matters, is why i think we should only eat meat (not including fish here) about twice a week. but i don't think it's unethical to eat animals, which seemed to be the main reason for my fellow vegetarian friends to stay vegetarian.
all my arguments back and forth in this whole reevaluation made me conclude with one thing: i didn't need to eat vegetaric; i needed to eat organic. but not for health reasons, which seemed to be the main reason why people ate organic back then; it was for ethical reasons. non organic food was non sustainable. it didn't fit in with my values or my spiritual views of life, man and earth.
so, when my son was born, i initiated our town's first organic foods home delivery service, and stayed an organic chica for years. even though in recent years my economy as well as my energy level has started to go in unpredictable directions, i've tried to stay true to my ideal - sometimes more, sometimes less, but never 100%.
but even if we are able to keep our basic diet organic, our family would never be able to do completely without non organic goods. we would never afford to build a sustainable house. we wouldn't be able to buy only organic clothes, food, furniture, detergents, or what about a bathtub? sink? textbooks? and even if we've managed without a car until 2 years ago, we wouldn't be able to do without one where we live now.
the point i'm trying to make is that even the best of the 'sustainable living' types out there aren't able to avoid non sustainable goods completely. a person can make a big fuzz about the chocolate industry; but what about the cotton they're wearing? and then one can scream and shout about the cotton industry; but what about the make up they're wearing? the hair products? the curtains, the towels, the coffe? the workplace? the music we buy? the plates that we eat from? our computers?
i'm happy that i found one green interest and let it grow from there. i'm also happy with the 'a little here and a little there' approach that i've had, and now i'm happy to pursue my green goals even further. i'm not happy when people raise their eyebrows at others not living up to their standards, mainly because a) it's really the most inefficient way to make the world a greener place, and b) you could easily point your finger back at them. it's just scribbles on a bathroom wall.