Welcome to my second conversation with Evelina. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who’ve started from doing less and took on smaller projects so it would seem a lot easier for them. A lot of people talk about change. Evelina did and she did a lot and she enjoyed it more. Recall, she’s a travel writer who chose not to fly and now she’s taking time without using plastic. That’s a pretty big challenge. Her challenge as I saw it was about personal responsibility, creating joy, not waiting for others to make it easier for you. I see acting by her values not just talking about it or hoping that others will make it easier for you as a matter of integrity and that’s what Evelina has in spades – integrity. Listening to this conversation you’ll get to hear how people who are doing more than most people sound like when we talk to each other. It’s very refreshing, for my part. I hope that you are making big changes like this too. Plus, youâ€™ll get to hear my punch-a-kid analogy which will probably get me in trouble one day. But you heard it here first. Anyway, let’s listen to Evelina.
Joshua: Welcome to the Leadership and the Environment podcast. This is Joshua Spodek. I am here with Evelina Utterdahl. Was that close?
Evelina: Kind of, yeah.
Joshua: Not even close. OK. I just said to her before starting the recording that I wanted to talk to her to catch up. But there’s no way I can talk to her without talking about your past 30 days or so because you committed to no plastic and not only did you committed to me on this recording, but then you went all over Instagram and told there that you’re doing it too. So you really like youâ€¦Who was it? Cortez who sank his boats when he reached the New World because if you sink your boats, then you can’t leave. You got to do it and I feel like that’s what you did. I’m really curious how things went.
Evelina: It’s actually gone really well. Yeah, it’s kind of surprising. I didnâ€™t think it would be so easy. I mean I’ve had to turn down a lot of like cookies and ice cream stuff. But that’s like not too bad. Everything that I needed has been easy to get plastic free. It was just like a couple of things I needed to take out my medication which is in plastic but that’s not something I can compromise with. I cannot not take my medicine. And then also like a week ago I got a parking ticket or we did. I don’t drive but my friend did when we were there and the ticket was in a plastic wrapping like set on the windshield to keep it from not getting destroyed if it rains or whatever. But apart from that, it’s honestly been surprisingly easy.
Joshua: So itâ€™s funny that the level that you’re looking at it’s like a wrapper on a ticket. On the one hand for most people that would be so inconsequential that they wouldn’t even consider that part of like they would not even notice that. You know they’re like, â€œOh, I got a ticketâ€ and the plastic wrapperâ€™s not even in their consciousness. I guess with the ice cream and stuff was it that there wasâ€¦Would it be served in a plastic container or with it be a spoon? I presume you would carry a spoon but I’m not sure.
Evelina: I do. But I haven’t like always had it with me. And if there arenâ€™tâ€¦ Because I’m vegan, the cones normally would have eggs or something in them so if they don’t have vegan cons, I would get in a cup which is cardboard but almost always they have the plastic spoons and if I hadnâ€™t that with me or just buying a packaged like at a kiosk or something to buy an ice cream from there it usually comes in plastic wrapping or case or whatever you call it.
Joshua: And I think to people who aren’t vegan they would think, â€œOh, itâ€™s such a pain. You’ve got to keep track of all the egg and stuff.â€ Are you talking about something that occupies your mind? Is this like a big deal of keeping track of the egg in a cone?
Evelina: It has depended on how much time I’ve had. Like going to the normal grocery store has been no problem because and I show this on my Instagram too as I say I wanted to invite my followers to join too if they wanted to. I also shared some tips like going to the grocery stores, if you want pasta, there’s almost always pasta both wrapped in plastic or in cardboard. And then just take the one that’s in the cardboard, the paper that you can recycle. And when I did it, it actually even happened to be the cheaper one. So but yeah to just like look at the options and find that usually there are options that are not in plastic. Sometimes it’s more expensive but it just makes me think more when I shop which is something that I want to learn more about like when I purchase something whether it’s like clothing or food or like technology or whatever I want to not just buy it without thinking. I want to think about how was this made like â€œWhere does it come from? Who made it? What were the circumstances of how they worked?â€ And I am talking like modern slavery if the people have been paid properly, not working in dangerous environments and stuff like that. I want to become a conscious consumer and a conscious person. I mean obviously this is not just something that I’ve jumped into from not knowing this. It’s been a road for me and I just want to add a little bit more every single day. So no one out there who hears this think that it’s it sounds overwhelming because you don’t go from nothing to being completely plastic free and doing everything good. That doesn’t happen likeâ€¦ I still have bought a few things that had some plastic on it and yeah, you know you’re not perfect but it’s just a process. It doesn’t matter how big the steps are as long as they’re always like in the right direction.
Joshua: So you are talking about plastic and I feel like what’s underneath is something different. Like in my terms you are talking about your values, you are talking about living by your values. Is that how you think about it? How do you think about it? Because anyone listening to thisâ€¦ You’re not just talking about plastic. If youâ€™d pledge toâ€¦ I donâ€™t know. There are some French people last century that they decided they’d write a book without the letter â€œeâ€. Just like kind of a challenge to them. It’s kind of hard because the letter â€œeâ€ shows up in a lot of words. But that’s not really meaningful. I don’t know. That’s a literary thing but it’s â€¦Yeah. What are you talking about? What’s going on, if emotionally orâ€¦
Evelina: I am very driven by my values. In almost everything I do I want to make sure that the impact that I have on the world and the places that I visit and the people that are affected by whatever I do I want that to be a good thing. So yeah, that’s why I want just that kind of easy thing that the people who worked to make a product or something that they have actually been working in good conditions. That’s just to me is something that I don’t want to put my money and support a business that uses people just to make money. Yeah, that’s why I always try to learn more and I buy ethically. I try to buy it locally and fair trade and yeah, then the plastic is another thing as well that’s more about the environment than just the people. But people are affected too because the plastics that come into nature enterâ€¦ You know the micro plastics come into the water streams or the animals that some people later eat. So we get these toxins that some plastic contains and the micro plastics are in our bodies. And I want to have a good impact on the world, not the opposite.
Joshua: The two micro plastics [unintelligible] I am going to react too quickly because of microplasticsâ€¦ First of all, macro plastics are pretty annoying too. And also, macro plastics all break down into micro plastics so to me itâ€™s all plastics. Anyway. That’s a little sideâ€¦ A lot of people they would look at the level that we’re talking about of getting to the point of the containers with the ice cream or the wrapper around a ticket. That’s such a tiny thing for them that they… I was at lunch and I brought a fork out because there were plastic forks and I happened to have a metal fork with me so I got to start using it and my friend said, â€œThat’s like really out there, Josh.â€ And my response at the moment was just, â€œThe fork weighs nothing. It’s taking no space in my bag. I just stick it in there and I don’t think about it and every now and then I use it.â€ Like that’s not reallyâ€¦ It’s not like I’m breaking my back over this thing. But that’s not the point. I mean even if it was big and heavy, Iâ€™d probably still bring it anyway. And the issue is more to me a matter of integrity. Here’s a nice way to put it. You know I am learning to sail boats and one time I’m getting on the boat and I step from the shore or the dock over the lifeline onto the boat. So I’m straddling the distension and lifeline, the fence on the edge of the boat and the skipper says, â€œFirst step on the boat with both feet on the outside of the lifelines. Then, when you’re on the boat step over it.â€ Because it could happen that the boat moves away from the dock and you don’t want to fall. You don’t want your legs to be spread apart like that. And I thought if there’s a right way and if there’s an optimal way to do it and not optimal way to do it, do it optimally. Why would you not you know just end in lifeâ€¦ To me that’s how I think about it. If I can do it one way thatâ€™s by my values, do it that way. And so when you get to finer and finer points instead of I thinkâ€¦ Other people look at it as increasingly trivial but I look at it as an increasingly integral. That’s my way of looking at it. You’re the first person I’ve talked to who’s looking at something likeâ€¦ No, Bea Johnson. But there’s not many people Iâ€™ve spoken to who get to this level and so I am curious. Your way of looking at it is thatâ€¦ I mean something must go on in your head. Like when you are thinking, maybe you wanted the ice cream and you were like, â€œWell, there’s no way I can do it.â€ What do you think ofâ€¦But then you choose not to get it. So you must be choosing the better, something better for you. Is there something like a values conflict that you’re working on there?
Evelina: Well, for something. I mean some things like an ice cream I can live without ice cream. With the medicine I cannot live without it. So that [unintelligible]. And then sometimes there are like more grey areas and then yeah, I just have to choose whatâ€¦ I actually was visiting some friends in Stockholm and I was going to the grocery store and they asked me to buy some milk. And they’re not vegan so they wanted cow’s milk and cow’s milk is the only packaging for milk that doesn’t have like a plastic lid because you need to shakeâ€¦ Like plant-based milks you need to shake them in order to make itâ€¦
Evelina: Exactly. And I stood there in the store and I just I couldn’t buy the cowâ€™s milk. I stood there and I just said, â€œNo, I can’t. In this case I value the baby cows more than the plastic lid.â€
Joshua: The mother cow too, I think.
Evelina: Yes, so I bought them oat milk instead the plastic lid which is I think it’s like it’s more than 80 percent bioplastic but still, yeah. So that was one of those times where I had to choose.
Joshua: Can you tell me more what’s going on inside your head and heart when you’re doing that? Because it’s not just like if someone says, â€œWould you like an apple or a pear?â€ Like, â€œWhat do I feel like today? I’ll go for the apple today.â€ But that’s not this kind of decision that you’re talking about, I think.
Evelina: No, this is deeper. This is about values and you have to prioritize it or you do even though if you don’t think about it, you do prioritize different values that you have. And for me in this case this one plastic lid just because I was on his challenge and tried to really minimize my plastics didn’t have the same value as not supporting an industry that kills baby cows which a lot of people don’t know this. Because they ask me, â€œWhy don’t you drink milk? They don’t kill the cows.â€ which is not true because they kill the male baby cows. That’s where veal comes from. That’s what calf is, baby cow.
Joshua: Same thing with the chickens.
Evelina: Yeah. I’m surprised how many people ask me that and how many people have never thought about like where veal comes from. [unintelligible] in America.
Joshua: Yeah. And why arenâ€™t there bulls everywhere? And what happens to the male chickens.
Actually, thereâ€™s another side. I don’t know if you get this a lot. When I talk about not polluting a lot, they can’t stop themselves from asking about toilet paper. It’s like something like in the minds of people thatâ€™s like, â€œBefore I stop polluting, I first have to find out what everyone who pollutes less than I do does about toilet paper.â€ I am like, â€œThis is at the top thing on your mind?â€ Like you take out every other day and all you take out is like a month’s worth of plastic for me. Now more because of you because as you can expect this has affected me. I’ve gone zero plastic but I have like reduced it a lot in this past month or so. And people are wasting so much and they are like, â€œBut what about toothbrushes?â€ I’m like that’s what you’re likeâ€¦ A toothbrush is such a tiny thing. Like you can do so much that worthâ€™s pure improvement and by your standards in your life.
And actually, I take it back because you know that’s what I did for a long time and it’s what school teaches you is analyze and plan and write it all out on paper before you actually do anything. I don’t know. I mean different people go to different schools. But my school is definitely analyze, plan, work out the theory and then that’s all you have to do. You donâ€™t actually have to do stuff except maybe write a paper about it but you can write a paper without actually doing anything. And I can’t really blame people for doing what I did. But the value stuff some people would say, â€œWhy are you making it so difficult on yourself? Why don’t you just don’t think about it? Enjoy life.â€ I mean for me it’s integrity and responsibility are just greater value. It brings me such a greater feeling inside than either the feeling of not caring or like if I got the ice cream. One, I would need the ice cream. Two, now I’m like the plastic and stuff I would avoid too. There are so many reasons I wouldn’t eat it. But I do know that it brings me a pleasurable feeling if it’s on my tongue that is nothing compared toâ€¦ I don’t get such a great feeling from not polluting anymore. I just feel it and that’s normal. But the crap that I would feel if just jettisoning what I care about and I look at the beauty in the world that is somewhat less beautiful when this piece of plastic in the middle of it that I’m responsible for. How about you?
Evelina: I think that’s what you said like you want to get to a point where it’s normal and if you’re changing something, then it takes a while. So yeah, a lot of people are like, â€œOh, that sounds like so much work. Why do you make it so hard on yourself?â€ But yeah, I mean it can be hard in the beginning and you’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to forget to ask for no plastic straw but as I said as long as you move in the right direction, you will get there. As long as you just want to do better, it doesn’t matter how big the steps are and how fast it is. I think it’s just as long as you try to do your best and try to do better and you want to learn more and eventually if you go in the direction that you want to about having a smaller impact on the planet, then eventually it will become your normal.
Joshua: You know when you said that about like, â€œWhy do you work so hard?â€ I thought about athletes and most athletes don’t win Olympic gold medals. Most athletes don’t become number one in the world. Does anyone say to them, â€œWhy did you try? It is so hard to lift all those weights. Why do you run all the sprints? Why do you do that? You’re not going to win?â€ Could you imagine someone saying that to someone like, â€œSimone Byles is going to win the golds. Why bother? Why do you work so hard? Just have some cake.â€ Would anyone say that to a gymnast?
Evelina: I don’t know. Maybeâ€¦
Joshua: To me it’s clearly aesthetically beautiful just to think of a gymnast or any athlete. I think of when I go to a professional track meet it’s like their feet don’t even touch the ground. It’s like they’re taking what human beings are capable of to the limit and exploring that limit. And on a personal level, I don’t know if youâ€™ve ever seen Arnold Schwarzenegger and videos of him talking about what he put into what he did. And it’s like it’s discovering about yourself the personal growth, the personalâ€¦. It’s such an amazing voyage of discovery and so forth. That’s patently obvious just to look at the guy like he’s obviously pushed himself to limits that most people haven’t done and most people wish they could do that. And I think they either envy him or if they don’t, there’s something missing in their lives. And so not polluting it’s not nearly on the scale of what an athlete does to win the Tour de France or to get to the Super Bowl. And yet people look at it like it’s too hard to carry a fork around or that it’sâ€¦I mean to be an athlete you need to learn anatomy, you need to learn psychology, you need to learn diet. You have to learn motivation and nutrition. And those are all in my opinion great, great things.
And this is like that. If people want to improve their livesâ€¦ This is something I say a lot. I haven’t really flush this out to say it really comprehensibly. If someone wants to improve their life, if they want to lose weight, if they want to lose fat or if they want to put on muscle or if they want to motivate themselves to get promoted or stuff like that, they have to develop themselves, grow as a person and some of those things are challenging. Like if you want to get a raise at work and you’re trying to figure out how to practice talk to the boss, it’s kind of hard to practice without actually talking to the boss. But all these improvements to yourself of having the nerve to try something that it’s hard, to practice, you can get all these things through changing your environmental behavior. It’s an amazing way to develop yourself without any risk. I guess there is the risk of someone might think that you’re doing it for fake reasons or you’re just being trendy. That’s a pretty low risk. I mean youâ€™re not going to get physically injured. You’re not going to get emotionally hurt. I don’t think. I can’t see that happening. And yet you can still grow, learn about yourself, learning how to do stuff that you want to do even when it’s easier not to. How does that sound to you?
Evelina: It does make sense and I think it’s a good comparison but I feel like comparing with like the athletes with trying to have a lower impact, the athlete thing is kind of more for personal gain if you want to become stronger or whatever and win medals. I mean yeah, you probably inspire a lot of people. But the thing about trying to have a lower impact is basically the survival of the Earth. Like if we’re going to continue this following generations will not have a livable planet in the end if we don’t do something. So it’s so much bigger. I don’t know. I can understand it is a very deep and heavy subject to think about if you’ve just gotten started or if youâ€™re just hearing about this so I can understand that it’s very overwhelming and that it seems like it is really hard. But yeah, I mean there are so many guides out there, there are so many great places to find inspiration. So it’s bigger than yourself, itâ€™s for what’s to come.
Joshua: That’s the point that if the athlete doesn’t train, then there’s just one less trained person in the world. If someone doesn’t act on their environmental values, then there’s more pollution in the world. So it affects everyone.
Evelina: Yeah, exactly.
Joshua: And you did point at the sensitivity toward people. If you haven’t cared about the stuff, lifeâ€™s pretty good. You eat the ice cream and you don’t think twice about it. You pick up the milk and whichever milk you feel like and you get it. And you think, â€œOh, all those people that have to do all that stuff, they have to think about all those things, they have to research all these things.â€ From their perspective, it’s a big mess. I guess it’s like when I started going to the farmersâ€™ market, at the beginning I didn’t know what most of the vegetables were and so it was daunting just to go and what if I got the wrong one or what if I got one that didn’t taste good or something like that, then it would make me feel shame from not knowing or it would made me feel embarrassed. What started you? Do you remember?
Evelina: No. It wasn’t just one thing. It’s really just been a slow process throughout like years. I mean partially I do come from Sweden which is naturally very aware and recycling has always kind of been part of normal life in Sweden for at least for most people that I guess yeah, it’s just grown and I think it’s started a lot when I became vegan like three and a half years ago even though I did it for the animals. When I got into reading about these and found this whole new world, I also learned a lot about the environmental impacts. And then I got into that. And then the more I dig into it, the more I learn so I learn new things all the time. I just learned like very recently that cigarette butts are actually made from plastic which I mean I don’t smokeâ€¦
Joshua: Yeah. I was going to say I donâ€™t see you smoking butâ€¦
Evelina: It’s not weird that I don’t know but still I read that even a lot of people who do smoke think that the cigarette butts are made from some sort of cotton or something that does biodegrade. I learn new things all the time every single day. There’s a lot of things that I don’t know yet that I do wrong that in the future I will be better at. But I don’t want to take on too much. Like now I did the plastic free to learn more how to live with as little plastic as possible. But I still havenâ€™t got likeâ€¦. Anotherâ€¦I donâ€™t know how to sayâ€¦A project or problem that I am a part of that I want to not be a problem of is palm oil, for example, but I’ve had so many other things that I’ve learned about that I’ve had to take like one at a time or it would get too overwhelming.
So I still buy products sometimes that do have palm oil. I’ve started now to look a little bit at it and try to avoid it but I will get to a point when I feel that this plastic free thing that I’ve got it more covered I’m going to go more into that issue and then later on there will probably be another issue that I am still part of the problem rather than the solution but then I’ll take that then. So I know it’s been a very long process but it’s gone slow. So yeah. And the more I learn, the more issues I find out about. But I donâ€™t see it as hard. I actually find it very rewarding to do something good and I like challenges and it’s more rewarding to do challenges with something that is actually good for the world and not just something for the challenge itself.
Joshua: How about your relationships with other people? How did the people feel when you came back with theâ€¦ It was oat milk, if I remember right. Were they annoyed orâ€¦? Or in general, how did this affect your relationships this past month?
Evelina: I guess I’ve been very lucky that I have good friends and also like this oat milk that we have in Sweden it’s really good. You probably have it in the States as well. It’s from Oatly and itâ€™s specifically made for coffee and it’s just really good. Like my parents are not vegans but they only use that milk in their coffee because it is really good.
Joshua: Because of the taste.
Evelina: Yeah, because of the taste and because it’s also for them it’s an easy switch to make that to them it doesn’t matter that much. But in the end if you look in one year how much milk that they don’t buy because they buy this. So that’s also notâ€¦ They didn’t take milk away, they added oat milk and then they didn’t have the need for the milk. So that was an easy change for them. And then also I did this road trip now for a couple of weeks with a friend who luckily is also very conscious about plastic and environmental issues. So he was totally on board with this plastic free thing. So he did it too. So before the road trip we went to, because we met up in Berlin where he lives, and we went to one of the bookstores and we had our little bags and we bought like rice, lentils and pasta, quinoa and then we went to buy tomato sauce in glass jars. So I’ve been very lucky that people are very understanding of this.
Joshua: With intention or not, youâ€™ve curated a community around you. Community to me is a big thing. That’s another thing we haven’t really talked about here that I feel like the more you live by values even when it’s challenging, I think that that attracts people who usually people share those values but it could also be people who don’t share those values but also they recognize the passion because I think passionless people I think don’t attract other people to be with them. But when you live by your passions, by passion I mean things you care about more, it tends to bring people to you. I guess it repels people also.
Evelina: Yeah. Well, I’m drawn to the people who are very passionate and energetic because I gain energy from those people. So when I’m with people who are enthusiastic and excited I get excited too. So yeah, I am drawn to people like that.
Joshua: So if this was not so much of an issue, have there been issues in the past of when you’ve taken steps that other people hadn’t yet taken steps or run up for? Was everyone supportive from the start being Swedish and all?
Evelina: I mean I guess in some cases, especially with like going vegan and then with these big family dinners and like the older generations don’t really understand like why wouldn’t you eat meat but you can eat fish. That’s not an animal. And also with this like non-flying thing. A lot of people are like, â€œYeah but going by bus is also causing an impact on the climate.â€ So no I would have to say that I guess I’m lucky. If anything, even they don’t care too much about these things, they tell me that I inspire them and they have by themselves made better changes. So I get a lot of messages from people, both people that I know but also people who follow me that I don’t know who message me and tell me about these significant changes they have made because of me or something that I’ve said or done.
Joshua: Can you give an example of a change and how did it make you feel when it came back to you?
Evelina: Oh, it’s like the best thing in the world. Yeah, I know I have everything from people telling me they’re eating less meat to people saying they’ve stopped using plastic bags to people telling me that like one girl she traveled from Sweden to Berlin without flying because of me and even a girl who told me that she’s going to go to South Korea from where she lives in Scotland without flying.
Joshua: Wow, by train and boat, I guess.
Evelina: Yeah. I’m not sure boat is needed but yeah. Oh yeah. No, you probably do need toâ€¦
Joshua: I guess she could take the channelâ€¦
Evelina: Yeah. I think you do need to take a boatâ€¦
Joshua: [unintelligible] and then South Korea without going through North Korea.
Evelina: Yeah, because I don’t think they have a border to [unintelligible]. I’m not sure about that but yeah.
Joshua: I’ve a friend who’s trying to engineer a bike ride from Pyongyang to Seoul across the DMZ.
Evelina: Oh, really?
Joshua: Yeah. I’m trying to get in on that one.
Evelina: Wow, that would be amazing.
Joshua: Yeah, the feelingâ€¦ Every now and then I’ll get an email from someone saying, â€œHey, Josh I found your blog, I find your podcast. You know what? I’m going to go meat free for a month.â€ And I think, â€œWow, that’s cool.â€ But my favorite part is then Iâ€™ll put on my calendar check with so-and-so in a month how it went. And then my favorite part is I ask them, â€œAre you going to stick with this or is that just a one-month thing?â€ And what they never expect at the beginning is that by the end of it they feel like, â€œThis is something I want to keep up. This wasn’t so hard.â€ And all you and I, weâ€™ve been talking about in this call and then I right backâ€¦ It’s often now people who listen to this are going to be, â€œJosh was sending four emails to me.â€ But if someone listens to this and they contact me and they say, â€œI decided I’m going to go without flying for a month.â€ or something like that, or maybe a lifetime, then I say, â€œThis is how it begins. First you go without plastic for a month. Next thing you know you know you are doing burpees every day or something like that because fitness for me fits in pretty well but you know next thing you know you’re doing more and more and more and you’re enjoying it more and more and more.
Evelina: Yeah. And it becomes normal for you. I mean we’re creatures of habits so we just have to create new habits if we want to do good.
Joshua: Did I tell you about how people respond when they say, â€œOh, that’s so impressive about the not getting so much garbage.â€ I actually emptied my garbage out the other day for the first time. I am in month 16. And everyoneâ€™s, â€œOh, that’s so impressive!â€ Have I told you about like with the kids and the punching?
Joshua: Some people will be like, â€œJosh, this is crazy.â€ But I think of it like when someone says â€œThat’s so impressive that you don’t produce so much garbageâ€ because they produce so much and sometimes a day or week that’s how I felt at the beginning but after it becomes normal producing garbage like that like I used to or like they do now is abnormal. And so I feel like it’s as if everyone punches their kid and I don’t punch my kid and they say, â€œOh, that’s so impressive that you don’t punch your kid in the face all the time.â€ I’m like I don’t punch my kid. It’s not that impressive. I don’t think it’s praiseworthy to not punch your kid. Now obviously punching a kid is not the same as producing plastic but there is a certain thing about someone’s got to do with a plastic and it’s not you, it’s going to be the next generations. And I don’t think it’s that impressive. When did it become normal? If it’s impressive to not pollute, that means polluting is normal. When did that become normal? How do we accept that?
Evelina: Yeah, and it’s pretty new. Like just talking to my parents when they were young it was not like this at all. So it’s pretty new. I feel like we should be able to go back.
Joshua: Yeah. I mean plastic didn’t exist a while ago. And I was reading this book on Waste in New York City. One of the panelists at my panel in the spring wrote this great book. She is an NYU professor. She’s had a TED talk. Her name is Robin Nagel and she loves garbage as a topic and even though she’s living a great life as a professor and so forth she goes to the Department of Sanitation and gets a license to drive the garbage trucks and works with them and actually she’s like the anthropologist in residence with the DSNY, Department Sanitation. And she has pictures in her book ofâ€¦ There was one commissioner of sanitation maybe a century ago and thereâ€™s before and after pictures, early photography. And New York city was like ankle deep, maybe knee deep in horse manure, in garbage, in dead animals, like there are dead cats and dead dogs in the street. And this guy comes through and whips everyone into shape and makes it so that like a month later you can see the street again, you can see the stones in the street and clearly one of these is more conducive for human life. But even then, no matter what you threw out it was biodegradable. I mean the poop would have cholera and dysentery and things like that. That’s really horrible. Kids would die. People would die. It must have smelled horrible but it wasn’t going to be around for 10000 years or 500 years. And the stuff that we produce you know if you walk in the woods and you finished your apple and just threw the apple core out there’s a reasonable chance there would be an apple tree someday. Now if you throw the wrapper from your raw bar out, that wrapperâ€™s going to be there a long, long time. And I guess we just don’t really want to care. We just want to move on and not really think about it.
Evelina: And I think it’s too big of an issue for people like it’s too overwhelming. So they kind of stop themselves from thinking about it because it feels too big, it feels like…. I guess a lot of people feel like it’s hopeless. I’m an optimist so I definitely think that we can reverse this and get back on track.
Joshua: And I think there’s really strong feelings of guilt and helplessness. In me, it was guilt and helplessness were the big ones. And you really just want to say, â€œLook, I didn’t make that wrapper. I just wanted the granola bar. I don’t like granola bars. It’s all sugar. But anyway. â€œYou know I didn’t want the wrapper. That someone else did that. Why is my life difficult because of someone else’s choice?â€ I don’t look at it that way anymore but certainly it’s really easy to think that way. But then there’s some thingsâ€¦See, the wrapper you can avoid. You can just get an apple instead. But the airplane I think a lot of people feel like, â€œIt’s not my fault that the airplanes pollute so much. If it was up to me, it would be solar powered. The fact that we haven’t created solar powered planes is not my fault. That shouldn’t stop me from traveling. So I am just going to do that.â€ Except it’s not necessarily physically possible to make an airplane that would be solar powered and even if we, I guess, possibly we’ll get some batteries in them that can hold a charge and the solar power can charge them otherwise. But we don’t live in that world where there are solar power planes. Even if there were solar powered planes I imagine the embedded carbon is going to be really huge to say nothing of other pollution. But it’s so easy to get into that, â€œIf it was up to me, it wouldn’t be this way. You can’t blame me for something.â€
But that’s why I call it Leadership and the Environment because you know people are just purely passive and just want to take what they get. There’s a reason the phrase â€œAn unexamined life is not worth livingâ€ has stood the test of time and has been around for millennia and it’s a matter of examining your life and then acting on what you come up with when you do the examining. I think that leads to a better life. Yes, you’re not going to be able to fly as much as you used to. Yes, you are not going to be able to eat some of the foods you used to. That’s not worse. That’s just less flying. I feel like a lot of stuff you say resonates so much with me and I am like, â€œYes, that’s how I feel too. No one else talks that way.â€ Everyoneâ€™s like, â€œWhy bother with a fork?â€ instead. And am I saying stuff that you are like, â€œYes, I feel that way tooâ€ or â€œI’ve gone through that transition too?â€
Evelina: Yeah, absolutely. But on the other hand, like I’ve gotten in contact with so many people who have the same mindset as us through Instagram mostly or YouTube and so I kind of have this big network now like I’m in Barcelona now. And yesterday I joined this organization called Pure Clean Earth that takes up trash on the beaches so they have it in a few different locations and they are growing so they are trying to do it a bit all over the world and here in Barcelona they have it every single Sunday. And I met the guy who started it all. I found him through Instagram through a girl who does like sustainable living and started like low impact movement. So we’re following all these people who have a similar mindset I find other people. There are a lot of people like us.
Joshua: It’s really gratifying to feel understood, to feel part of a community, to feel like you’re not going on a limb, to feel like you’re not alone. I’m glad you shared that. Yeah. In the U.S. it’s not quite soâ€¦There’s definitely a lot of people who talk like us and act like us. And there’s a lot of people who… Alright. Let the record show, people can’t see us. This is just audio but everyone go to earthwanderres.com because the United States are still lingering this thing of like dirty hippies and you are not someone who’s like unkempt and [unintelligible] eyes, thereâ€™s nothing wrong with [unintelligible] eyes but you know you’re like if someone past you on the street, no one would think this is someone out of the ordinary at all. So I think in Europe that’s probably more normal. Here, you still get a few people whoâ€¦ It’s not yet mainstream, even in places likeâ€¦ I’m sorry, it is mainstream but it’s not majority in places like New York or San Francisco but I think there’s still lingering a bit of like, â€œOh, they’re probably out there. They probably do stuff that I wouldn’t do.â€ because it’s definitelyâ€¦ When I go to events there’s definitely a few people always who show up who fit the stereotype that I don’t really get along with. That’s their business you know.
Evelina: With that harem pants and the dreadlocks?
Evelina: You’re talking about the typical hippie where you can see like the stereotype?
Joshua: Yeah or haven’t showered that much like cleanliness… Cleanliness is really important to me. And yeah, I like to smell good and nothingâ€¦ That’s their business but probably people listening to this because if I’ve Seth Godin and I have like Dan Pink and people that, it’s going to be like more mainstream people. And I think increasingly this is a mainstream thing. There are people who are out of the mainstream but more and more mainstream. It’s kind of funny because normally I think of mainstream it’s like not whatâ€¦ I don’t know the last time I’ve walked into a Gap or Banana Republic and bought a piece of clothing just because it feels like to an imaginative and here I’m saying, â€œOh, but itâ€™s mainstream.â€ Itâ€™s kind of funny we meet here. Well, we’ve been talking for a while. I want to wrap up. Is there anything I didn’t think to ask that came up when you were doing this and you thought like, â€œOh, I want to make sure this comes out.â€ or anything like that?
Evelina: No, I canâ€™t really think of anything.
Joshua: It’s funny, as a host I’m trying toâ€¦ I’m like thinking like, â€œWhat’s the controversy? What can I get out of her?â€ But it’s like the overall thing was like it was just the next step.
Evelina: Yeah, yeah, that’s the thing. Like it was justâ€¦ I mean I’ve been trying to do less plastic for a while but by doing this challenge I really tried harder and it just speeded that process up for me to actually get to the point where I can see how I can easily avoid it and that there are options and the worst-case scenario I just have to say no to some cake.
Joshua: Oh, you’re welcome. If I presume toâ€¦ I mean it’s sounded not just net positive but almost pure positive to life.
Evelina: Oh, yeah. Yeah, there hasn’t been any negative part about it at all. Like I mean there are usually options and if there aren’t, it can’t be that big of a deal.
Joshua: Well, any message direct to the listeners you want to leave them with or advice or anything like that for them?
Evelina: I would just say that try your best and just try to go in the right direction. It’s going to take time and it should take time and just take it step by step, don’t get overwhelmed. And there’s plenty of inspiration to find on YouTube, on Instagram, on Facebook and online. So if you ever feel like you need more motivation, just go online, do some research, you’ll find plenty of people that can help you with any questions you might have.
Joshua: Evelina, thank you very much.
Evelina: Thank you for having me.
Joshua: And of course, I’ll have all the connections to your Instagrams and everything on the page where this is located so people can just scroll down and click.
It’s a delight talking to someone who acts and achieves, not just makes excuses. People talk about awareness without changing and increasingly I see that behavior everybody keeps talking to me about how awareness is necessary to change behavior. Maybe it is, but in my experience over and over again I see that changing your behavior leads to awareness much more than the other way around. If you want to work on one of them, I say work on behavior because that will change your awareness much more than working on awareness will lead to behavior and ultimately your behavior is what matters to the environment. If you are not in a community of people who have changed their lives and have reached the point where acting on your environmental values were that you find that that improves your life and makes life easier, I hope you’ll join soon. The conversations and shared experiences are much more fun. As a side effect, you will also help clean the Earth.
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