Another reader inspired to commit to acting on his own, inspiring me back (and I hope you too).

April 11, 2024 by Joshua
in Leadership, Nature

A reader emailed me:

I really enjoy your podcast and greatly appreciate your work. It was very exciting to someone else thinking about personal choices the same way I do and effectively influencing others to do the same. I want to commit to a new personal challenge of only buying food without packaging — I’m almost there now but I want to publicly commit and go all the way … I’d love to join the community with my own public commitment.

I wrote back: “Emails like yours are one of the things that inspire me. If you keep at it, I predict you’ll get an email like it from someone hearing about you and you’ll feel inspired too” and offered “if you write something up, since I occasionally post messages from readers, I can post it in a blog post to help inspire others.”

Though he’s inspiring me, he feels like I’m inspiring him. That’s community based on mutual support, which sustainability fosters (the opposite of binge-watching TV, flying away from family, and the isolation of social media). Regarding posting about him, he wrote:

I’m happy and humbled that my email could inspire you — your reply inspires me to be a better communicator and to keep living by my values. As I said, I’m almost there with the challenge and I definitely appreciate the intrinsic value of doing it. I think for additional motivation, I’ll write up a blog post about my plan; I can share that with you and if you find any of it worth sharing in one of your blogs, great!

He posted to his blog A new challenge. To whet your appetite to read the full post (and more, if you want to learn about someone who grabs life by the horns), it begins:

Howdy everyone! Today, I am embarking on a new personal challenge. I’m not off to run a marathon, bike across a country, meditate for days, or walk for hours (although that is coming up). Rather, I am committing to reducing the waste I produce in a big way. For the next month, I will not purchase any food in plastic packaging. Ideally, this will evolve into purchasing almost nothing packaged but I am starting here with the goal of learning how to further reduce my waste. I have been moving towards this for a while now and after listening to a few episodes of This Sustainable Life, a podcast about leadership in the environment, I decided to make a public commitment.

Unfortunately, as we all know, practically everything is packaged (and most of it in some form of plastic). I am very lucky to have access to a bulk food store where I can bring in my own containers and get everything I need without any packaging. I purchase mostly organic, loose (no packaging) produce and bring reusable bags and/or a cardboard box to carry my groceries. The only things I am still planning to purchase in packaging are plant milk and applesauce but these are only for baking, an important hobby of mine right now. Also, I can get applesauce in glass jars and soy milk in cardboard cartons — still waste but at least reusable and recyclable, respectively. Moreover, I use such small amounts of both of these that one of each will last me quite a while. Some day I will make my own milks and applesauce.

Globally, we produce 430 million tonnes of plastic every year. Annual greenhouse gas emissions from plastic production are responsible for over 3% of global emissions.

There are a few other things that I see as potentially difficult to source without packaging. I like to have berries, which are almost, if not always, packaged in some form of plastic. Berries provide great macro and micro nutrients so I don’t want to just stop eating them. But I also want to draw a hard line: no plastic packaging.

Read the rest of his post.

EDIT: After I posted, he wrote

The challenge is going great! I purchased frozen berries in plastic bags last week but otherwise have stuck to it. Those berries will last a while and by the time they run out, I hope I’ll have a solution for getting them without the plastic. I really enjoy bulk shopping and am trying new foods each time I go to the store. I also fasted for 36 hours last week after reading about your 3-day fast. It was a great experience and I’m looking forward to making it a monthly routine. I’ll continue to write about everything on my susbstack.

When someone is intrinsically motivated, as I read him to be though only he knows for sure, one of the best ways to support them is to hold them accountable. Let’s remember to check in with him after a month, six months, and so on. I predict he will have solved the berry problem with something better than his old way, after all, people lived without foods that grew remotely or out of season for 250,000 years. I further predict he will have led other people to follow not through coercion or lecturing facts at them but sharing what worked and brought him joy.

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