Talk about acting sustainably enough and some smarty-pants will tell you that individual action doesn’t matter, that BP duped you by creating the personal footprint calculator to distract you from them.
If you haven’t heard, here are a few articles and posts for reference, but I wouldn’t read them:
- BP popularised “carbon footprint” to greenwash and guilt-trip. Here’s how.
- Big oil coined ‘carbon footprints’ to blame us for their greed. Keep them on the hook
- Demystifying the concept of personal carbon footprint
Those articles talk about how the companies are the problem. They should change. We’re not the problem. They say we need big changes, not little ones one person at a time.
People like this then avoid reducing their pollution. Way to teach BP a lesson by buying their products! You sure outsmarted them.
This perspective misses the point. Their biggest error is implying that polluting less is a sacrifice or burden. I haven’t heard someone make this point who actually tried to live more sustainably. If they did, they’d realize they’re describing something joyful as if it’s a burden. They’re reinforcing the beliefs driving the problem.
They’re acting as if polluting less takes effort and that effort distracts and detracts from effort changing those companies. But polluting less improves quality of life, as they’d learn if they tried sincerely. It gives energy; it doesn’t take it.
BP doesn’t buy its own products. We do. Stop doing business with people you disagree with. Stop funding BP.
Acting by one’s values is a matter of integrity. If you believe in living by Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You (the Golden Rule), which nearly every culture does, or Live and Let Live (Common Decency) or Leave It Better Than You Found It (Stewardship), then polluting less will improve your life.
Living by your values, with integrity, and enjoying it is worth doing, at least for me. If no one tried to live more sustainably and I knew I could change no one, I would still do what I’m doing: stopping hurting others.
Polluting less is practical, like playing scales to reach Carnegie Hall
Besides leading to a better life, if you live by the Golden Rule, Stewardship, and Common Decency, if you want to change governments and corporations, the fastest, most effective way to lead them is to lead yourself first. I recommend starting with a mindset shift, especially if you think acting sustainably is a burden or sacrifice, then a nonstop process of continual improvement. We overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can in a year.
So many articles have headlines like “10 Little Things You Can Do for the Environment” that people believe there are only a few things they can do. So they do a few and figure they’re doing enough and “balance” they burdensome things (in their minds) with getting on with their lives.
The point isn’t to do a few things and stop. Since I run workshops and coach sustainability leadership and teach the Spodek Method, I end up being led to find ever more new things to do to act on my environmental values. At first I worried I’d run out of things to do, influenced by those articles. The opposite happened. The more I act on my environmental values, the more I find new things to do, not less. And the more steps I take, the more what used to seem big becomes small steps relative to the steps before.
Enjoy polluting less!
So enjoy polluting less. Don’t do one thing and stop. Use each thing you do to catapult you to the next. You’ll find living sustainably enables you to influence BP and its peers more, not less.
Plus you’ll be happier.
Here’s mine from the Global Footprint Network. It’s about joy, connection with people and nature, freedom, fun, delicious food, and things like that.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees