green living santa cruz
May 2019

Your Green Choices Are Not Made to Insult Others

By Suki Wessling

Last month I talked to local resident Canaan Sasha about shopping local and frequenting stores that had bulk items so we could bring our own containers. We were having fun geeking out about all the things we bring containers for when she mentioned something important:

“[Shopping local] is not necessarily economically viable for everyone in the community, but I take that responsibility pretty seriously because I know it’s not going to be possible for everyone.”

green living santa cruz

In the way that the universe works, the next day I had a conversation in which someone told me that shopping local is “not a solution” because, well, they personally can’t do it because of their life constraints.

I’ve heard this before, so I wanted to address it here openly. The argument goes like this:

Your solution is not a solution at all because [insert group of people] can’t do it. Therefore, your solution is completely invalid.

Besides featuring a standard logical fallacy, there’s a problem with that argument: Solutions to complex problems are often complex.

We got into our present situation, a warming world filled with piles of waste, through a series of subtle changes in human population and behavior. Many of the changes were positive ones:

  • Medical advances led to huge population growth
  • The improvement in quality of living led to more consumption
  • Technology and scientific innovation has allowed us to produce more goods of more variety than ever before

Now we’ve got a mess of unexpected consequences to deal with. If we sit around waiting for everyone to be able to make the same choices, we won’t solve the problem.

So the next time you get into that conversation—you know the one—where a well-meaning person points out that your decision is not going to save the Earth, I am offering you a response (thanks, Canaan, for your help on this!):

“I understand that my solution is not viable for everyone. But I feel a responsibility, as one resident of this earth, to do everything I can in my own small way.”

Each of us needs to do the best we can in the areas of life that we have control over. And none of us needs to be shamed about what we can or can’t do within our own life constraints.

What is your family or business doing to leave less of a footprint or encourage lower consumption? Contact us, and get featured in Growing Up in Santa Cruz!

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