the biggest mistake people make when going green

‘Going Green’. People see this as a lifestyle thing now. They see it as an alternative lifestyle thing, which is rather silly because what ‘going green’ is really all about is getting back to the lives we should all be living; closely connected with the ebb and flow of nature, in tune with our bodies, our minds and the land around us. I get a little antsy when people view my ‘green’ slant as a lifestyle choice. I reckon surrounding yourself with electronic stimulants and eating frozen meals is a lifestyle choice.

this will make (a bit) more sense later on... via gagbay

But on to the biggest boo boo people make when they do decide to make the switch. I’ve seen it a lot. Most people do it. It’s this:

They keep on consuming as much as they did before, only now they buy organic baby wipes and eco-friendly fabric softener.

They switch to ‘green’ products, but they never change their consumption patterns.

This, my friends, leads me to this sweet point to it all:

We can’t save the world by buying stuff.

Of course we all need to buy some stuff (who makes their own toilet paper?), so making sure you’re buying products made sustainably is vital. But it’s not the crux. The deep truth is we have to consume less. We have to waste less. We must squander less.

We don’t need baby wipes. My mother (in fact I bet most pre-90s mothers) raised two dirt-loving children without baby wipes. She used water and a soft cloth. Or spit and a hanky.

We don’t need eco-friendly fabric softener. A cup of white vinegar in the final rinse will do it.

Earth-friendly bench spray... all you need is water and lemon juice or vinegar.

I could go on. You get my gist, no? I find this ‘eco-shape’ bottled water a good example of losing one’s common sense. And this list of the 14 Dumbest Green Gadgets on Earth is, well, ridumbculous (it’s a word. I just made it one just then).

The antidote to this persistent overconsumption is getting resourceful. You think of clever ways to make-do with what you have. Bottle brush gone skanky? Not to worry, swish a few crushed egg shells, a little water and bicarb soda in your bottle and you’re done! Lost your nut crusher? Fret not, use a stone and whammo! (I have done this.) Run out of gift wrap? Rip out a few pages of an old magazine and call it quirky.

The whole thing becomes Really Rather Fun: you discover fabulous new uses for defunct PCs; you learn about the ingenious ways your granny entertained the family before the advent of iPads; you pat yourself on the back for building a chook pen made entirely out of wood panels from the 70s sauna-style bathroom in your house (which was courtesy of its previous owner).

People who get resourceful, who become classic Do-it-Yourselfers, find meaning and purpose in their day. They get... clever. They feel valued. Which makes them happy (and which explains the up and up of the giant hardware store trend).

DIY-ing also helps you achieve flow, that ethereal space where you’re so engulfed in what you’re doing that time passes without you even being aware of it.

The icing on the cake of all this is that consuming less makes us happier. Research shows it. Anecdotally, I can confirm it. Buddhists and Taoists have been gently telling us for centuries. I wrote about it a while back in this post called Consume less,smile more:

Socrates proclaimed, “The secret to happiness is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less”. Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism said, “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realise there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you”. Spanish poet Lope de Vega said, “With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy”.

Indeed, when you consume less and find satisfaction in what you already have, you appreciate the little things that previously didn’t even make it on to your radar. You become grateful. And as I’ve banged on before (read this post on gratitude), being grateful gives you meaning. And meaning... well that’s just the purpose of it all.

If you know someone who fits the ‘oh but now I buy eco-friendly floor cleaner’ bill, maybe pass this one on?


  1. Hear hear! I find myself often saying/writing - 'going green isn't about buying green - it's about not buying'. Well said Maria.

  2. I must admit before reading this post I would have been the 'I'll just buy green' person, and thats why I love reading blogs because other people teach me things I am in no way an expert about. Thank you :)

  3. I agree Maria! I am seeing so many 'green' products that are fooling people into buying something to buy the planet when you can just make most of them at home without chemicals for a 10th of the price. It's easy going green, just jump off the buying treadmill for a while and watch and observe...and learn. And yes I am sure I have been duped into buying something with a picture of the Earth on it or something too, so I am not perfect either.

    1. nor am I by any means... you learn as you go!

  4. This is something I need to remind myself again from time to time. Thanks for a great post!

  5. great post. we do experiences like spending time with family doing something fun that they wouldnt do and the same thing with each other.. I started reading the minimalists blog.. really great blog. fits right in to environmentally friendly.

  6. Such a timely post, pre-Christmas Maria. I must remember that idea about magazine pages for wrapping paper, as even though I recycle most gift paper, ribbons and bags, I sometimes still get caught short.
    Thanks again for a great post.

  7. Beautiful post - thank you :)



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