Year for a Planet is a personal challenge to be a better human for the planet for a whole year. This year, 2017, is where I deal with my food choices.
I don’t eat beef but I have a beef with people.
Living as close to a zero-waste, unprocessed eating lifestyle as possible for the past eight months has given me lots of joy. Obviously, my choices are not for everyone, and indeed for most people on this side of the world, this lifestyle is the opposite of theirs. It has been immensely empowering to choose for myself, even though resisting the current options has been a challenge because I had to make my own alternatives.
What do you do when your immediate community hoards plastic, loves sugar, eats processed food, and wastes and mismanages lots of resources? Do you stop hanging out with people? (Yes.) Do you not eat with some people? (Yes.) Do you end up losing your temper? (Yes, a lot.)
Nothing is more challenging than seeing people I know and people around me make what I feel are unhealthy choices that make them unhappy in the long term. I know that I shouldn’t impose my views on them, but it’s depressing to see people keep up with their bad habits because “that’s the way it is” or they’re too uncomfortable to try anything else. I’m not even talking about low income individuals—as I wrote about last week, it’s not very feasible for urban dwellers living below the poverty line to eat a sustainable diet. I mostly think about the smartphone class, who can afford to stare at Facebook and Instagram for hours a day but apparently have no time for self-reflection or self-control whatsoever. And so the Plastic and Processed Lifestyle continues.
I know they’re unhappy because they’re stuck in this unpleasant feedback loop of eating unhealthy meals then wailing that they need to lose weight, then buying even more unhealthy meals to make themselves feel better, this worsening their health and sense of self even more. And this type of mindset leaks into other consumerist facets of their lives.
I also need to point out that no so long ago, I had this exact mindset. I saw my current lifestyle as an impossibility. Me, stop drinking sugary coffee? Haha. But it took some minor tweaks and habit-forming ways to get to where I am now, and though I know I still have a long way to go, my current habits are light years away from my old self.
I’m inspired to write the next few posts by my family’s dinner of Spam, abundance of white rice, sugary yogurt, fast food chicken in a styrofoam bucket, and Coca-Cola. All came home in double plastic bags (which is to say, the plastic bags were layered.) And also by that guy in the checkout lane who had one item bagged in plastic. And finally by that woman who bought six tablets at the drugstore and had them packed in a tiny plastic bag. These people drive me crazy, especially since I’m aware of the social norms and beliefs that got them to do these. I don’t necessarily think they’re bad people; they just agreed with the systems they were in.
A challenge for me in the next few weeks is to research—what would it take for people to change their habits? What will it take for people to say no? I’m not looking forward to this part at all.