When I started my green journey several years ago, an eye-opening experience was watching the documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I felt hopeless and overwhelmed, the problems were so bad and huge that it was hard to believe I could actually do anything about it.

At that point in time I thought it was up to the governments and companies to be accountable, to make good decisions for the environment, tougher laws and regulations, changes in the way they do businesses to consider the planet too.

Well, this was true, and still is, the role they play in the solution to these problems is essential and their commitment to the environment a paramount, however the bit that I didn’t quite get at that time was how the little things I do every day can actually make a difference.

Everything adds up

In the same way we consume earth’s resources every single day and it adds up, the positive changes we can make individually to reduce our impact also adds up and sometimes we underestimate it because we forget the big picture.

If I decide to stop using plastic bags in my weekly shopping, let’s say I divert from landfill around 700 plastic bags per year (based on the example I gave in the plastic bag series which is a very modest number). What if 10 people I know do the same thing? then it would be 7.000 plastic bags a year. What about 100? 70.000 and 500? 350,000 plastic bags out of landfill or the oceans.

Imagine if those 500 people said: “I can’t be bothered, too much work, what’s the point! it is just me trying to swim against the current, plastic bags are everywhere, what difference can I make?” well, then in a year extra 350.000 plastic bags would be lingering in the environment for years. That’s a big number, imagine multiplied by millions of people around the world.

We collectively have an enormous power to turn things around, and everything starts with one person and the decision to take action even when it feels it’s insignificant, even if the problem seems impossible to resolve, even if all the people around are following the “norm” and it seems no one care. Trust me, that’s not the case.

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. ― Edward Everett Hale

It is contagious

I believe people don’t change because someone says so, but instead people learn and often get inspired by other people’s actions and then they start to make changes.

Few years ago, I kept sharing with a good friend of mine some of the things I was learning about natural living and sustainability and all the changes I was starting to implement around the house, and even when I never suggested her to do anything, she quickly started gaining interest in these changes and asking questions. In the end, she also embarked in her own green journey and it was her own decision, she could have just listened to my stories and being supportive as in many other occasions, but this time she also considered the matter quite important and decided to take action.

I feel it is easy to get inspired by positive changes we see in others because often it is part of who we are too, it is our human nature, the majority of us want to to grow, engage in meaningful causes and do good – that’s what I choose to believe.

So when you get inspired and decide to do a positive change, you can suddenly inspire a couple of people close to you and then when they decide to take action too they can inspire another couple of people around them and the chain continues.

And these are just the connections you can actually see, but many other people can get inspired by a small act you make on the streets (like picking up trash from the street to dispose it properly, buy veggies using your reusable bags in the shops, refusing a plastic straw in a pub) without you actually being aware of it.

Imagine for a second if you teach/inspire a kid or a teenager to care for the planet, these are lesson that they’ll use for life and they are so valuable to improve the current state of the environment. The impact your positive changes can have on the world are unlimited really. It is contagious!

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. -Mother Teresa

Be the hummingbird

I love the hummingbird story and I think it summarises well the topic I am writing today.

It tells the story of this little bird that facing a terrible fire in the forest, decided to do something about it, it collected few drops of water from the stream and went into the forest and put them on the fire, then it went back and did it again and again, while the rest of the animals just stood there feeling hopeless. They only watched the little bird in disbelief and tried to discourage it with negative comments about how little he could do to put out the fire. The hummingbird continued working and only said: “I am doing the best I can”

We should all be like the hummingbird and do the best we can to protect the environment, reduce our waste, raise awareness about these issues. Often when I read the news about climate change and the environment everything looks so bad, sometimes even terrifying, but I can’t just be like the animals in the forest and get paralysed in fear, there is always something to do, small or big, it doesn’t matter, as long as I am doing my best, step by step. This is not about perfection, it is about progress!

And you know what? it also feels great! it feels good knowing: you are helping, you are doing the right thing, you are part of  a bigger cause, you are making a difference even if no one is noticing, you are part of the solution and less of the problem, you care for the planet that is your home, you are being accountable for future generations that will inherit the planet, you are protecting other species we share this planet with…so many reasons to be content when you are doing the best you can!

This was my take on individual action and the difference we can all make together. Please leave a comment below and tell us: Have you felt discouraged and overwhelmed with the environmental issues the planet is suffering? How have you dealt with that feeling? Have you inspired someone to do a positive change before? Have you been inspired by someone?

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Thanks for reading,