Take on a green challenge, but remember: This is not a competition!


Sorry for the lapse in posts, everyone — I was on vacation and checking in with my extended family for two weeks, then the Canadian book launch happened (pics to follow!), then regular work happened, then it was a weekend of baseball games and sailing in the rain, then my boy won a huge grant from the King Abdullah foundation that was announced at the World Economic Forum yesterday and we celebrated with dumplings, chalk drawings and a screening of Last Night. Phew!

But I’m back for realsies now, and while checking up on some of my favourite blogs today, I came across a post by Arduous in which she admitted feeling a titch insecure/overwhelmed by all the wondrous green feats being accomplished around her. “Many of us, for better or worse, are really into the comparison game,” she notes. But of course, because this London blogger is also a self-aware academic with the capacity to throw down thesis statements like Kanye throws down rhymes, she very artfully concludes the following: “Living a sustainable life isn’t about trying to outdo one another in a bid to be the greenest of them all. It is, fundamentally, about trying to achieve balance. Balance in your life. Balance between you, society, and our environment. Balance between what you really need and what’s kind of superfluous.

After all, you can only be living sustainably if you can, in fact, sustain it.”


Couldn’t have put it better, myself. I remember when I first began my 366-day challenge and thought it was such an original idea — then I discovered No Impact Man and realized this Manhattanite was taking the exact same idea to a higher, arguably more commendable level and had already scored a book deal, a couple film contracts and an appearance on The Colbert Report. More e-digging led to even more challenge-based blogs, tracking people who were living without plastic for a year, saving all their garbage, going vegan and so on. It’s weird because my idea for the blog came from a very selfless place — it came from a true desire to respect the Earth and realign my values — so the fact that my selfish need to be the first person doing such a thing, or at least doing it best, had surfaced and taken over was truly disturbing.

But surely some of you must have similar lapses of judgment, no? Envy at a colleague’s stainless steel lunch kit? A mixture of awe and jealousy upon meeting the head of an amazing environmental nonprofit? Feelings of both inspiration and guilt after watching a documentary on the oil crisis? Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just me and my annoying A-type tendencies coming through.

Either way, I think Arduous makes a nice point, which we should all remember when we go about these endeavours to keep our thermostats down through the winter or leave our cars at home for the week — respecting the environment is a challenge, but it’s not a competition. We’re all in this together, so we need to smile at one another’s lunch kits and bicycles, commend each other for our accomplishments; and, when we’re feeling down about our heavy footprints, take a deep breath and go fly a kite (like my friend Caley, in the photo above).

12 Responses to Take on a green challenge, but remember: This is not a competition!

  1. “We’re all in this together” I love it my sweet Thistle. One of my hippie stickers on my flowered bicycle says this very same thing. Whether it applies to the difference we make to our lifestyles regarding physical health, emotional health, environmental health- as you have shown- every little bit helps and we do much better when we support rather climb over each other.

  2. Alison says:

    You said it sista! Balance is what it is all about…(sung to the hokey pokey).

  3. Having definitely erred on the side of being too critical one too many times, I’ve been trying to totally change the way I think about green issues and how people approach them. Thanks – this was a great post.

  4. Martin says:

    I was making a list of songs that will forever be associated with movie scenes (by me). I totally forgot about ‘Guantanamera’

    And ditto on the main theme of your post 🙂

  5. I have to say that “capacity to throw down thesis statements like Kanye throws down rhymes” is very possibly one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received. Especially a few weeks before exams. Thanks. 🙂

  6. Yoga Witch says:

    Absolutely! All for one and one for all!

  7. […] Green as a Thistle reminds us that green is not a competition. […]

  8. I would be the first to jump in line and say that balance is essential to creating sustainability.

    However, I think people need to stretch themselves sometimes to either get to the next level of sustainability or to see just how painless a certain green change can be. Perhaps a little friendly “competition” cannot hurt, either.

    I have entered into a friendly “eco-challenge” with a work mate for the summer. My work mate has pledged to take public transit or ride her bike to work every day until Sep 15, with a few grace days for inclement weather. She has normally driven her Smart car into work before this challenge. I, on the other hand have child care responsibilities so the transportation change I cannot endure at the present time. So she came up with a “less meat for Al” challenge. I am aiming to go meatless 71 of the 142 days throughout the summer. This is a challenge for me since I would normally consume meat at least once sometimes twice a day. We are both progressing well. We are charting our progress on the wall of her cube, which attracts attention and questions from everyone else in the office. Even though, this is a “competition” of sorts, the ultimate winner is the planet.

    The less meat thing is something I would not have committed to right now because there are so many other changes I can make and it’s not the first on my mind to change (I love my meat, or at least used to). So this friendly “eco-challenge” has pushed me to another level of sustainability that I wouldn’t attempt right now. I highly recommend a friendly eco-challenge in your workplace, too.

    I think there is a competitive beast within all of us. We just need to learn how to feed it without jeopardizing egos or crushing our passion for the planet.

  9. I agree that it can definitely seem overwhelming and competitive. It is all about balance. Do what you can and push yourself to do just a little bit more.

  10. Bradley A Harris says:

    I think that if everyone took small steps daily to lessen thier envrionmental impact, as whole we could make a huge difference. Like turning off your water when brushing your teeth. Changing your old light bulbs out.
    Simple steps that everyone can take.

  11. Amy says:

    I’d never heard of the “laundry ball” before. I will have to look for one in my area. I’ve been wanting to replace dryer sheets with something more responsible. Thanks!

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