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

May 18, 2009


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).