Does the nature of sustainable living change based on where we’re geographically located? Does it equally matter to reduce our plastic consumption no matter where we live?
Does it equally matter to buy locally or to purchase organic / naturally grown produce?
Are the same behaviors and practices possible no matter where we are?
In my experience, the answer is - it depends.
Sustainable living was for me living that does as little harm to the natural world as possible. Is there a way to go all the way down to zero negative impact in a single human life? Well, it depends on where life takes place and probably, also, how far one is willing to move away from urban life. Just on my own journey, I’ve seen myself make different choices across different countries I got to live in - Poland, Japan, Costa Rica.
Like so many things, it’s a very relative and subjective matter. Just living in different countries, or even cities can have a great impact on the depth of an individual’s sustainable living - the accessibility of certain services, like effective waste management, or cultural considerations of how products are packaged, all the way down education and to how nature is perceived and what relationship we have with it.
My sustainable living in Tokyo was predominantly centered around managing plastic waste, for example through going out of my way to get produce free from plastic. Moreover, it was about speaking, sharing, and exploring different facets of involving oneself in the conversation of what a healthy environment is and how one can develop a deeper connection with it, far deeper than seeing it as a set of resources - in the other words, lots of events organizing and hosting, lots of public speaking and writing.
Poland life was relatively close to Tokyo’s - also a quite big city life, with a decent closeness to forests which cultivates my appreciation for Mother Nature and feeds my soul. Poland, is the 4th most forested country in Europe (reaching over 30% of the land, similar to Japan which holds the forest cover of over 60%). It was MUCH easier there to choose plastic-free produce, however, the availability of environmentally safer products is on pretty much the same level; both being highly developed countries, all the necessary infrastructure is of course in place and easily available - now, this is where my life changed a lot with a move to Costa Rica.
Costa Rica, the first tropical country to have stopped – and subsequently reversed – deforestation stands at approx. 50% of total forest cover. It’s a highly diverse and beautiful country, especially the area of Chirripo, where I currently live. I was invited here to let go of a lot that my city life had ingrained in me. Letting go of public transportation over traveling by car Letting go of organic produce and products with labels, and certifications. Seeing a Westerner, the sellers at farmer’s markets, oftentimes, automatically say their products are organic - now, it’s all about trust and discernment. Also, letting go of a lot of fixed ideas of how life close to nature is to look like. What I witness here is, what seems to me, excessive use of Round-Up, household burning trash is a rather common practice and gray water flows straight into rivers - it would be easy to jump onto a high horse and judge the behavior. What I see tho, is a lack of infrastructure and education. Why would anyone living their life, as they always have, suddenly question their actions? What I see is that I, myself, must first take care of these matters for myself - so trash segregation and taking it out once a week to town (a 30-minute drive) is completely on me. Waste is flowing into the land or river? I better make sure I use biodegradable products - another challenge - there isn't much choice apart from one brand, that can at times challenge the wallet quite a bit.
I had to make peace with a lot of the actions and choices of big city life are simply not possible here. On the other hand, I’m surrounded by roaring rivers, a jungle that’s almost at the doorstep, and a tight-knit community.
Is one lifestyle better than the other?
Is it simply different - with different sets of conditions and circumstances?
What do you do to care about the world that we live in?
“Individuals all have the power to create and effect change in a positive or negative way and it is up to us to realize that this also comes in small actions. I do not have the power to implement policies or change the rules but I try to do small things within my daily life. Things such as of course the 3Rs as much as possible, water and energy conservation in simple ways at home, reducing my reliance on plastic products, and supporting sustainable and eco-friendly businesses. When I go shopping, I look for eco-friendly labels. There are many things we can do as individuals to care about the world we live in. Education is also an important step. Educating those around you, speak up when you see where your family and friends can do more. You can also volunteer, as I do with weMORI. The power is in ours to create the future that we want. As per this quote by Confucius, “The man who moves a mountain starts by carrying away small stones.”
“Although I do simple things like using refillable bottles and being mindful of my consumption, I believe the most significant way through which I care about the world is by learning about it and how to protect it from the catastrophe it is facing. May it be through university lectures or through books or through weMORI I believe each detail I learn is shaping my mind to act for the critical change that’s needed. Although the world is too complicated to understand completely, I am happy that I’m trying to do so in the hope of finding and acting for solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.”
WHAT WE'RE READING
A rare win - marble mine project suspended in a Cambodian natural reserve Read here
Why it may be time to stop using the polar bear as a symbol of the climate crisis Read here
Reforestation and hi-tech hand-in-hand Read here
Africa’s first climate summit Read here
Tropical forests may be getting too hot for photosynthesis Read here
Carbon credit speculators could lose billions as offsets deemed ‘worthless’ Read here
There you have it, dear friends!
Till next time!