For the longest time, I was scared to call myself an environmentalist. I didn’t believe I had acquired sufficient knowledge or experience to be worthy of the title. I was adamant in thinking that my efforts were negligible since I didn’t know everything and didn’t believe I was doing the maximum to combat the climate crisis. After a year of educating myself, volunteering and interning, I still felt inadequate.
“There are people who are doing more than me, spreading more awareness than me and making more of an impact than me”, I would tell myself. I was caught in a detrimental loop where I was striving towards omniscience and influence to gain the right to proclaim myself as an environmentalist. I even felt solace in reading environmentalists’ shortcomings because I felt relief in knowing the most influential environmentalists weren’t perfect.
Then I came across the idea of being an imperfect environmentalist and it’s helped me gain confidence in my passion and in my work. Being an imperfect environmentalist means to be aware of your environmental impact and do what you can to minimize it while also being cognizant of the fact that one person cannot be 100% sustainable. There are simply things out of our control and beyond our means to achieve and that. is. ok. Of course, if there are things you are able to adjust in your lifestyle without compromising your work, mental health, personal beliefs and finances then you should definitely make that adjustment!
Why should you embrace being an imperfect environmentalist?
Being a “perfect” environmentalist is virtually impossible and to be honest with you, I don’t even know what they would encompass. There’s always a way to be more green and there is always more to learn about the environment and sustainability. Neither should we devalue someone’s work/efforts because they aren’t 100% sustainable. Living sustainably is relatively expensive: Organic food is expensive. Organic clothing is expensive. Electric vehicles are expensive. Most people do not have the privilege to afford these luxuries. However, this doesn’t disregard the efforts they have made. Being aware of your environmental impacts and making changes where it is possible with your personal circumstance is the most important. We are all different and we are all able to contribute different amounts. Therefore, how much one person contributes isn’t any less crucial than someone else’s efforts.
To tackle the climate issues we face, we must understand the different lenses relevant to each issue. Hence, it makes sense for us to only specialize in a handful of areas and dedicate our resources, time and energy to doing good in those areas. Yet, we shan’t neglect areas beyond our specialty but remain inquisitive and open-minded to learning more about these areas while being adaptable within our lifestyles.
Written by Zara Shilakis