By Leslie Gonzalez Everett, OGT National Advisory Council Member
I had a great conversation with my sister recently. We talked about the “ists” and the “isms”; Perfectionist/Perfectionism, Activist/Activism, Environmentalist/ Environmentalism. The gist of the conversation was this: Our cultural tendency toward perfectionism often inhibits us from seeing ourselves in certain roles because we don’t execute them “perfectly” even though through our actions we have evidence of embodying those identities. We discussed how perfectionism can be a strong derailer to our ability to find joy and take pride in who we are and what we do and can hinder important movements because we get stuck in judgement of not measuring up to some imagined standard.
I would never label myself as an Environmentalist.
Surely that title is reserved for those who have dedicated their life’s work to combatting the climate crisis, preserving nature and wildlife, chaining themselves to trees and advocating at the highest levels for an equitable and sustainable future. These are the folks that live net-zero carbon neutral lives (whatever that means). Drive hybrids, live on solar power, grow their own food, and walk on this earth so gently that they float above the rest of us giving us something to aspire to. Surely that title is not for me.
Instead, I have a V8 truck parked in the driveway and a hidden stash of plastic grocery bags in my drawer to recycle (because I keep forgetting to bring my re-usable bags to the grocery store). Ugh. Yet, if I look at my life over the course of the past 7 years, I can see how I have accumulated evidence that I am an environmentalist. Just not a perfect one. And that’s okay.
It is a journey. And my journey into environmentalism has been paved with many tiny steps and actions, which in the grand scheme of things may have little impact alone but have awakened a curiosity and a willingness to learn to do better every day for the next generation.
And what is more important, it has given me the courage to join my imperfect voice to the chorus of imperfect voices that reach out to their representatives to advocate for change.
What 7 years ago started as a choice to go to a plant-based diet a few days a week, and recycle as much as I could, has led me to be on the National Advisory Council for OneGreenThing. If I am honest with myself, I still feel unworthy of being a part of the council, since I find myself in the company of big “E”, Environmentalists. But here I am (shh, don’t tell them).
I’m imperfect but taking daily action to build up the evidence that I need to identify as an…Environmentalist. (There I said it). That is what One Green Thing is about after all. It’s the “come as you are” movement to set an intention and take daily action to be a good ancestor to future generations. The good thing is that this approach is validated in so many ways, not the least of which is through James Clear’s identity-based habit book “Atomic Habits”. James says, “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” So, my organic tofu today, can lead me to call my senator’s office tomorrow. The actions don’t need to be grandiose. They can be small, but if they are consistent will contribute to a larger system/culture of change. That is what makes them atomic. That is what makes them powerful.
So come as you imperfectly are.
Cast a vote for the person you wish to be and the future you want to leave the next generation. After all, as Anne Marie Banneau said “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly”.