Whilst backpacking through Colombia, coming back from a long very hot day of exploring, I got into our hostel room, desperate for a shower throwing all my clothes out of my backpack looking for something clean to wear. I get out of the shower, toiletries strewn over the bed, clothing on the floor my husband pipes up “can you please reduce your footprint”. Holding back a giggle I stared at him in stunned silence. Humoured yet ashamed at having been called out for my general lack of respect for our living situation.
I don’t think he realizes just how much that moment stuck with me. “Reduce your footprint” is such an overused phrase that it’s practically lost its meaning. It made me think, imagine if you treated your house like you treated the planet?
Why is it still okay for us treat the world like it is some sort of cheap, dingy hostel room?
We take such pride in our homes. Is there anything better than coming to a clean kitchen sink?
Now imagine placing that same awareness on how you dispose of your waste, leaving the environment as clean as your polished floor. Think about the amount of plastics you use to efficiently run your home, like dish-washing liquid bottles to the things you use everyday like toothbrushes and cling wrap and so on and so on and so on.
The internet is flooded with nauseating facts on how we have mistreated the world. The latest UN report states that we have 12 years left to rectify our abuses before serious and permanent effects can be seen through severe phenomenons all over the world. It sounds dire. That’s because it is.
South Africa has the largest carbon footprint of any African country the 14th largest, per capata contributor to waste in world, reportedly with only 16% of our plastic waste recycled. We know the facts and they’re scary stuff, like all the plastics in the ocean can circle the earth 400 times. It’s so overwhelming that it’s hard to imagine. But it all starts with a little self awareness, having the ability to recognize how even in our small way we contribute to a toxic culture of waste and excess, being able to identify those areas we can move to make simple changes that gives us peace of mind.
We’ve normalized using single use plastics so much that at this stage it seems hard and inconvenient to think of alternatives. The reality of the situation is that big corporations have more of an impact on the burdens placed on our environment but when individuals make changes to their everyday lives, no matter how small, it creates an emphasis on the kind of change that needs to be made across the board.
To become aware of the impact you have on the earth is quite a sobering and overwhelming thought. There is beauty in slowing down and acknowledging the moment. Simplicity often goes hand in hand with reducing your footprint. It’s about doing the little things, what to avoid and choosing something that might be a bit more time consuming or logistically difficult but you get paid in having a clean conscious.
Being self aware does not have to come at the expense of our convenience. Instead it means exploring alternatives and understanding that less sometimes really is more.
It’s all about doing the small things consistently.