five doubts about green living & a new outlook on each

“Little by little does the trick.” Aesop.

Every week I make two large vegan dishes to reheat throughout the week for lunch and dinner. Tonight I had a special recipe up my oven mit — summer seitan saute with cilantro and lime.

Sounds tasty, right? But after a few quick bites, I realized it wasn’t. I hated it. Like, I-can’t-take-another-bite-in-fear-of-gagging hated it. Okay, that sounds dramatic, but my mood quickly turned sour. Just like the seitan.

It’s incredible how fickle we humans are, isn’t it? One moment we’re flying high, singing sweet melodies and choppin’ up some cilantro. The next, we’re hunched over our steaming plate of seitan wondering why we’re even doing this in the first place.

Photo by Mateusz Stachowski

This little culinary disaster got me thinking. First, about how gross the meal was, and second, about how we shouldn’t get so down on ourselves for slip ups during the quest to greener living. Everyone screws up. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. It’s so important to realize perfection is an illusion.

So, I have an confession. A bunch of confessions, really. I know they say we aren’t supposed to show our weak spots, but I disagree. I think we can learn from each other’s doubts and weaknesses. Here are some mental blocks I face when it comes to being green and making ethical decisions, and how I am reshaping my outlook on each.

Challenge #1: I let little things get me down, like one failed attempt at a “vegan” meal.

New outlook: I am in the long and sometimes difficult process of relearning how to eat. You don’t like this meal? Well, that’s progress. The more I try, the more I know what I like and dislike. It is okay to experiment. I don’t have to love it all.

Challenge #2: I judge myself harshly for my anti-green ways, like driving my car.

New outlook: Start with small changes. How can I begin to lessen my impact? What if I take public transportation or ride my bike to work starting just one day a week? Set little goals and gradually move to larger lifestyle changes.

Challenge #3: Sometimes I just don’t want to do it anymore. It would be so much easier to not care about saving money or being kinder to the earth.

New outlook: Every dollar left unspent can be given to save a life. Likewise, every pound of leftovers composted saves waste from piling up in landfills. This life is not just about my own comfort or ease. Being aware of my actions and the needs of others is one of the greatest joys and privileges in life.

Challenge #4: I’m simply not doing enough like Zero Waste Home or Zen Habits. My lifestyle isn’t anything radical or special.

New outlook: What I do matters, even if it’s something as simple as not buying a new article of clothing for a week, month or year. Every single piece of trash saved from going into a landfill matters. Every dollar donated or saved matters. Every mile not traveled by car matters. It’s time to stop comparing myself to others and focus on what I am doing in my own life.

Challenge #5: I shop at Target sometimes. That makes me feel like a bad person.

New outlook: Rather than trying to beat the big guys (Target, Walmart, etc.) I should focus on embracing the new initiatives they have to offer. I will continue trying to consuming less, but when the inevitable Target trip comes along, I will seek out products that embody my values. That way I will support businesses with social missions while creating more demand for those products in stores.

These are just a few of my challenges (yeah, that’s just a nicer way of saying doubts or weaknesses). I could keep going, but I want to hear from you. Let’s be real with each other. What challenges you about living a “green” and ethical lifestyle? Convenience? Money? Time? I would love to hear about your struggles and victories.

As for now, back to dinner — shredded wheat with soy milk, sigh. ;)

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  1. Maureen K

    Oh, how I can relate! Every once in a while, instead of my “Navy Shower” I just want to stand in a hot shower for 20 minutes and get really soapy and shave while the water is running. So, sometimes I do stand there for 5 minutes. And I feel bad. An then I have to pat myself on the back for being more than 90% “good.”

    • athriftyhippie

      Ah, I totally get you, Maureen. Nothing feels better than standing under a hot steamy shower in the middle of winter. It’s okay! Guilt is a wasted emotion. Keep on doing what you’re doing. The world needs more people like you. : )

  2. Jennifer

    I actually have a post in my head railing against what blog friend Lynn Fang has appropriately called ‘eco-perfectionism.’ I used to be in this ‘green women’ group on FB that drove me crazy. I mentioned that I use Lush shampoo bars and was given so much crap for using a product that has SLS and artificial color. This attitude (and abundant naturalistic fallacy, which is a personal pet peeve) finally drove me to leave. I think the bigger picture is more important than beating ourselves up over using a paper towel or not being vegan. I want to be doing things that actively help the situation rather than achieve eco-perfection in my own life. I want to see more of this attitude in the green blogger community that we need to get outside our own lives. I’m hoping to be volunteering for Cal Parks soon as well as planting a tree in front of my condo. :-) Also, I’ve come to rather like seitan. I hope you’ll give it a second shot — and fry it this time, because everything is better fried.

    • athriftyhippie

      Jennifer, I’m so happy we’ve connected. I love your outlook and all you’ve said here. I completely agree with you. While the little things do matter, I try to place more emphasis on the overall impact of my lifestyle while being a voice and advocate for change. Volunteering with the parks system — good for you! That’s amazing. I’d love to interview you for a book I’m working on. If you’re interested please shoot me an email –

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