Green advocates, bright-eyed tree-huggers that we are, have been getting it wrong. We have been inundating you, the citizens, with so much information, gushy enthusiasm and statistically supported guilt trips that we have crossed what astronomers would call your personal event horizon.
The astonishing quantity of information causes it to become meaningless - it gets sucked into your personal black hole.
Scientists have been studying black holes for decades. They know that when space matter crosses the point called the event horizon, it is pulled with such intense gravitational force that it is essentially crushed into oblivion.
We all have a personal black hole. Theoretically, I might have been interested in a particular subject, but if information comes in too big a bite (or byte), forget it. The entire mass gets Hoovered into nothingness.
To stay in front of your internal “act on that” meter, sustainability advocates must keep information personally relevant, and in chunks small enough to grab.
Instead we inundate you with websites, apps, playing cards, pay-it-forward cards, brochures, reusable bags and bottles that you can't help but duck. No wonder it feels like a heroic feat to be “green.” In our well-intentioned enthusiasm, we created a slippery slope of “never enough.”
If you use your reusable bag, then we are ready to hit you with 20 more things you “should” do if you want to be an acceptable human being. The “shoulds” mount until what we do is indistinguishable from doing nothing. Seriously, if somebody finds your efforts to be 1 percent of what's necessary, does it even make sense to do anything but let the black hole have it all?
So how “should” we be “green”? Or rather, how do you determine which nuggets to hold onto while letting others slip by into the crush zone?
Do what you do. Pick something that fits into your daily life. If you drink coffee, take your mug with you. If you garden, get your neighbors to give you their organic matter. Walk to the grocery store. Just pluck one natural, logical action out of the space matter flying by you. Create a new “It's just what we do” ethos for yourself, your family, workplace, community or circle of friends.
You could theoretically do this an infinite number of times, but the point is to do it once. One action, one bit of information from the seemingly endless list. One at a time, pause if you see your event horizon approaching. We the bright-eyed sustainability wonks of the world apologize for having made it so complicated.
Cindy Jennings is on a mission to make sustainability practical in our everyday lives, minus the tree-hugger labeling and massive guilt trips. Both hate and fan mail are bad for the environment, but Cindy can be reached sustainably at firstname.lastname@example.org.