Tom and I spent many months trying to find the right name for our podcast and website. Anyone who has ever tried to name something, particularly something that you want people to be able to find online would know that it can be quite difficult. We brainstormed and had a few different ideas that we thought might work. The challenge was trying to find some short and snappy that somehow conveyed at least a slice of what we were hoping to talk about.
To come up with the name, we took a step out of the specifics of what we were doing or what people would be likely to search for. We tried to identify the key message that we were trying to convey and then we found it. The message that we hope to convey is the importance of asking ourselves the question, is it worth it?
Although there are many other things to consider when trying to live more sustainably. Our circumstances, financial freedom and mental health are all important factors to consider. The essential question that allows us to make effective and efficient change remains, is it worth it? What exactly do we mean by ‘is it worth it’? Well, we feel that this question perfectly sums up how we make small daily decisions as well as larger lifestyle changes to reduce our impact on climate change.
We ask ourselves this question in two ways. The first is when we are tempted by decisions that we know are bad for the environment, we ask ourselves ‘is it worth it?’ For myself, one example is the decision to drive rather than ride when my destination is further away or the weather is really bad. For me and my current circumstances, I make the decision that driving in those times is worth it. I still know that the driving is contributing to climate change but for me and my current circumstances, that impact is worth it. This isn’t to say that I am comfortable with the impact. I might think that it is worth it today, but the fact remains that it is part of my overall impact. This means that if it is worth it in my current circumstances, I might have to look at changing those circumstances. If I can’t change them then I will just have to find different ways to reduce my impact.
The other way that we ask ourselves this question is when we are trying to find different ways to reduce our impact. Questioning whether or not a solution is worth it is a really big part of the message that we are trying to spread. Not all solutions will have the same effect on reducing climate change and depending on your circumstances, some solutions may have either little impact or may even increase your overall impact.
I’ll give you a quick example. A couple of months ago, I was considering buying a reusable coffee cup. Super sustainable decision right? Well for me and my circumstances, not quite. The first issue was that I already own a really nice T2 thermos that I regularly use for coffee and tea. I really love the design and I get a lot of value out of it. The next issue was that I rarely get takeaway coffee. I generally make it myself at home or if I’m out I’ll sit down and get it in a cup. The last issue was that there is a significant embodied energy in a reusable coffee cup. Now if I was getting five or six takeaway coffees a week, I would quickly work off the embodied energy. For me and my circumstances, I was unlikely to ever work it off so I decided to not buy the cup.
Finding what effect different solutions will have on reducing our impact can be difficult. We can quickly get confused by opposing views and opinions telling us that certain things are sustainable while others aren’t. The way that we tackle this is to test solutions at http://www.footprintcalculator.org and see what effect they will have on our overall impact. The score that we get at the end of the calculator allows us to evaluate what changes to make next. For myself, the decision to go vegan reduced my score by a full 1.8 earths. When I had to replace my old Subaru Impreza, I decided to buy a Prius C because it reduced my score by 0.2 earths. I could have got a loan and bought an electric car but for me and my circumstances, getting a loan and spending another $40,000 on a car wasn’t worth it. Going vegan, changing my car and any other changes that I have made have been changes that are worth it to me.
Asking ourselves the question, ‘is it worth it?’ helps keep ourselves accountable for the habits that we know are bad for the environment. More importantly, it allows us to find the most effective solutions that work for us and our circumstances. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to reducing our impact. It is up to us to find the solutions that work for our circumstances and once we’ve become comfortable with a new solution, go out and find another.