3 worthwhile changes regardless of climate change

I think I’ve mentioned it before but Wil Anderson has a great quote in talking about climate change and the opposition from some to take action to stop it. He talks about characters such as Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones (Alan recently said that he hoped that the Australian Prime Minister would “shove a sock down the throat” of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. He also called her “a complete clown” for calling out Australia for its lack of commitment to phasing out coal mining and coal-fired power plants). Wil responds to these men’s climate denial by simply saying, 

“I truly hope they’re right. I hope that the overwhelming scientific consensus that we’re heading for a dark place is completely wrong and some Sydney shock-jock is right and we have nothing to worry about.” The problem is, as Professor David Karoly said on an episode of Q&A, “I am a climate scientist and Alan Jones is wrong.”

I think Wil makes a fantastic point. Just because we all want to think that we’re going to be okay, doesn’t mean we will be. It can be hard to own up to the facts of climate change and keep a positive mindset. So, as an exercise, I was thinking about the question, what if I was completely wrong and the way I live my lifestyle had absolutely no impact on the environment or the climate? Would all the changes I made be for nothing? Would they be worth it?

This is one of the best things about using the “is it worth it?” method. 9/10 times, the changes we make are worth it regardless of the impact on the climate. I’ve made a lot of changes to my lifestyle and my decision making in the past few years. Even if Alan Jones is right and the entire scientific community is wrong, the changes that I have made would still be worth it. 

There is a lot of talk about climate change being an existential issue which in some sense it is. We can’t see or notice the dangerously high levels of carbon dioxide in the air and we can’t really see the rise in average temperature. What we can see is rubbish. What we can see is air pollution. What we can see is a rise in commuting times putting a strain on people’s physical and mental health. These are all things that we can see and even if you forget about climate change for a second, pollution and the negative health impacts of environmentally degrading activities speak for themselves. “Is it worth it?” works because when we actually think about the effects of our lifestyles and behaviours, we can see that making changes that benefit the planet will usually benefit us anyway. 

I hope I am wrong and the planet is going to be fine, but even if I am wrong, the following three changes would still be worth it. 

Eating more mindfully

I always used to be a sucker for the instant and ready to eat meals. I loved chips and lollies and biscuits. I still do love these things and I still fall for convenience meals when I haven’t planned properly but I rarely go down the chips and lollies aisle at the supermarket. I never walk past and grab a dozen cheap and crappy sausages. I never go to the freezer and get something that you can only just legally call chicken nuggets. I eat much more mindfully than I ever have and apart from the environmental impacts, I spend much less money on food and I eat much healthier. Reducing your intake of meat and dairy and avoiding packaged and processed food will leave you feeling much healthier and if you put in just a few minutes to look up some recipes and make a plan, it will save you money as well. 

Riding regularly 

Did you know that more than half of all adult Australians are not active enough? Behind tobacco smoking, inactivity is the greatest contributor to cancer in Australia. THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT recommends that you do an average of 21 minutes of vigorous exercise every day. The Australian Government and our health system are screaming at us to be more active and one of the easiest ways to work this activity into our days all while having fun AND reducing our impact on climate change is to ride bikes! 

For me, the biggest positive effect of trying to live more sustainably has come from riding regularly. I am much fitter and healthier than I have been in a long time. Every time I ride, the hills get a little easier and I have a little bit more fun. I’m not going to lie and say that the moment I got back on the bike I had a massive smile on my face. The first hill I climbed after not having ridden for a couple of years was hell. My legs we not used to the motion and I was really uncomfortable. Then I got to ride back down the hill which delivered the massive grin

The idea of getting back into riding might seem like a big step or a big investment or it might even just feel completely out of reach. No one is telling you to do anything and the All we want you to do is honestly ask yourself the question, is it worth it? Are the few times that I might get wet or uncomfortable worth the better health, less money spent on fuel and the reduced impact on the environment? You tell me.  

Mindful spending 

The last but certainly not the least positive change has been to put a lot more thought into what I’m spending and why. Using the ‘is it worth it?’ method to consider what I’m spending, why I feel that I need to buy it and if there is a better alternative has changed my mindset and spending habits significantly. Put simply, I buy less stuff these days. I buy less crappy food, less petrol, less clothes and less gadgets. I put much more thought into my purchases than I have since I was able to buy things. This has resulted in saving a good deal of money but I have also saved mental and physical space buy bringing less stuff into my life. Buying less crappy food and less petrol have mostly come about as by-products of working on other areas of living more sustainably. Buying fewer clothes and other stuff is the result of three questions that I ask myself when I’m thinking of buying something new. These three questions are: 

  1. Do I really need it? – I honestly ask myself the question, do I really need this thing? Is it a reasonable want? Can I use something I already have? Asking myself this question filters out most unnecessary stuff although I still manage to convince myself for some things 
  2. Can I get it second hand? – Op shops really are a beautiful thing. There is so much bad news at the moment but the fact that you can donate your unwanted stuff to the local op shop where volunteers will sort, price and sell those items and the money will support people who are truly in need is a beautiful cycle. I have found that the trick to successful op-shopping is to never go in looking for something. This might contradict what most people will say about mindful consumption but the trick to successful op-shopping is to go in regularly and keep a mental list of what you’re looking for. Some trips will be successful and you’ll find bargains of what you’re looking for. Some trips will be less successful but if you’ve popped in on your way to something else and managed your expectations, you won’t be discouraged from trying again another day. 
  3. If I have to buy new, is there a high quality and sustainable option? – If I feel like I absolutely have to buy new for items such as socks, underwear or a hat that fits my big head, I try and find an option that is as high quality and sustainable as I can afford. An example of this is my backpack. I use my backpack nearly every day and it has come with me on many adventures. I chose to buy a Patagonia backpack because Patagonia does a fantastic job of making high quality and durable goods while also taking the sustainability of their products seriously. These days, there are sustainable options for so many of the things we buy that if I have to buy something new, there is probably a more sustainable option. 

Using the ‘is it worth it’ method has allowed me to find changes that work for me and my lifestyle while trying to live more sustainably. Few of these changes have been easy at first. Anything worth doing rarely is. I started with smaller changes that were a little uncomfortable and moved on to bigger and more effective changes. As changes got a little more uncomfortable at first, in particular getting back into riding, it always helped to know that I was making an effective and worthwhile change to my lifestyle. 

These changes may have been uncomfortable at first but none of them was very uncomfortable for long. I put off getting back on the bike for months and months. I told myself and others that it was just too hard and impractical. When I ripped the bandaid off and got back on, it felt like I was right all along. I was sore and uncomfortable at first but then it got easier and easier within a matter of weeks. Now, a couple of months later, I’m enjoying riding again and it is becoming something of a hobby. 

Using the ‘is it worth it?’ method allowed me to find adjustments that worked for me and get the leverage to actually make those changes. Once I made the changes and became comfortable with them, I realised that although I made these changes in the name of sustainable living, they would still be worth it regardless of the impact on climate change. 

Climate change is such a complex problem and people, including myself, can get caught up in thinking that there is one correct mindset and method to solving it. Because the issue is so complex, we can get wrapped up in the predictions, doomsday predictions and anger at political inaction. I think there is room to explore and share the other benefits or living more sustainably. Living a more active lifestyle is worthwhile regardless of climate change. Living with a healthier diet with less meat and processed foods is worthwhile regardless of climate change. Living with the financial savings and mental clarity of buying less stuff is worth it regardless of climate change. Some of these changes might work better for you than others but if we are honest with ourselves and ask the question, ‘is it worth it?’, we can find changes that work for us, find the motivation to make those changes and then enjoy the immediate benefits to us as well as the benefits to the planet and future generations.

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