You're my hero!
We have all had people we look up to at some point in our life. Those we aspire to be more like and hope to emulate in some way. Growing up I mainly looked up to athletes and tried to copy things that they did; I remember triple jumping around the playground in primary school trying to be more like Jonathan Edwards after his world record at the World Championships; the following year I was trying to run over the top of people like Jonah Lomu when I started playing rugby in secondary school; and more foolishly smashing my face in the mud attempting a Rene Higuita ‘scorpion kick’ (I remember all of these events distinctly, as though they were miles apart - when researching this I realised 1995 was clearly a year when I was easily influenced!).
Putting people on a pedestal to be hero worshiped can be problematic. The disappointment that people can feel when their idol lets them down can be very real, but is often in fact the result of unrealistic expectations projected onto them. Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone has those mistakes reported on in the national and international press! There is also the reality that a lot of celebrities public lives are very carefully stage-managed so that we only see the good bits. This can give us unrealistic expectations for ourselves and lead to disappointment if we fall short of the standard to which we aspire.
The above reasons contribute to why I have never really got into ‘hero-worship’, but that doesn’t mean that I am not influenced by others at all. In fact, I actively go looking for examples of behaviours that I would like to see more in myself in others, so that I can see how they manage it, and bring those examples into my own daily routine. Making any changes in our lives or ways of thinking is hard, and there’s no way that works equally well for everyone as we all have different personalities and experiences, so casting my net wide when I look for ways to improve means that I can take the ways that work for me. I have used this approach when dealing with career changes, disappointment and personal failure, improving my health and fitness, and, of course, trying to live a more eco-friendly sustainable lifestyle.
Being open to influence
Being open to being influenced works for me, and focusing on particular behaviours means that rather than just looking at individuals, I can also look at organisations, films and even events when seeking inspiration.
We have already looked at some of our favourite Eco-bloggers in this post, and we will be returning to this in the future as we discover more and more people who are giving us great ideas and spreading the sustainable message, and in this blog we looked at how the royal family are helping to broaden the range of people who are becoming aware of the environmental crisis facing the planet. I also feel like I mention it every post, but I don’t think I can say enough about the impact that Blue Planet has had on the environmental movement! In the rest of this post, I am going to talk about some celebrities, businesses, and festivals which are demonstrating great behaviours that are worth following in the footsteps of.
The King of the World and a Natural Born Killer
Leonardo DiCaprio is in some of my favourite films, and has been in some of the biggest box office smashes in history. Despite this he doesn’t seem to be someone who particularly enjoys the limelight, and doesn’t self-publicise a great deal. What he does do, and what he has done since 1998, is act as spokesperson and the founder of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, an organisation which is making a huge impact globally. Since 2010 they have awarded over $80 million in grants to high impact environmental projects, and helped to back an innovative “debt for nature swap” in the Seychelles where government debt is paid off in exchange for protecting marine life and habitats. Whilst I can’t look to emulate Leonardo’s massive personal contributions, coming up with innovative solutions to global problems and trying to think about reducing my impact on multiple sections of the environment are things that I can do.
Kat’s favourite film growing up was Natural Born Killers, and the gross-out comedy, Kingpin, was a staple of my teenage years. Woody Harrelson, the star of both of these films, has been an environmental activist since long before it was “cool”, and continues to be so today. He has founded a number of vegan businesses, including a treeless paper company, and has campaigned tirelessly on a range of issues. Reports say that his home is completely off the grid and sustainable, and that is something that I aspire to as well. At the moment that is limited to trying to reduce the electricity I waste, but we all have dreams, and one day I would love to be able to have my own sustainable dwelling.
Outdoors and in
There are countless small businesses who are doing things that make a difference, and we’ve looked at some of the UK based ones here. There are global companies who are also showing good corporate social responsibility to consider their impact on the world that we live in.
Patagonia are an outdoor clothing company who are expanding into other lifestyle areas, but everything they are doing is mindful of the impact that they have on the world. They’ve even been described as anti-growth in this New Yorker article for their commitment to encouraging people not to buy things they don’t need, even if that means not buying their own products. This is relevant to me because I still have a huge consumerist urge when I am out shopping. If I leave the house to go to the shops, as I am getting ready to head home, if I haven’t bought anything I get an unprompted feeling telling me to buy. I’m improving, and am having fewer takeaway coffees (this was always my go to when the urge hit so it didn’t feel like a wasted trip to the shops), but it’s still an area that I need to focus on!
Ikea are an international phenomenon, and arguably go against the reducing consumption argument that I’ve just looked at in the previous paragraph. Many people use Ikea as a source of cheap and replaceable goods, which therefore can fuel that drive to own more when we should be looking to have less. That said, in 2012 they began a really impressive drive towards sustainability, and you can see the progress they have made so far here. They have clearly laid out goals for their strategy to improve, with a focus on sustainability, fairness and equality. Goal-setting and being open with myself and others about where I want to take myself is the lesson that I am taking from them, and I hope other businesses do the same.
I am rubbish at social media, in that I rarely post, and mainly only have accounts so I can check in to see what family and friends are up to with their lives and businesses. As a result I don’t really follow anyone on Instagram, or any of the other major platforms. Kat, on the other hand, absolutely loves it. She’s a much more visual person than me, and loves looking at the pictures people create, in particular when she is seeking inspiration for making our lives more sustainable. She showed me a couple of the people that she follows and I must admit the content that they create is gorgeous. Beautiful photographs paired with advice or links to their blogs mean that you are instantly engaged, and also give you the motivation to think about any changes you can make and act on them.
Taylor has an instagram account and blog called pforwords, where she gives advice on sustainable living and a sustainable budget. Her pictures are all beautifully shot, and Kat has passed on to me a lot of the advice about personal finances which she talks about in addition to reducing waste. A lot of people worry that moving towards an eco friendly lifestyle will be expensive, but Taylor has loads of advice on how to save money whilst also saving the planet. This is really relevant to me: I’m not good at budgeting and any advice I can get on how to save money is really useful to me!
Another really cool Instagram profile that Kat showed me is called sustainyoself by twins, Geevie and Sophia. They have posts on all sorts of topics, including lots of content on sustainable beauty. Again, their posts are so well laid out and crafted, and scrolling through their feed is really engaging and makes you want to put their ideas into practice. I particularly like their advice on a zero waste college dorm (although, sadly, college is a long way in the past), and will be looking at their advice on minimalist packing when I next head off on my travels.
Eco Festival Frolics
Anyone who has been to a festival over the last ten years will be able to attest to how they’ve changed. The morning after the final night used to be carnage as the tents went away leaving piles of waste. Whilst there is still room to improve for many festival goers, the festivals themselves are becoming more and more sustainable, and teams of volunteers work to clean up as soon as the last song is played!
Any festival where 98% of the emissions at the festival come from the cars that drive there is obviously doing something right as far as the environment goes. The Green Gathering in Wales describe themselves as “a festival beyond hedonism, powered by wind, sun, people and passion”. They are so focused on their goal that they encourage people to ride share, cycle, and take alternative forms of transport for next year’s festival. The constant effort to improve, even if you are already doing a great job is what I see as most inspirational about their efforts.
Shambala festival in Northamptonshire are another festival with sustainable goals at the forefront of their mind. They encourage creativity and diversity, whilst remaining independent of corporate influence. This is an important reminder to me that although making money is obviously important, it shouldn’t act to reduce my own agency and impact on my values.
Shambala festival campsite on Monday and not a scrap of rubbish!
There’s so much going on at the moment that is making a positive difference to the way that people view the environment and our relationship with it. There’s never a better time to make a change than right now, so looking around for things that work for you shouldn’t be delayed. It’s great to find inspiration in different areas, and to think about how we live our lives as we look to improve the environment. Even little changes can make a big impact, but remember, everyone makes mistakes and nobody’s perfect, so rather than dwelling on those mistakes and holding yourself up to an unrealistic standard, focus on the improvements that you make as you move forward.