It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to decide to go against the cultural flow in the way that one lives and even more if you decide to advertise the fact.
But I’m thinking that, of the many ways to assess which environmental lifestyle measures make the biggest difference, one way is to decide which adaptations are the most noticeable by other people. Because the more noticeable, the greater chance for changing other people’s minds.
I’m talking here about lifestyle redesign as a kind of political performance art.
What makes me think of this is my jar, my cloth, and my rickshaw. As you know, I call a mason jar I retrieved from the trash my ultra-cool reusable coffee cup, and I use it instead of disposable cups when I buy coffee. I also call it my ultra-cool reusable water bottle because I use it to carry tap water.
At the time when I introduced the concept on the blog, there were a lot of comments about the practicality of the glass jar. And actually I find it very practical: it doesn’t leak and it’s free. But when we talk about the practicality we miss the point of its importance as a spectacle.
“Thanks for using that,” baristas say to me all the time. Often the coffee ends up being on the house.
“How come you use a jar?” fellow customers ask me all the time.
“I just have a thing about making trash,” I say.
“Geez, you got me thinking,” they say.
A metal cup from Starbucks wouldn’t do the trick.
Similarly, I introduced the fact that I carry a cloth everywhere in a post titled “Oh no, here come the weirdos with the cloths.” When I go to restaurants, I’ll very politely ask the server to return the paper napkin to whence it came.
I make my explanation very politely. I never proselytize. A Zen Master friend once called my explanations “Colin’s little darma talks.”
Well, the thing is, one server at a restaurant round the corner told me that he was talking about me to another customer.
“What on earth for?” I asked.
“Because I’m proud of you,” he said.
Similarly, the rickshaw I carry Isabella around in–my No Impact SUV–brings smiles to lots of people’s faces and I end up in conversation about it all the time.
Now, I’m not trying to blow my own horn. I’m simply saying that making sustainable lifestyle changes that publicly breach social norms in ways people appreciate may have much more value than the resources that they’re saving.
What experience to you have with this? Do you live green and loud in ways that people notice and think about? Do you have some experience of just living your new way that helps a stranger become more conscious?