Because sometimes it can be downright exhausting
Sustainability is something that we constantly strive for, implementing changes in our lives, both big and small to get us closer to a perfect score.
But at the same time, it doesn’t really have an endpoint.
We can always do better, make more sustainable choices, or buy something made in a more sustainable way.
Sometimes, this constant progress starts to feel more like constantly running on a treadmill, always moving forward but never being able to get to the end.
It’s all too easy to push yourself too hard and end up falling off the treadmill.
Practicing sustainable sustainability prevents that.
What Is Sustainable Sustainability?
Sustainable sustainability is, quite simply, a commitment to sustainability that you can sustain for the long haul.
It’s much more effective to take small steps daily than to make a huge effort all at once, burn yourself out, and never try again.
It’s about taking care of yourself today so that you can continue taking care of the causes you care about tomorrow.
Activist burnout is becoming an epidemic across all activist communities. It’s a fundamental problem with a group culture that respects and admires personal sacrifice for the good of the cause. As a result, communities are constantly losing their most committed and effective activists to burnout, and new members, seeing this cycle, are reluctant to join.
We need to stop this vicious cycle as soon as possible if we want to effectively address the causes that are important to us.
How Does DoneGood Help With This?
DoneGood is designed to take some of the effort and arduousness out of making sustainable choices, so that it’s easier to keep up in the long run.
By having a list of pre-vetted brands available for you to shop with anytime (without spending 3 days researching different companies and their practices when you just need some new bedsheets…) the burden of shopping for everyday necessities is lessened considerably.
But DoneGood can’t do it all for you (yet?) There are still everyday elements of a sustainable lifestyle that are hard, annoying, or just get old after awhile.
To keep yourself on track over time, it’s important to give yourself time, space, and permission to recover your energy, practice self-care, and get ready to get back on the horse whenever you fall off.
Even standing still is better than moving backwards!
What Else Can I Do to Make My Sustainability Efforts Sustainable?
The most important first step to sustainable sustainability is just giving yourself permission to relax your efforts before you hit your breaking point.
Too often, people feel like they’ll be disappointing friends or family, letting the planet down, or failing to be good citizens if they don’t continue upping their sustainability efforts day after day. For many, this attitude ends with them blowing past their breaking point and having to ultimately take steps backward in their sustainability efforts- or worse, give them up entirely.
All because they were afraid to take it easy.
I know that it’s hard to scale back on something that’s extremely important to you, but you need to recognize that everything is cyclical. There will be times when you can dedicate all of your energy to making sustainable changes, times when you need to scale way back on them, and times when you’re more or less continuing in a holding pattern. That’s life.
I’m here to tell you, it’s ok to slow down and even stop when you need to. Even taking a step back is worthwhile if it allows you to recharge and take two steps forward next time.
Once you’ve given yourself permission to not adhere strictly to whatever perfect vision of sustainability you have in your mind, the next steps are pretty easy.
Accept Yourself As You Are
You may want to become a sustainability superhero, but the fact remains, for most of us, right now, we’re only human.
You can’t tie your self worth up in how good at this whole sustainability thing you are. That’s a recipe for a public breakdown when you catch yourself eating off a styrofoam plate at your cousin’s backyard barbecue.
There are going to be times when you fall short of your ideal, always. You need to accept that fact and learn to accept yourself as you are, otherwise you’ll cause no end of needless suffering.
Connect with Nature
Many of our sustainability efforts are focused on preserving our beautiful natural environment, so it makes sense to get out and enjoy it every once in a while, doesn’t it?
Plus, more and more studies are showing that time spent in nature is incredibly good for our physical and mental health and well-being.
So, take time to wander around your local forest, beach, park, or whatever you have available. You’ll probably find it quite restorative.
Connect With Others
Making time to spend with your loved ones is incredibly important to your overall well-being, but it can also be valuable to make connections with other folks in your area working toward sustainability.
These people can provide you with tips and tricks, commiseration, a place to vent, and so much more. Hopefully, they’re already familiar with the idea of sustainable sustainability, but if not, you could certainly introduce the concept! Challenge the idea that burnout is an unavoidable effect of activism wherever you find it.
Practice Healthy Habits
I know, I know, if you’re already feeling overwhelmed, going to the gym is the last thing you’re going to want to do.
But treating yourself well with regular exercise, healthy eating habits, and plenty of sleep can reap rewards well beyond your initial investment.
The times when you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or about to burn out are exactly the times when you can get the most benefit from taking care of yourself.
Lower Your Standards
If the very idea of this one makes you clutch at your pearls, you’re exactly the person who will benefit most from doing it.
A lot of activist burnout is caused by people holding themselves to high standards that are virtually unattainable. It’s understandable to want to achieve as much as possible when you’re working toward an important cause, but this is not the best way.
Holding yourself to unreasonably high standards serves no one, least of all you.
If you truly want to make the most impact possible over the course of your lifetime you need to lower your standards to something that is actually attainable. Leave breathing room in your plans and goals. Pushing yourself too hard all the time will not produce the best results.
Everyone needs rest and relaxation to perform most efficiently, so allow yourself time for that.
Do What You Love
Run a bath, light a candle, try a new face mask, snuggle your pets, get together with friends, go away for the weekend, play a sport- whatever you love doing, now is the time to make time for it. Do this without hesitation, without guilt, and with the intention to enjoy it as much as possible!
You deserve it. Don’t let negative self-talk tell you differently.
Taking the time to do what you love, no matter what that is, is an investment in your own happiness, well-being, and future productivity.
Take Care of Yourself and Watch Out for Others
Now that you know the basics of sustainable sustainability, it’s important to put them into practice not only for yourself, but also for others.
If you notice people in your community showing signs of stress or imminent burnout, let them know what you’ve learned about sustainable sustainability!
Spreading these coping strategies around can have a huge effect on the sustainability community at large. The more people who put them into practice, the more people that will remain healthily engaged in sustainability throughout their lives- not just until they stretch themselves too thin.
A freelance writer working with bighearted businesses who want to better our world.