Nobody likes a hypocrite. And nobody wants to be a hypocrite. We all want to do the right thing by our own lights. If we say we believe something, we have to actually live as if we do. When how we live does not match what we say we believe, we open ourselves to charges of hypocrisy. You want to fulfill the old adage: to thine own self, be true. We feel an uncomfortable brand of cognitive dissonance when we are not.
We tend to be our own worst critic and beat ourselves up for things that could use more mercy than judgement. Sometimes, you are going to throw the wrong kind of trash into the wrong kind of bin. You are going to finish drinking a soda and toss the can into the first receptacle you see. You know that the right thing to do would be to hang on to the empty can and wait until you can recycle it. That is a fine ideal that cannot always pan out in the real world. Being socially conscious starts with little things. If you are ready to align your socially conscious talk with your actions, here is where to start:
Make Your Big Purchases Count
It doesn’t matter if you purchase eco-friendly goods with items that are so small that it hardly matters. Ideally, you want everything you purchase to be eco-friendly. But that is not yet a realistic goal. What you can do is start with the big things that you don’t buy very often and afford you the opportunity to take your time and make sound choices. An engagement ring is a good example.
Instead of going to a typical jewelry store and doing the typical thing of buying a typical conflict diamond and displaying it on Instagram as if it were something of which to be proud, try shopping for man-made diamonds for over which no wars were fought, no blood was shed, no ungodly amount of earth was displaced, and no tyrannical government could control. In other words, it is a major purchase that symbolizes the values you want to live by without sacrificing the things you love. It is possible to look good and remain consistent with your stated values. It also helps send the right message to others who are on the fence.
Start Early in the Day
When something is really important, you will make the time for it first thing in the morning. You just need to modify your morning routine to accommodate it. One of the first chores of the day should be to empty the recycling and put it in a fresh bag. The reason this is important is that creating waste is one of the first things we do. If the recycling bag is full, people in the household will be tempted to just use the garbage can, which always seems to have more room. By starting the day with increasing your chances of success, you will be motivated to follow through for the rest of the day. Good follow through requires a good start.
Everyone knows that with great power comes great responsibility. What has escaped most people is that with great responsibility comes great accountability. Setting up a system of accountability is what makes you stick to doing what you say you care about. In the same way that partners can keep each other financially accountable, they can keep each other environmentally accountable.
Don’t just have a conversation about the finances of buying a car. Talk about the responsible option of buying an electric car. Don’t let a conversation about your vacation plans end without considering things like environmental impact and what you can do to help reduce yours while having the time of your life. Don’t just ask for jewelry. Ask for conflict-free, egocentric jewelry. Help one another stay on track with the things you believe.
Many of us have lofty ideals that look good on paper and are easy to virtue-signal on social media. But in practice, it doesn’t always line up with what happens in real life. Make your ideals align with reality by making your big purchases count, starting early in the day, and enlisting an accountability partner to help you stay on track.