Saturday, March 21, 2009

How Much of a Sacrifice Do You Feel You Make?

Although I have done innumerable crazy things in the name of the environment, I don't think I've sacrificed all that much. Sure, I went a year without buying new stuff. But I was never a big shopper to begin with. It's not like if Carrie Bradshaw went without buying new stuff.

Which leads me to wonder. How many of us are willing to change our lives drastically in ways that really don't appeal to us?

For example, while there are many child-free environmentalists, how many of those child-free environmentalists really want children, but are not having any for the sake of their ideals? Versus, how many don't really want children regardless of potential environmental consequences?

How many local food proponents miss McDonalds?

How many of those who don't travel desperately want to travel?

How many of those who don't drive love driving?

Because, I don't have a car. I don't drive. I barely ever shop. But I can't claim to enjoy driving. And while shopping can be fun, it's also something I can live without.

So in terms of a sacrifice, well I'm probably not making much of one.

Part of me thinks that in some ways this is okay. If everyone was willing to part with some aspects of their lifestyle, we'd be in a lot better shape. But part of me wonders then, should we be framing things in terms of sacrifice?


EcoBurban said...

It's not a drastic change, but one that I really don't like.

Line drying clothes. For six people.

It takes too much time, I hate that my neighbors can see my underwear and I can't stand hauling baskets of clothes up and down the basement stairs, through the kitchen, the dining room and out the side door in the living room. Down the stairs again, to the side yard. Only to find out I didn't set up the drying rack. ARGH!

Turning down the thermostat, shopping at thrift stores, eating locally etc. weren't major changes, they were just shifts in behavior. Sacrifice means a totally new habit I have to adopt that takes more time, more labor etc. But, I do it. Even though I don't like it! :)

Green Bean said...

That's a good question. I do make small sacrifices. EB mentions some of them. It's those kinds of things mostly. We've skipped a few plane vacations that we really wanted to go to - which isn't to say we'll never go on any of them. It was a HUGE sacrifice when I stopped shopping because I was Carrie Bradshaw - except not as skinny or fashionable.

I dunno know. I think we're willing to make some pretty decent sacrifices and, if the economy keeps going the way it is, "willing" won't come into it. Interesting thing is that a lot of those acts which were one a "sacrifice" become life as usual after a few months.

Joyce said...

Very good point. If I were to swear off Brussel sprouts for Lent, that would not be a sacrifice. Now, potato chips, that would be another story....

Anonymous said...

To answer your question about the locavore missing McDonalds....Every once in a while I either eat there, or similar fast food, because I'm desperate or because it truly sounds good. It never is; it's totally disgusting, and I always find it a great opportunity that some sacrifices are, well, not sacrifices at all.

Farmer's Daughter said...

I've acutally started to enjoy most of the sacrifices we make, so I guess they're not sacrifices.

The biggest one for us is turning down the thermostat. When it's only 55 degrees in the house, I'm cold and miserable, but I remind myself repeatedly that we're saving money and the environment.

As for fast food, I'll grab it sometimes in a pinch, and like Anonymous's comment says, I always remember why I stay away from it.

Laura said...

I second (or third? or 4th?) the comment about line drying laundry. To be honest, it took a long time before I stopped resenting that particular sacrifice.

As for shopping, all the clothes I see these days are hideous anyway, so yeah, that's not much of a sacrifice. :)

hmd said...

I'm a big supporter of voluntary simplicity - or as I like to call it deliberate living. It consists of deciding what's most important to you and focusing on that and getting rid of the other fluff in our lives that doesn't add to our happiness.

At one point in time, I was a big traveller. But I made up for it in other ways by eating low on the food chain, not owning a car, and living in a 300 square foot apartment.

Our priorities change as we age and mine are different today than they once were, but I still focus only on the things that truly bring me happiness and everything else (kids, cable, my own car, etc) stay of the radar.

The problem comes, I think, when we try to do it all, have it all.

Does this make sense?

Today Wendy said...

I don't have a car anymore, and I really do miss it sometimes. Especially when I'm hauling a toddler around on public transit. So in some ways this feels like a big sacrifice to be making, but at the same time we've got so much extra money because we aren't spending any on lease+gas+insurance+parking that my husband is planning to retire as soon as I get through school and land a real job.

Donna said...

Good question! The changes I've made are things I really want to do, down deep. The other stuff I'm not doing because it would be "too hard." Hmmmm...

Oldnovice said...

Interesting thing is that a lot of those acts which were one a "sacrifice" become life as usual after a few months.

I can't even remember when we didn't shut off the water while shaving/brushing teeth, but my husband's son spent a few nights with us this past week while in the area on a business trip. I found myself thinking, "He sure takes long showers for a man" and "I wonder what he's doing to keep the water running at the sink so long."

I feel WAY more comfortable shopping at the thrift store than in the retail malls, which I learned last week when I couldn't find a dress to wear to my daughter's wedding at the thrift store. The retail stores didn't have nicer clothing at all, the selections were poorer, and the sizes ran smaller because the quality wasn't as good. Fortunately, another look at the thrift store a week later found a dress that not only fit good and looked good, but is something that the groom's mom says she can match without buying anything new.

There's no sacrifice if the behavior has become second nature through repetition. If an activity "hurts" or "bothers", try NOT making the "sacrifice" and see whether that "hurts" or "bothers" MORE. It may just be you're suffering from "the forbidden fruit is the sweetest" syndrome.

Anonymous said...

Such affluent sacrifices - hauling laundry, not driving, not shopping! Lets put these in a global perspective.

I see real sacrifices as not having kids, not traveling (at all). If it doesn't hurt, it's not a sacrifice, it's a minor adjustment.

Lets face it - sustainability is not an option or a game we can play when it works for us. We are either in or out.

Tina Cardone said...

This is totally true for me- I don't like shopping or driving, so minimizing both suits me fine. But, I live on a hill, which makes biking anywhere a lot of effort, so I excuse my driving to the store by saying it's nearly always on my way to or from someplace else.

Anonymous said...

Not flying has been a real sacrifice for me - I would *really* have liked to go hang on the beach with my mom this February, and I could have if I would have flown. Or gone to see my little brother sometime during the years he was living in the jungle. Or hopped to Vegas with our friends last fall when they all went.

When we were stricter on the local diet thing, it was often a sacrifice...but then going back to 75% local or whatever we're at right now feels extravagant -- not at all limiting.

I think it's important to push the idea of change. So much of how we live is just habit, and most of us have so much low-hanging fruit. But we shouldn't downplay how hard the transitions are, because if you tell people it's easy and it's not, they're justifiably pissed off.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I am making huge sacrifices but given how unwilling my husband is to do it... the change is apparently too much for at least one of us.

So isn't it all relative? What I might consider to be low hanging fruit is too far up the tree for another and vice versa.

And if what you do is too much for you based on your goals... how long will you keep any of it up?

Katie said...

hey Arduous,
I'm curious to ask you exactly what your masters program is? I've been considering doing something in environmental policy and I was wondering if that's what you're studying? I'm living in France teaching english but looking into master's programs. I just found your blog yesterday and I really like it! Keep up the blogging!

ruchi said...

Katie, email me at arduousblog (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll give you the details. :)