Mark L. Miller
The slogan of GROM, a popular Italian ice-cream chain focused on sustainability and tradition, is the title of this week’s post.
Perfection is not a value of nature. Imperfection is. Just like GROM we strive to achieve the highest quality, but we also embrace imperfection. So, if our traditional Friday post came two days later, it means that we are being coherent to Mother Nature’s imperfection. We are pretty sure Greta would agree.
As a matter of fact, living in a sustainable way is anything but perfect. Environmental actions and solutions are usually complex, inconvenient and easily criticized.
Some people that temporarily quit eating meat for environmental reasons are often questioned with stuff like: “Do you know that your temporary absence at the supermarket’s meat compartment will not change the meat industry?”. Or also: “Do you know that meat consumption is not a big deal? Industry crops for biofuels are much worse. They’re famishing South American populations!”.
Some other people that decide to keep their car in the garage and travel by train to reduce CO2 emissions get laughed about with stuff like: “Do you know that your CO2 reduction is compensated by the CO2 generated by the coffees you drink?”.
These conversations cannot be avoided. Critical thinking is a virtue of mankind that helps evolution and makes environmentalists think twice about their actions. Actually, it makes them stronger. Yet, most of the time these conversations are anything but constructive because they discourage those who are not environmental geeks but try to live more sustainably. These people need support. Environmentalists, environmental scientists and managers should give a couple of guidelines to make sustainable living easier. And we are not talking about scientific papers.
A generic guideline is coherence. For example, one should live sustainably during and after workhours. One should not forget about the environment once the workday is over. If you work as a train driver, you should try to travel by train when you go on holiday and incentive your kids to use it, instead of driving them to school.
Staying local is another guideline. Is it more sustainable to eat a freshly caught local trout or a box of pesticide-full Brazilian soy?
A third guideline is seasonality. Is it better to consume a pack of seasonal raspberries or a kilo of last-year Gala apples, which have been stored for ten months in energy draining cold storage warehouses?
Of course, these cannot be the only guidelines. Once again, environmental solutions are complex. That’s why we need more help from knowledgeable friends, expert, standardized labels (e.g. EU or BIOLAND organic logo), accreditation (e.g. Natura2000 or UNESCO site) and assessment (e.g. Life Cycle Assessments).
Alba, Piedmont (Italy). Can you see here the nice balance between vineyards, nut plantations, forest patches and urban centers? It is hard for an untrained eye, but you can count on the UNESCO. This marvelous cultural landscape has been recognized by the UNESCO as World Heritage
Notwithstanding the guidelines and the support from “helpers”, criticisms will still find an unprotected nerve. One of the most common criticism is that your contribution to sustainability is insignificant. If your contribution, however, is successful, many other contributions will come too. That’s a normal social dynamics pattern. When the overall contribution is sufficiently significant, it will reach the policy and decision-making level, which is the key level to truly affect processes and habits in favor of a more sustainable life. Check this nice article to know more about it .
So all in all, let’s keep on striving for a more sustainable life, because our personal contributions do make a difference. If it makes you feel better and keeps you on track, strive for a perfect sustainable life, but accept and embrace imperfection also.
In ancient times, sailors did not have maps that directed their journey. They used the moon instead and aimed to the Polar Star. Of course, they never reached it but it brought them to their destination.
 Hackel, L. & Sparkmann, Greg. (2018). [online] Available at: https://slate.com/gdpr?redirect_uri=%2Ftechnology%2F2018%2F10%2Fcarbon-footprint-climate-change-personal-action-collective-action.html%3Fvia%3Dgdpr-consent&redirect_host=https%3A%2F%2Fslate.com (Accessed 2019.06.09)