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Inappropriate For An Environmentalist – Stop This Tyranny

19.03.2019
Skabt af Cathrine Widunok Wichmand

 

I’d heard ‘old tales’ about ‘the mum mafia’ or ‘the mum police’ for a while before getting pregnant. Terms to cover women with one or more children (or who know someone who has children), and who think they’ve figured it all out and use every opportunity to reprimand or spread their view on everything from child-rearing to habits around kids, in a non-inclusive and judgmental way, without leaving space for ‘each to their own.’
But that’s water compared to what I’v experienced after opening up for us wanting to be more sustainable.

The Environment Police

A term to describe people, who scrutinise the green or less green choices of others, and rather than patting them on the shoulder to recognise the good things they do, they’re ready to point out the perceived flaws. These people aren’t necessarily supporters of a sustainable lifestyle themselves (rarely so, actually), but as they love detecting ‘flaws’ in others, they’re super ready with the magnifying glass.

I already experienced this when last year I talked about eliminating meat from our diet, to a larger extent than what we’d already done, and that we’d started using plant-based butter, buying oat milk. ‘BUT HELLO! YOU’RE STILL A FASHION BLOGGER!’.
Yup, the fashion industry is heavy when it comes to carbon footprint. And, yes, I do support that via my profession. Although I do buy quite a lot of vintage and actually receive praise for using things again and again on photos.
It’s actually damn difficult to choose the right thing.

Example:

I started using reusable cleansing pads made from cotton terry rather than cotton-wool. The idea was to limit all of the ‘single use’ that we use out of sheer convenience.

But… Then it occurred to me… How often do you use a cotton terry pad for it to have paid its carbon footprint dues compared to an organic single-use pad? And if you are to keep it sufficiently clean to wash your face, you need to wash it at 60 degrees celcius. Which puts a strain on the environment as well. And when I use glitter makeup, which basically is plastic, and dry off the makeup at night – on a cotton terry pad, the pad with plastic glitter ends up in the washing machine, only to subsequently end up in the water, which eventually ends up in nature (if it hasn’t been caught in a chemical sewage plant beforehand). Not to forget the question of whether you end up using more product to sufficiently moisten the pad. The more product, the quicker you’ll empty the bottle and buy a new one, which ultimately results in an increased production of plastic.
It’s pretty tough for the majority of ‘normal’ citizens to identify the total consequence of our household products, without formal training within sustainable behaviour and production. It’s often complicated accounting with various factors for and against. Like the discussion of whether to prioritise buying locally or organically? The carbon footprint of Danish tomatoes, for instance, is 11 times bigger than that of Spanish tomatoes – because they’re produced all year around in greenhouses rather than free range and seasonally like in Spain (source, Concito). Or as Mette Marie put on her instagram; should one go for organic bananas wrapped in plastic? Or conventional bananas without plastic? (It’s better to go for the organic ones – as long as you remember to dispose of the plastic correctly).
But wouldn’t it be a shame if the fact that it’s hard to get it totally right and do the PERFECT thing every single time were to paralyse us and stop us from doing anything at all? It’s always better, I think, to do something rather than doing nothing.
Enter the Environment Police. Their rationale is that if you start to do a little, you must go the whole way. And the questioning technique is often, ‘but what about…’ in an absolutely reproachful tone. If you stand up and say, ‘I want to improve a little bit – I’m able to contribute here A and there B,’ it’s considered an open invitation to blame you for not taking X, Y and Z into consideration as well.

all photos by ALONA VIBE
rockpaperdresses, Alona Vibe, Cathrine Widunok WIchmand
I started #miljømandag (ed. ‘environment Monday’) on my insta story, thinking that it would be a way for all of us to share small green day-to-day initiatives and tips, as a source of inspiration for others – and also to have a forum for supporting each other and saying WELL DONE. Encourage each other in our journeys towards living more sustainably. If there’s anything you need it’s motivation to keep on going – especially seeing as we have to cut away so many fun things. Flights, burgers and kebab, plastic – which is wrapped around most of our consumer goods: makeup, creams, shampoo, etc, etc. Buy local goods – are we ready to say goodbye to chocolate, coffee, bananas and pineapples and many of the other good things in life? The goodies?

Some are. Some are super fucking sharp and a rolemodel to all of us. Like for instance Neohippie. Dropped consumption altogether and retreated from the capital in order to live with her ‘tribe’ – her commune. MEGA cool. But also an extreme and rare example, which few of us will be able and likely to follow.

rockpaperdresses, Alona Vibe, Cathrine Widunok WIchmand

Now, #miljømandag has become a window for pointing fingers as well. And not just on Mondays but on all days. Like when I use a rare makeup wipe on the go. ‘When good ad money precedes the environment.’ Inappropriate for a ‘serious environmentalist.’ Or, like yesterday when I shared having bought an ice cube tray in which to distribute my Ella’s Kitchen rather than throwing it out after two days in the fridge. A small cube of frozen readymade puree on top of the buckwheat porridge I make myself, which melts and cools down the porridge. The perceived problem was that I bought Ella’s Kitchen – which was packaged – rather than boiling and pureeing myself.

STOP.

Wow, I really don’t want a scenario in which we’re all stepping into a limbo on a tightrope, destined to fall, because we try to change our habits. With an army of environment police officers ready to point their fingers at us.
NO ONE is perfect.
And currently I’m not making fruit puree and veggie puree myself. I’ve got a little boy, who is only just beginning to understand that there’s a world beyond my breasts. I don’t know his taste for anything besides my milk, and we’d be throwing out tonnes of food (seeing as we’ve got the smallest freezer in the world) because he eats 1.5 teaspoons at each meal. To me, it’s a handy way of testing his taste with a few different types of puree while at the same time avoiding food waste. And the packaging is of course handled correctly (screw caps go in with plastic items, etc). I don’t use fabric diapers either, as our co-op comes with a communal washing machine (I draw the line at exposing others to that). I also use baby wipes because it’s easy. And I’ll still consume a Vesuvio if it’s placed in front of me.

I’d love to do better, I’m happy to make do, but I am also human, like everybody else, and I’ll also turn to readymade food sometimes – also for the grownups, even if a round of takeaway sushi is wrapped in enough plastic to build an entire Lego city.

rockpaperdresses, Alona Vibe, Cathrine Widunok WIchmand

Why does trying to do better have to be so black and white?

The only thing that the environment police will achieve is putting a stop to people talking about it. About what we try to do, how we try to become better. And if we stop doing that, inspiration will go away – and our own development as well. It’s so damn cool to feel this arising curiosity about sustainability. The fact that we stop to consider our habits and think – hey, for the next girls’ trip, could we possible take the train to Hamburg or Berlin or Aarhus? Rather than flying to Paris? It requires a lot to change our mindset – so it’s super inspiring to hear others share and explain which steps they take.
There’s a need for being able to talk about the changes and each of our journey without judgmental comments. It’s so different and dependable on our jobs, opportunities, energy, economy, where we live, etc. Not everyone has a neat packaging free supermarket around the corner. We’ve got lots of options in the big city, and we definitely also carry the biggest responsibility because we have so many of the convenient goods that pollute. To-go-coffee cups, etc.
I’ve been scorned at many family dinners over the years for my choice of vegetarian food as the primary source of nutrition in our household. ‘Poor Adam‘ (assuming he’s got no free will). ‘Rabbit food.’ All of the usual shit when you try to go green. Most people who choose to discontinue a mindless consumption of food are used to that sort of thing. But I don’t want the other extreme either; that you’ll also be mocked if you don’t do enough. Or the right thing.

rockpaperdresses, Alona Vibe, Cathrine Widunok WIchmand

We’re going to Italy next month. I’ve pleaded heavily for going there by train. We tried it out on the trip to Stockholm. It went all right. But we ended up with a baby, who didn’t get any sleep besides two short naps and who was about to totally unravel when we got off the train. He did exceptionally well (better than his dad). But, honestly, the thought of a day in a train with 4-5-6 legs to get to Italy when he’s still just six months. It won’t work. Should we then go by car? Nope, because we have a baby who HATES his car seat; he’ll scream his lungs out whenever we put him in one. We prefer to not drive anywhere at all.
So, should we really just stay at home? No, damnit, we’ve purchased and paid for our stay. We’ve made the agreement, Adam and I, that as soon as Eddie can sit on his own we’ll be ready to dive into the train journeys again. Adam has made the decision, and Adam is Eddie’s dad, has to consider his needs and is also a decision maker in this family as well as I. And then I’ll just have to throw away my sleepless nights caused by anxiety of having to tell you all that although I tried avoiding flying in 2019, we’ll most likely be flying to Milan. All things equal, that’s one flight. Our first since July 2018.
Will I be held accountable for this? Oh yes. Does it upset me and make me feel like defending myself in terms of choosing a single 2-hour flight? Yes. So, let me nip it in the bud. I’ve said no to Singapore and a lovely family trip there. I’ve said no to a trip to the Ivory Coast by suggesting alternatives in Denmark in connection with a collaboration, and so far it appears to remain in the bank of ideas. We took the train to Stockholm when everyone else took a plane. I’m going to Cannes at the end of May, which is why we try to extend our own holiday (which then will be more expensive for us) in order for me to avoid having to fly home and back down there.
This kind of thinking. The thoughtfulness.  That’s what we’re all going to do. Let’s motivate, help, inspire, rather than being ready to scream WRONG! when we don’t succeed. Yes, damn right we have to do something, and we need to act speedily, and we have to make do with less. But we also need to be able to just be.

Stop this tyranny, thank you very much.

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