Green Living: Expectations Vs. Reality

I used to think “green living” was about potted plants, wooden kitchens, and woven mesh bags. That balanced Om vibe, you know?

Then I tripped on my green hero cape when I started actually living the life.

It’s healthier to acknowledge the daily challenges we face, rather than flip our hair and pretend that green living is effortless. Be proud of your efforts and struggles — and keep getting better at it.

So, which of these challenges can you relate to?

A bag. Maybe two. OK, three…

Expectation: I go grocery shopping once a week. I figure that I’ll save lots of plastic bags with my one reusable tote. I can finally use those cotton mesh bags, too!

Reality: Bring your own bag? BAGS, more like. Time to calculate the number of bags needed in correlation with dinner ingredients and essential items. How many mesh bags do I need for loose fruits? The bread and buns … Got to bring two Tupperwares for those. Now, how should I carry all of these gracefully while I shop?

At the checkout

Expectation: I’m doing the right thing. Not everyone can make the switch, but at least I’m making the change myself. It starts with setting a good example.

Reality: Uh oh, my Tupperware isn’t big enough for the bread. Great, here comes my annoying work colleague saying, “Wow, you’re really into eco-friendly stuff, huh?” like it’s a weird hobby. The cashier’s staring daggers at me. You do realize I’m packing the stuff on my own, which was supposed to be your job?


Expectation: Buying environmentally-friendly products shouldn’t be too difficult. More companies are growing towards sustainability. Look at those nice “Earth” and “heart” labels…

Reality: Greenwashing. Greenwashing everywhere. The lack of regulatory bodies and verifications mean their claims aren’t as great as they appear to be. I have to start my research all over again. And … what’s this? Did that supermarket just give me a plastic bag that says “Save Our Oceans. Stop Using Plastic Bags”? (Yes, this happened to me.)

The edible garden

Expectation: I’ll grow my own food and harvest fresh greens for lunch! Are those city folks still buying organic vegetables over there? Ha!

Reality: Used homemade pesticides to no avail. Yellow leaves and rotting stems. Plants succumb to unknown causes. I’m left with pitiful seedlings to top my store-bought salad. My cat looked at me and we both knew the unsaid word: “Pathetic.”

Of course, not all is gloom and doom. After months of effort, I’ll never forget how I finally harvested enough Chinese spinach for several meals. Last year, I saved more than 250 single-use plastic bags with my trusty totes.

People are uncomfortable with habits they’re not used to. The difficult part of “doing the right thing” is accepting how our actions might be seen as unnecessary, or even a nuisance, by others. But keep trying. It’s good for you and for our planet.

In the meantime, let off some steam, have a laugh, and soldier on!

-Denise Lim

Photo: Unsplash

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