RANDOM ACTS OF (ENVIRONMENTAL) UNKINDNESS

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By Bernadette Thomas

This week I’ve witnessed a number of (seemingly) benign acts of random environmental unkindness – dropping Maccas wrappers out of the car door at the lights; watering a lawn and concrete during a rain event; and, my all-time favourite, using a leaf blower to move leaves from the nature strip to the road.

None of them are necessary, and they all have less unkind alternatives. (In case you’re wondering the alternatives are in order – recycle/compost, don’t do it, grab yourself a broom).

The people committing these acts may argue that the impact is small, that there’ll be no harm done or at least very little. “It’s only me doing it so it doesn’t matter”. But as with most small acts of unkindness, the hurt goes deeper than we think.

Imagine the impact on our water supply if everyone took out their hose and watered their concrete driveway. And we don’t have to imagine the impact of mountains of waste ending up in the ocean; we’ve all seen the images of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And as with unkind words, the victim can brush off the first one or two times it happens, but over time they begin to have an impact – often a very serious one.

So how to identify if you are guilty of performing these random acts of environmental unkindness? Start by being mindful of the small acts you do every day. What am I doing that has an environmental impact (let’s be honest here; everything we do has an environmental impact, so I’m suggesting we start small). Think about water use, transport, energy use, waste and recycling.

Then think about what you could have done differently or assess how you acted. Ask yourself – could I have walked to the shop instead of driving my car? Did I turn the tap off when brushing my teeth? Did I remember to take my own reusable cup to the cafe? Being conscious of our actions means we are (hopefully) less likely to be unkind to the environment.

Then work out how to change our behaviour. Make walking to the shops part of a regular exercise routine – less time in the car means less time in the gym. Turn it into a competition with the whole family – if you can reduce the household water bill from one quarter to the next it’s ice cream (or Froyo) all ‘round.

But don’t stop there. You need to examine everything you do if you’re going to turn any acts of random environmental unkindness around. And while we wait for systems to change to make it easier to do things right, every little act helps.

Philosopher William James summed it up for us when he said:
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

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