It’s pretty safe to say that no one really wants the planet to end. And yet, it seems that as Earth Day comes to a close, we feel as though it’s all our fault. This can be overwhelming and cause even the best of us to lose hope. But that’s the wrong way to look at it. With even just a slight change, we can move from this despondency to determined optimism—without denying the reality of what we’re up against.
Orientation makes a difference
Let’s say, for illustration, most sustainability programs come from larger companies, organizations, or government legislation—things like moving to LED lighting or low-flush toilets. We’ll call that “top-down sustainability” because the onus of compliance is on those larger organizations.
These programs are vital, since they help move our culture toward a more environmentally-friendly mindset. But they are also difficult to be inspired by. We applaud large companies who move to sustainability, but feel little involvement in the good that is being done.
Bottom-up sustainability, on the other hand, is when individual people or smaller groups come together to create an overwhelming force for good (and typically in matters that larger groups can’t operate in). This allows each person to bring their own passion to the table—to be invested. And even after the change is manifest, the passion remains because it is couched in more than just the single activity.
Invest in the power of small changes
I’m willing to bet the reason we feel guilty for the environment by the end of Earth Day is because there really is no one to blame but ourselves. Thankfully, however, in the same way that we’ve gotten ourselves into this mess, getting out is up to us.
Even though the issues that plague our planet are monumental in scale (and they truly are), the power of small choices made by millions of people cannot be overstated. Remember, it’s the daily decisions of individuals that have added up to bring us this mess in the first place.
By making sustainability the foundation for your own lifestyle, or your small business, you can leverage passion toward the cause. Humans are motivated by passion more than we are by legislation; tapping in to that is a great way to create a legacy of impact. This becomes especially true when you plug that equation into social media.
Bottom-up, like a tsunami, has tremendous force. Like when a tech guru gets frustrated with a laptop repair and backs the Right to Repair movement—that is where the real impact happens. That’s the long-term change legislation just can’t create.
Or, when parents and teachers teach their children to recycle or reduce consumption. Shifting the next generation to think sustainably is one of the best things we can offer the future of this planet. The thinking itself becomes sustainable.
It happens through communication
But individual choices, smaller groups, and personal passions moving as one toward a future that supports the next generation sounds like a pipe dream, right? Well, that’s only if you focus on the bigger picture. The whole thing about bottom-up is that it’s granular; it’s looking at individual choices. That’s why bigger corporations and the government can’t do this.
In making sustainability your foundation, you give yourself the tools to turn pipe dreams into reality. Because, one of the most sustainable things you can do is to communicate effectively the small choices that masses of people are able to get behind. But you can only see those choices if you’re thinking is open to it.
Whether you are the CEO of a small business, or a worker at a larger corporation, your individual decision can be effective in changing the world. Don’t discount the power of your choice. And when you can promote that vision to the greater group, you will open the door to a tidal wave of potential.