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Yes, unfortunately, sometimes it does take a global crisis to force you to wake up to climate change

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Yes, unfortunately, sometimes it does take a global crisis to force you to wake up to climate change
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This article originally appeared in October 2020 on  The Guardian Labs

The life I was living prior to January 2020 - Instagramming far-flung trips, eating out at every opportunity, trawling the web for the cheapest pair of sneakers no matter the long-term cost to the planet - sounds positively obscene now, but that’s where we were.

And then, of course, the smoke of our last bushfire season (the black summer) billowed in from the country to the cities. There was no ignoring the devastating reality of it all. We were living through the inconvenient truth that Al Gore tried to warn us about, and, yes, unsurprisingly, it was as uncomfortable as he said it would be.

In the cities we collected essentials for our rural brothers and sisters, we opened our homes, and donated to relief efforts. And … that’s all we felt we could do.

We all just sat staring at the TV, hoping for rain, unable to put a name on that churning feeling in the pits of our stomachs.

Photo of an eastern grey kangaroo with smoke behind

I now refer to it as “climate unease” and this year it’s gone from an occasional visitor to a near constant companion that keeps repeating the same conversation: "Hey, hey, hey, you - are you ready to talk about the planet yet?”

Not yet

What we didn’t predict was how disastrous life could get - enter Covid-19. The lockdowns, the case numbers, the tragic deaths that became statistics, the mental health challenges of a drastically changed world. The heaviness that comes from understanding that there’s no going back to the way life was before.

But like M Scott Peck said in The Road Less Travelled, “our finest moments occur when we are deeply uncomfortable or unhappy”... or haven’t washed our hair for two weeks.

Slowly I emerged from my fluffy cocoon. The new normal felt more normal and I started looking at what we were gaining from “going backwards”.

Did I actually want to go back the way things were before? Sure, I wanted my job back, I wanted to see my family. But did I want to continue to live with that helpless feeling in my stomach forever?

OK, I’m ready to talk now

This year we’ve all been forced to take a long, hard look at ourselves (after all, it’s difficult not to when you’re in lockdown), which has prompted a lot of deep questions.

Are we victims? Are we helpless in the face of disaster? Are we all “just one person”, unable to make an iota of difference?

Or, are we human beings? Inventors of the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator and the Voyager 1 space probe ... and the brainiacs behind the Snuggie?

We’re human. And our capacity for destruction is only outmatched by our ability to adapt and create.

So, what is sustainability in 2020?

Before this year I often felt like sustainability was this all-encompassing issue that was too large for me to tackle. But the past 10 months have proved that sustainability is actually what you want it to be. You decide.

For me, it means swapping unease for action. Taking control to be greener in ways I never knew I could. Such as shifting my buying choices, by steering away from fast fashion, shopping from the new generation of thrift store owners curating and the best of old-school cool for sale on Instagram (here’s looking at you @tiki.la.la) and buying locally as much as humanly possible - because it turns out that where I spend my money talks a lot louder than shouting at the news on TV.

As cathartic? I promise it really is.

So much so that this year I’ve put my mouth where my money is (and the other way around) and launched The Keep Society, a homewares concept store only stocking items that are sustainably sourced and ethically made

If you’ve asked me what I was going to do in 2020 I probably wouldn’t have said “launch a store” but in a time when the entire world feels like cashing out, I’ve decided I’m banking on the environment and human capacity for change.

But enough about me, what about you?

From clothing, to groceries, even to the energy providers we use to power our homes, having the combined knowledge of the human race in the palm of our hands (on a smartphone) means it’s never been easier to identify brands that make a conscious effort to radically reduce or offset their emissions.

In a world that often feels marked by chaos it can be easy to forget that we’ve also never been more empowered, thanks to data and technology. Energy retailers, such as Powershop, are dedicated to giving that control back to the consumer, providing them with the information they need to track their energy usage and make adjustments to be more efficient and ethical.

What does this look like? Easy-to-access tools to help people track and monitor their energy usage, and ways to reduce your carbon footprint. For me, that kind of stuff just feels like good common sense in today’s world.

Because, after all, we don’t need one person living perfectly, we need one billion imperfect people making small shifts to equal massive change.

Pundits say the shifts that have taken place this year are likely to be permanent, and, on behalf of the environment, believe me when I say I’m grateful for that.


Meghan Loneragan is writer and founder at content studio Citizens of the World and co-owner of The Keep Society, a newly launched sustainable and slow living homewares store.



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