I recently discovered a wonderful Mahatma Gandhi quote and it has become my mantra for life: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Ten words. Ten inspiring words. The lovely Rachelle Strauss who runs the UK Zero Waste Week chose ‘Be The Change’ as the subject for her interviews with Zero Waste Week ambassadors. I turned it over and over in my mind after I’d heard her using it and discovered the full quote a short time later. It made a huge impression on me. I’ve even infected my husband with it. If I’m having a moan about something, he says, ‘Be the change, Helen. Be the change.’ Admittedly, he says it in a ‘tongue in cheek’ kind of way,but it stops me in my tracks. Don’t moan about it, instead be the change.
What does ‘Be the change’ mean to me?
- Lead by example. Shocked by the millions of disposables heading to landfill or littering the oceans and our landscape? Stop using them and start using reuseables instead. Affected by the news about war-torn countries? Donate to charities like Save the Children or Red Cross who are doing what they can out there.
- Spread the word. It’s great that you’ve started on a path to being more conscious, now it’s time to spread the word so that you start a wave of change out into the world. That sounds like an overwhelming task, doesn’t it? Well, much like that proverbial butterfly flapping its wings, it doesn’t need to be. Tell the people in the coffee shop when you use your reuseable cup about your reasons for doing so. Ask them if they’ve considered initiatives to offer incentives for other customers to do the same. I’ve actually lost count now of how many people have complimented me on my produce bags. Every time someone does I say, ‘Thank you. I try to avoid plastic where possible because it’s so bad for the environment.’ Even if half of those people go away thinking a bit more about their own plastic use, I’ll be happy.
- Apply it to all areas. The ‘world’ can be anywhere from the big wide world to your local community to a workplace to your own home.
What changes would I like to see in the world? Too many to write here without sounding like a total idealist with my head in the clouds. The first four to spring to mind are:
- I’d like people to stop taking our planet for granted.
- I’d like to see the end of over-consumption.
- I’d like to see changes to the economy and world commerce that meant that decisions were made for the good of people and the planet rather than bank balances.
- I’d like to see an end to wars.
How am I going to ‘Be the change’? Hmm, that’s a trickier question to answer.
- I’d like to start speaking in local schools about the environment. I’d like to make children aware of the negative impact humans are having on our world and the positive impact we can have if we work together. This is something I’ll be promoting once term has started.
- I’d like to do a bit more in our local community, but I’m not sure what yet. Perhaps some kind of workshop or a piece in a local paper.
- We’re bringing up our children to be environmentally aware. I’m sure they’ll rebel at some point, that’s a natural part of becoming an independent person and finding your own voice and place in the world. But I hope that they will come back to this lifestyle later.
- I’d like to continue pushing on with our zero waste journey. We still have a long way to go and seem to have plateaued.
- I’d like to be more active in adding my signature to petitions and sharing them. I might even start a few petitions of my own! I’d like to raise awareness of important issues, not just environmental ones.
What does ‘Be the change’ mean to you? What changes would you like to see in the world?