Sustainable, Compassionate & Healthy Living - The Struggle is Real

Hug a Tree - Photo Credit: Fractal Enlightenment

I feel, at times, as I navigate through this process called life, well, a bit manic to be honest.  Among the choices of what to eat, how to live, and our environmental impacts, I feel as though I’d be a much better benefit to the planet if I found a little hermitage out in the bush, where I could live out my days among nature, consuming and wasting as little as humanly possible. It’s fleeting, but the more I tune into it, the more it compounds. I think it might be easy to ignore if I wasn’t delving into myself as often as I do, but this process of really tuning in to my inner self and my environment has opened up a door to a lunatic side of myself, that I’m not sure I like so much.

What used to be an enjoyable process of cooking, having a glass of wine, and sharing my creations with loved ones, has become constant second-guessing of what impact I am having on the planet, and what I am actually putting into my body. With so many “studies” out there claiming something has health benefits, and another study saying “it will kill you,” it’s hard to even believe what to eat anymore. I read some article recently that said broccoli was bad. Do I recall why? No, but I hesitate when I eat broccoli now. Everything is manipulated, you have to specifically request “chemicals on the side, please”, unless you want a huge helping on Monsanto with your strawberries. Even wine is pumped with stabilizing chemicals and additives so that it doesn't have to "age" anymore, and to assist it in tasting great right after opening. Kind of a buzz kill if you ask me.

I’ve watched all the documentaries, I know that factory farming animals is horrendous, but it wasn’t until I went into my yoga teacher training that I started feeling it. It breaks my heart to imagine these animals, so similar to dogs, or that pet goat I met recently, living an existence so terrifying and miserable. So I’ve cut out mammals and fowl since the new year. The only animals being occasional seafood that my husband or the local boys caught (minus one very bad decision to get salmon from Super Value, in which it became a part of the dog’s balanced diet rich in omega 3’s). The new the struggle that I’ve found is attempting to incorporate a semi-vegan diet with a paleo style diet. The reason I was initially drawn to the paleo diet (even though I was never a big meat eater to begin with) is that it cuts out all the crap – all processed foods, and sugar, grains and starch products. I notice how too much bread and stodge affects my brain function and my energy level, so it’s been a great balance for me personally. While I don’t stick to it exactly, since I eat root veggies, chickpeas and quinoa and such, it's made a huge difference in my overall health.

On the vegan side, I’ve never really liked eggs (my husband loves it when I refer to them as a chicken's period), and I switched to coconut milk in my coffee a long time ago, so the only dairy has been a bit of cheese from time to time. But there are some things that just don't quite fit yet. I love mayonnaise. I will never be able to not eat mayonnaise. But Veganaise uses soybean and canola oils (not paleo), and my favorite Chosen Foods mayo is made with avocado oil (paleo), but it uses eggs (not vegan). Where's my vegan/paleo mayo people?? Side note- I've made mayo numerous times and I always seem to f* it up somehow so the end result is a lovely watery vinaigrette, great for a salad, not for a sandwich. 

So trying to find interesting recipes for paleo/vegetarian/vegan has become a new test to my sanity. You’d think there’d be some savvy blogger out there blazing the trail, but it doesn’t seem to be on the frontline of dietary crazes at the moment. And no, I don't have the time or energy to start another blog. 

And so, along with my busy schedule these days, I inevitably end up not wanting to eat anything at all. Is it organic? Is it bad for the planet? Am I causing harm by making the choice to eat this? Even just attempting to stick to lemon water makes my mind drift off to its origins…how much energy was utilized, how much pollution was generated by shipping lemons to my local food store here in The Bahamas? How much energy was expended by producing the reverse osmosis water that I’m drinking?

Then there’s the plastic. <sigh> Pacific Northwest grown, I have “reduce, reuse, recycle” ingrained in my head, in the same way that Mr. Yuck told us not to touch those icky chemicals and that D.A.R.E. told us that drugs are bad, mkay. Jack Johnson and a group of environmental advocates were at The Island School (an international education center on Eleuthera focused on sustainability) several years ago at a forum to increase awareness about the plastic in our oceans. He went on to produce a documentary called The Smog of the Sea, where they chase around garbage patches floating in the Sargassam Sea just off of The Bahamas, and sieve through a fog of microplastics permeating every inch of the world's ocean. While I am anxiously awaiting to actually see the movie, I know what it’s going to do, it’s going to piss me right off about how stupid human being are, and how careless we are with our precious oceans. 

While I’ve completely switched to using my own reusable bags at the food store, and regularly argue with the bag boys about not using additional plastic bags and then attempting to triple bag my groceries, there’s still plastic all around. Every product I open seems to be draped in plastic. I order from Amazon, ugh, the packaging?? We got take out Chinese food the other night, and they put six plastic forks in our bag. There were two of us, ordering for two people. SIX forks? Really? What happened to wooden chopsticks? Not that chopping down a tree for a chopstick is much better, but they’re biodegradable at least...

Here in The Bahamas, I feel even worse about our plastic problem, and waste problem in general, since we don’t have recycling of any kind. It all goes to our ginormous dump in the center of the island, where it inevitably catches fire, causing toxic fumes that close schools and residents developing coughs and health problems. Try to explain this to a newbie from the West Coast and they are horrified. Not that I have exactly come to terms with throwing a glass bottle in the garbage can, but I can do it now without flinching. Desensitization at its finest.

Don’t get me started on the fact that the entire country is run on giant generators, that there is no rainwater collecting systems in place, and that solar was actually illegal until a few years ago. It’s legal now but still no incentives.

Do you see what I’m dealing with here? It’s enough to do your head in.

The truth is, as most of us are aware, us humans are destructive. Not only to ourselves, but to our fragile ecosystem, to other beings.  The only option, I’ve found, is for each of us to do the best we can. If I sit here and dwell on it, I’ll become a raving lunatic. The good news is, that even if I can’t do it all perfectly, even if I can’t put all of my waste from two years into one water bottle (which some girl did), I am doing my best. We have a 20,000 gallon rainwater collecting cistern below the house that is due to be hooked up any day now. We have plans to install solar and are researching how to compost in a tropical environment. Our kitchen counter is piled up with plastic and glass containers from mayonnaise, spinach, yogurt, and sunflower seeds as the husband dabbles in seed germination, so these containers become little incubators while he propagates avocado seeds, Venus fly trap, cashew trees, and a variety of exotic palms. Within the community, Green Establishments in The Bahamas promotes local organizations that are embracing doing away with plastic and using composting containers. Slowly, but surely, we progress. 

I guess the moral of the story (and a reminder to myself so I don’t get sick with worry) is to make the best choices we can with the tools available to us. In the meantime, forgive yourself. You can’t change the world, but you can still make an impact.

In a discussion with the husband the other evening he said “What’s the point? Humans are going to destroy the planet anyways. Why bother?”

It reminded me of this quote….“Think you’re too small to matter? Try being a mosquito in the room.”


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