In my talk this past Sunday for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of New Smyrna Beach (love love LOVE that bunch of people), I pointed out that one of the hardest things about pursuing a low-footprint life is having to continuously go against the mainstream social norms. Most of us, even those who are seemingly bold renegades, care what people think of us. Ridicule, contempt, being labeled “weird” or worse, are painful for most of us and we tend to try to avoid provoking those reactions. We are social animals.
Fortunately, mainstream culture isn’t the only culture. And there are some very strong cells of green subculture. Some people even find that they have a little pocket of green-minded folks right in their own neighborhood. Or, can help create such a pocket. Even a simple post on NextDoor, or an announcement in your neighborhood meeting, can bring out likeminded people. (Posts on NextDoor offering to share native or edible plants, or asking if others have any to share, are great for that.)
Another things that helps is to remind ourselves that the norms of our consumerist culture are far from universal. Many other cultures from around the world and throughout history (including our own culture at an earlier time) have strong norms of thrift and resource-awareness. We can look to them for inspiration.
On the subject of green subculture, I’ve gathered a short list of some of the top online groups that I consider to be part of the grassroots green mobilization. turn to for tips, inspiration, and moral support. There are many many more than I’ve listed here or mentioned on this blog, but these are the ones I rely on most.
• Riot for Austerity (90 Percent Reduction): The movement that inspired my book and this blog. Community of people setting out to reduce their footprint to 10% of the USA average. This Facebook group is small and not very active, but there’s good info there.
• Zero Waste, Zero Judgement: 35k members worldwide. Use the search feature to find tips on any subject you can possibly imagine, from finding a previously used diamond ring to how to do laundry in an eco-friendly way, to eco-conscious investing, to pushing back against single-use plastic at your workplace or your kid’s school, and much more.
• The Non-Consumer Advocate: 81k members worldwide; another great source of tips and the assurance that “you are not alone.”
• Deep Adaptation: Emotional and spiritual support for facing up to the reality of worldwide climate devastation and the possible imminent demise of human civilization. 13k members worldwide. People respond differently to the shock of facing this reality (there are some posts and comments of the “escape to my own personal bunker” variety), but overall I have found this group helpful in a very deep way.
• End Toxic Yards: Our landscaping practices are a huge, huge leverage point for cutting our carbon footprint and restoring ecosystems to health. (Not coincidentally, our landscaping choices can transform our yards from endless sources of drudge work to mini oases. And what we do in our yards ripples out into the community.) The admin of this group is a real gem who posts graphics and memes that are super readable and easy to share.
• NextDoor (www.nextdoor.com): App for communicating online with your neighbors. Depending on your neighborhood, there can be a lot of privileged, me-centric posts and comments here (“I’m tired of seeing all these homeless people”; “that car with the broken window is bringing down property values!” etc.), but there are also a lot of posts about sharing and helping. And you can always start a thread! I actually used NextDoor to start a stitching group at one point (speaking of threads).
I hope these groups will be useful and inspiring to you, and give you the knowingness that “You are not alone!” If you know any other groups that belong on this short list, drop me a line!
I also recommend starting a group in your town or city if you can. (I myself have not done this yet but would like to. I’ll call it something like “Zombie Apocalypse Support Group,” or “Climate Club.” Meet in person if possible; otherwise use Zoom or other meeting app. If you meet in person, do it outdoors, not only because of the pandemic’s resurgence but also because spending time outdoors is just a good idea in general.
Community is key; we have to maintain our mental and spiritual health to keep doing the work of cultural transformation.