Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Guilt, Ignorance, and Responsibility

Do you ever wish for ignorance? I wish I was completely ignorant of the fact that much of the world's chocolate comes from the labors of oppressed people. What is our responsibility as consumers? What does a person do with the guilt they feel when overwhelmed by the feelings of responsibility?

I appreciated Heather's post and the following comments over at her blog, Becoming. As I was thinking a little bit about the questions raised, I came up with this non-professional, non-earth-shattering, nothing new advice (mostly to myself):

Start with one thing and let the rest go. Seriously. It doesn't help much to become paralyzed with guilt and consequently unable to do anything. If you are a planner/list maker like myself, make a list of things you could do to become more socially and environmentally responsible. Depending on where you are in life, the things on your list might be small or large, but try be specific. For example, list 'switch to organic milk' rather than 'eat organic food.' Your list might look something like this:

1. Switch to organic milk.
2. Find local source for eggs.
3. Keep lights off in house when not in room.
4. Stop using heat dry on dishwasher... let the air do its job.
5. Vote.
6. Volunteer at local shelter.
7. Buy only fair trade chocolate.
8. Use cloth grocery bags.
9. Visit a farmer's market.
10. Plant a small veggie garden.
11. Use local honey to replace sugar in recipes when possible.
12. Switch to environmentally friendly household cleaners. (Vinegar and baking soda if nothing else...)
13. Have a sit-down dinner with family at least four times a week.
14. Stop shopping at Walmart.
15. Take children to a nursing home to visit.

If you want to try my trick, list the things you already do (like vote) and mark them off. Grin. Then pick one thing on the list. Try a smaller thing to start with such as air-drying your dishes. And Just. Do. It. Give it some time to sink in. Let yourself get comfortable with it, then move on. It might be a week; it might take a month or two. Don't let yourself get hung up with guilt over the other things on your list. You'll get to them! If something new comes to your attention, add it to the list. Don't let yourself get side-tracked.

What is first on your list?


Sarah at SmallWorld said...

Have you read "Crunchy Cons" by Rod Dreher? I bet you would enjoy it if you haven't!

Heidi said...

Hi, Sarah! I haven't read Crunchy Cons, but it is on my to-read list. I need to get to it! Thanks for the recommendation!

heather said...

This is so great, i am going to adjust my post for today so that it links here.

carole said...

I have had *this very* post brewing in my head for a few months! :) Now that you wrote it for me I suppose all I need to do is link to you!

Marianne Elixir said...

Good practical advice. Baby steps are the only way.

Anonymous said...

Loved your list. We already do 10 of your list. I should work on more. Grandma

Anonymous said...

Hi Heidi. I was perusing your blog this evening and came across this post. How wonderful to read this tonight. I've been really troubled by the beef recall and at dinner tonight I suggested to my husband that we become vegetarian (not exactly baby steps...). Instead, we had a discussion about buying organic milk from the grocery store or locally produced milk from a nearby farm as well as our meat and chicken. Our conversation really blended well with your post and I was so happy to come across it this evening. Thanks.