Many of us, at some point in our lives, think we can change the world. And, of course, we can. But can any of us really make a difference in some of the big questions of our day? It must be frustrating to be an activist trying to reverse climate change, for example. Dealing on a daily basis with what seem to be insurmountable challenges in education, lobbying, and communication. Activists who work to stop big polluters or change the positions of politicians must wear thin after a while. Of course we need activists dedicating themselves to causes, but we can’t all be that. I know that I can’t make such a commitment to any cause today, and that most others can’t or won’t. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything to help.
Changes in the world, whatever they are, come down to each individual and each action. If I think I need to change the world, I might become overwhelmed. Yet if I think I need to change just myself, that is doable (at least most days). In business, the concept of daily continuous improvement is reflected in kaizen principles, often attributed to making Toyota successful, in which all employees are involved in improvement.
The question I try to answer each day is, “What can I do (or not do) today that will lower my impact on the earth?” It’s the small choices as well as the big decisions that make a difference. Each of us makes such choices every hour of every day. What we purchase, what we consume — daily choices. The next question I ask is, “Is there more I can easily do?” Because if I make it overly difficult or too big a change, I am less likely to succeed. I find that gradually building toward a more sustainable lifestyle, rather than making many drastic changes at once, is itself a more sustainable strategy for lowering my carbon footprint.
We are each changing the world; the question is in what ways. Are we a net positive or net negative influence? With little effort, we can change the world in a positive way, each day, by being mindful of our consumption and other actions.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank