To impact or not to impact?

that's the New Year's resolution

Posted by Breaking Thirty on December 01, 2018

If you haven’t chosen what your New Year’s resolution is going to be, then this blog post might give you some insight. First you have to decide whether your New Year’s resolution will be about making an impact or not making an impact. Let me explain. There are two types of impact: the one you would like to see and the one you wish you’ll never make.

The first type of impact is what people usually try to make through their work. Do I want to become a doctor and save people’s lives? Do I want to become a teacher and provide kids with the knowledge and tools to face the world? Do I want to be a mother and grow generous, kind, and loving children? We’ve all being exposed to the burning question, “What do you want to do as an adult?” since a very young age. Many of us spend quite a lot of time figuring out what kind of career to pursue. Career, not job. « Jobs» are for baby-boomers, for jobs tend to be « only jobs » without much meaning attached to them. Millennials seek careers. Successful millennials might even end up finding a « calling » and make tons of money out of it.

Strawberry pie

The second type of impact involves questions like: Do I use public transportation or go to work with my fast car, fast enough so I can fly away? Do I choose seasonal fruits and veggies at the local market or buy strawberries in January to make the vegan-paleo pie from that vegan youtuber? No baking required! Speaking of YouTube, I recently stumbled upon a TEDTalk where a French woman talked about her “zero-waste life” in California. She and her family banned plastic from the household, had their own compost, and lived a happy minimalistic life with three pieces of clothing in their closet. The waste they produced during an entire year could fit into a jar, the kind of jar you would use to make homemade jam from the leftover strawberries of the vegan-paleo pie. (Though, I’m not sure the woman was vegan as well.)

Currently, I’m struggling with both types of impact. Needless to say, I haven’t found my “calling” or even a career path to pursue. I’m plain zero-impact in this category! Well, I guess that’s what this blog is for after all. That’s where all the juice is. Without me frantically trying to find out “what I’m going to do as an adult”, there likely wouldn’t be a purpose for breakingthirty.com. Besides knowing that I don’t want to be a doctor, a teacher, nor a mother, the only impact I can conceive of right now is finishing my PhD, which doesn’t seem to be at all that impactful. It will impact me for sure, hopefully in a positive way, but that’s not the kind of impact I’m looking for. On the other side of impact, I guess I’m over contributing with flights, definitely more than three pieces of clothing, the need to print out everything or to buy physical books because I want to take notes and underline stuff, Dior’s fancy lipstick sold in fancy packaging…

So… I’ve decided to turn things around. At least in terms of the second category. I guess it’s easier to reduce my impact there than to increase it as a scientist. I picked “less plastic” as my New Year’s resolution. (I’m already doing less carbs. Doing less plastic can’t be harder than that!) I looked around in my house and felt intoxicated by the amount of plastic surrounding me. I felt overwhelmed and panicked. Mmmmh… wait! I know what this is: these are the same feelings I’ve been going through for the past three and a half years, since I started my PhD. So I figured I’d apply Martin Luther King Jr’s technique, which I’ve been using so far to carry on with research… I took the first step in faith, by heading to the bathroom to solely inspect my cabinet and didn’t dare to look at the whole house.

Shampoo

Toothbrush? I can replace it with a bamboo one. Toothpaste? I watched a Youtube video where they were making homemade toothpaste with coconut oil and baking soda. Not sure I want to give up fluorine though. Let’s say that toothpaste stays like that for now. Ouch, that’s no New Year’s resolution, that’s a compromise. Don’t panic Giulia, just move on… Brand new Clinique facial foam and clarifying lotion for normal to oily skins, bought last week at the airport with a 15% discount? They will last for the next eight months at least. I don’t think that trashing forty euro worth of facial goodies is the right response to a less-waste approach. Nor pumping twice the bottles at each usage so I can finish them earlier. Let’s do this instead: once I run out, I’ll substitute the facial foam with the Marseille’s bar of soap I’m already using for my hands and the clarifying lotion with rose water (DIY instructions from YouTube, of course!)

I’m already doing well in terms of make-up remover, body lotion, and face moisturizer: coconut oil! Sold in glass jars, obviously. Well, when I switched to coconut oil few months ago my intention was not to let my skin absorb nasty chemicals. I didn’t care about plastic at the time. Since in every self-help book it is written that intention is key, then my intentional self-centered decision must be considered an ethical and zero-waste action as well. Same thing with my deodorant: I’m using the natural crystal deodorant. It comes wrapped up in plastic though. Mmmh… Maybe that’s not that bad, since a crystal lasts about twenty months while regular deodorants last few weeks only and come with a heavier plastic packaging. Dammit. I’m compromising again!

Quote King

Now the question is: where do you stand when it comes to your New Year’s resolution? Do you pick an impactful New Year’s resolution or a no-impact one? What do you think about making less impact as a New Year’s resolution? In general, have you ever picked up what you though was a “small resolution” and realized how hard it is to stick to it? Leave and comment below and let me know.

This was the first of a mini-series of four blog posts dedicated to the topic of “sustainable sustainability” that I’ll publish over the next three months. So if you liked this blog post subscribe to the Breaking Thirty Newsletter to not miss the upcoming ones!

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