self-imposed helplessness

I went into this break room yesterday morning to discover my make-shift recycling bin was missing.

oh man.

Like usual, I immediately thought the worse. Someone had thrown the whole thing away.

Thankfully, my negative thoughts were proved wrong. After talking with my co-workers, I quickly discovered that it had just been moved temporarily and was restored to its home later that day.  But what amazed me was how defeated I felt when I walked into that room and saw it gone.

I believe the reason I was quick to think the worse stems from the fact that I feel like I am fitting an uphill battle with recycling at both jobs. At my desk job, it has gotten better. After weeks on the job, I finally decided to make a box. I was tired of rummaging through the trash, pulling out recyclable items, and taking them home. And at my food service job, I definitely try, but the battle is hard and long. I always want to tell people who get iced and blended drinks that they can recycle their plastic cups after they are done with them.

But I never do. (That would be weird, right?)

Am I the only one who cares?

I know that I am not. I live with people who care very much. I am surrounded by them. But still, there it is, this collective sense of helplessness and defeat that I have somehow learned from this culture. This seems really ironic. Americans are supposed to be the "go-getters." And yet when it comes to environmental issues then tends to be three main approaches.

1. ignore it

2. develop self-imposed helplessness and then follow the first approach.

3. See environmental practices as a threat to whatever it is they hold dear. And then follow the first approach.

I recently just started reading No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. Even though I am barely through the first 50 pages, I am already super motivated to make my life even more green. I want tread lightly in my every day life and not just wait until I am super rich (ha) and can buy land and build an eco-friendly home. There are things I can do now. If only I can get over this sense of "helplessness."

The introduction of this book is really great. Colin (who writes in such a relatable manner that I feel like I can address him by his first name only) talks a lot about his struggle to want to change everyone else when it comes to "saving the planet." It's not until he realizes that he can only change his own habits and way of thinking and lifestyle, that his whole attitude about the environmental crisis begins to change.

That's me for sure - the wanting to change everyone else part. Often I want yell at every American who is too lazy to simply recycle. or to take their own bags to the store. or to open a window for once.

This is not fair nor is it helpful. I don't really want to yell (it always makes me cry too) and definitely don't want to bring about conflict. I simply want to be a good steward of this planet God has given us and to make sure my niece and nephews' great-great grandchildren have a fighting chance on a livable planet. I just get frustrated when I feel like I am alone in these convictions. Or when a wave of guilt slaps me across the face.

I really like the subtitle to this book. The whole thing is No Impact Man: The adventures of a guilty liberal who attempts to save the planet and the discoveries he makes about himself and our way of life in the process. 

Brilliant, hey?

It's that guilty part that I tend to relate with the most. Though it is annoying at time, this guilt conviction often lift me out of this helplessness that I pretend to live in. It's the helplessness that tells me "there is nothing I can do about it," but it's the "guilt" that forces me not to be okay with that response.

In the intro, Colin mentions how he got really passionate about environmental issues and wanted to complain about it to any one who was willing to listen.
Yet as much as I complained, I lived and acted as though everything was normal....But is that what I wanted from myself? Is that what I was willing to accept? That I could be in a state of despair and do absolutely nothing about it? Was I really hitting bottom with the state of the world? Or was I hitting bottom with my state of self-imposed helplessness....I suddenly realized that my problem might not actually be the state of the world. My problem was my inaction. I was worried sick about something and doing nothing about it. I wasn't sick of the world. I was sick of myself. I was sick of my comfortable and easy pretension of helplessness....But I suddenly had these questions: Am I really helpless? Is it true that a guy like me can't make a difference? Or am I just too lazy or frightened to try?
Despite my current efforts, I am very aware that my carbon footprint is massive, especially since I work in the food service system. This makes me uncomfortable, and rightly so. True,  I have become more environmentally aware over the past few years, but I know I have a lot to learn and new things to try. After all, I am a big believer in the call of vocation. In my current rolls, it is my job to figure out how to best follow Christ. This leads to challenge what type of web editor/baker I will be. For me, an important part of follow Christ in everything I do is to make sure I take care of the earth  - as a baker, a web editor and a human being.

Oh man. I have a lot of work to do.

Am I up to the challenge?


Because I am tried of feeling helpless. This is such a huge problem, but my inaction is only making it worse, especially as an American. I want to crawl out of this system that tells me, "hey, you're just one person. You're not going to make any difference" and live in the knowledge that we are caretakers of the world we live in. I owe it to every one around me, myself, and future generations to do my best.

No more of this self-imposed helplessness, okay? We have work to do.


  1. Anna, I know EXACTLY how you feel. Even living in Germany where it is SUPER easy to recycle, the Americans living here rarely do. I just want to strangle them sometimes. Especially because resources are provided, and all it takes is for that person to throw their item of "garbage" in the correct bin!!! Everything is practically done for you! Ugh. But, you have me interested in that book! I'm going to have to check it out!
    Just know that you’re not alone in your struggle! :D

  2. Thanks Jenna! I am glad we are in this together!


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