Over my years of study about Environmental Resources Management I used to get a little frustrated. My constant efforts of trying to change people, making them take care of the planet were never fruitful. While I had gathered a lot of knowledge on how we could live more sustainably, I just didn’t seem to reach people. Until I understood one thing: Change starts with myself. This realization changed my whole approach towards environmental protection. Now, I start with myself and my own business before I even try to influence others. In this article I want to show you how I do it and give you some ideas on how you can make your own life greener as yoga teachers. Here’s what I do privately to live the eco-friendliest version of myself: First, I’m a vegan. And I not only do it for the animals, I do it for the whole planet. There are many scientific studies that show the detrimental effects of the animal industries on our planet. They have even become the biggest producers of greenhouse gases worldwide. Factory farming accelerates climate change more than the whole traffic sector together (including air travel). Therefore, a vegan diet is one of the biggest steps towards a greener life. And if you want to make it even more sustainable, you should consider buying (or ideally growing) local, organic and seasonal food. Secondly, I’m a minimalist. This doesn’t mean that I own nothing. It means that I only own what I love and what truly serves me. I used the KonMari Method by Marie Kondo to declutter my own living space. This helped me a lot to stop consuming things that I don’t need. It changed my perspective on materialism. At first, I thought it would be okay to switch to buying more sustainable products like ethical and sustainable clothing, vegan leather shoes (which, in fact, is also just plastic) or the eco-friendliest yoga-mat I can find, … But after all, it’s still consumerism. This is the root of the problem. Our desire to have more paired with the tendency to forget where all this stuff comes from. We live on a planet with finite resources. We already use much more than the planet can restore. To balance out the system I see only two major options: either we drastically reduce the number of people or we reduce our consumption per person. For most of us, clearly, the second option is preferable. But it requires from us to overthink our whole system. We must stop consuming. So many companies are greenwashing their products with fake labels and clever marketing to make people believe that it’s okay to keep consuming. They make it seem alright for you to buy a new product because it’s supposedly better for the environment than buying another one. But have you ever thought about the third option, which is not buying at all? Consider this: Even if a company is honest and green, buying and owning less is still the better option. Why? Because not buying equals zero damage to the environment, while buying always has at least some negative impact. Less stuff means less resources (and energy) used for production and transportation, less space (and energy) needed for storing and less trash landing in our oceans.
Another important thing is travelling. I always travel in the eco-friendliest way that is available and affordable to me. For shorter distances (for example in Europe) I take the train or my car, if the train isn’t available. If I do have to fly, I compensate my flights with money. I give it to organisations that will use it for environment projects (for example rainforest reforestation projects). Those projects will compensate for the carbon dioxide I emitted during my flights. Of course, this isn’t an ideal solution. But if you don’t want to stop travelling altogether, it’s a compromise. Additionally, I look for eco-hotels to minimize my impact while I’m there.
As I’m not only a private person but also a self-employed yoga teacher, I created strategies to make my business as eco-friendly as possible as well. Here are some examples of what I do:
I (almost) only buy eco-friendly equipment. This includes not only yoga mats and blocks and blankets but also the paper I use. Whenever available I use recycling paper. A few weeks ago, I ordered business cards. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a provider for business cards out of recycled material. So, I called various providers to ask if they offer recycling paper even though I already knew they don’t. But for me it was important to create the demand for recycling paper, so that providers will have to think about this option. If enough people create a demand, providers will try to satisfy it. The demand rules the market. I always choose the best option and only after I tried my best to get it, I take the second best. But before I buy something, I ask myself two questions: *
1. Do I really need this for my business?
2. Is buying the only option or could I satisfy the need in another way? Another thing I do as a yoga teacher is not showing up in front of my classes with shiny and new yoga clothes. I have a lot of beginners in my classes and one of the first things they ask me is: What do I need to buy before I can practice Yoga? One thing I do to prevent my yogi students from impulsive buying is providing yoga mats for them. They don’t have to bring their own, so they don’t necessarily have to buy one to practice yoga. And I clean and reuse mine as often as possible. Secondly, I tell them that the only thing they need is comfortable clothing. I avoid wearing colourful and trendy yoga wear because this is not the picture I want to create. Teaching yoga shouldn’t be an opportunity to show off my body in the prettiest leggings and trendiest sports bra. I want everyone to feel beautiful no matter what they wear. And if my students come in whatever leggings and a simple t-shirt, I would want to do the same. This not only creates a deeper connection, it also saves resources because nobody will have the urge to buy pretty yoga stuff. In one class I wore toe socks once to have more grip than with normal socks (I usually practice barefoot but in Austria it can get chilly). 50 % of the other yogis asked me where I got those and if I could order a pair for them too. I immediately went back to practicing barefoot after that. And here’s my last tip: Talk passionately about what you do and why. And by that I don’t mean telling people what THEY should do (like I did in the beginning) but explaining them why it is necessary to do something and how YOU do it. People will respond to this approach much better because they don’t feel criticised and they can see an actual proof that it is possible to live like that – YOU. And if you are a radiant and happy person, they might even want to copy some of your behaviour. Never underestimate your power as a role-model!