Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.
By far the biggest concern that women share with me about conservation is the fear that using less of everything means a kind of deprivation that leads to a drab and boring existence.
So let’s dispel that notion right away.
It’s true that conservation is about making conscious lifestyle choices, editing things out of your life, and reframing your activities from being a passive and mindless consumer to being a thoughtful doer whose focus is on life experiences. But none of that implies a dull, colorless existence.
Quite the opposite, in fact. Conservation consciousness and conservation habits foster more engagement with life, and therefore more opportunities to see and enjoy the beauty in so many more things.
The true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows.
For over a century women have been the target of ads that tell us what we need to do to be more beautiful not only in our looks and bodies, but in the kind of lives we lead. And it’s all external. How our houses must look, where and how we should vacation, and what constitutes a picture-perfect family who are buying into all the “right things.”
But as the beauty icon Audrey Hepburn reminds us, it’s actually the passion and commitment we bring to life, the way our souls shine, that reveal our beauty. Approaching life with a real awareness of where things came from, how you’re using them, and where they’re going when you’re done with them, reveals your caring nature and passionate dedication. This burnishes your personal beauty while connecting you to beauty in the world.
A concrete example is re-painting a room. If you choose a toxic paint that fouled the world when it was manufactured that’s not beautiful. Yet it created a gorgeous new room. That seems beautiful. But then you chuck the can with the rest of your trash to live out its life in the landfill poisoning your grandchildren’s ground water. Again, not so beautiful. So, can you make a different choice? Non toxic paints? Greener options? Reusing that can afterward?
Thinking about the paint’s life cycle doesn’t have to be a bummer. If what you care about is honoring beauty more fully, then the passion you bring to understanding energy sources, what things are made of, and how we impact the environment will add to the beauty you care for in the world. It builds a better world, and that is beauty.
Life is beautiful
I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.
If you mistakenly believe that being conscious of your use and impact means focusing on the negative, then you’ve missed the point. It’s actually a way to break free of the cage of consumerism that just makes us into monkey-brains who jump every time a Madison Avenue ad executive trots out another campaign designed to make us feel small for not buying enough of whatever they’re selling.
Reusing items, buying in bulk, making more things at home, getting into the Do-It-Yourself groove—all these things make the ad guys’ brains boil. They need to figure out more ways for you to feel like a loser for choosing the lower-use, lower impact lifestyle. They try to convince you that more you use, toss, and use some more, the higher your status. They’re the ones who are peddling misery.
If, like Anne Frank, you focus on the beauty of creating things, the enduring qualities of materials that aren’t disposable and aren’t going in to the landfill, and the beauty of more experiences with loved ones, you’ll find that you’re happier and that you’ll never let anyone define your reality again.
For the kids
I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside.
What is more beautiful than our children? Their smiles, their innocence, their hopes and dreams.
With that in mind I have to get harsh here for a minute.
Somehow in our society and culture (which was never like this before the advent of fossil fuels) we’ve come to equate the acquisition of more consumer products with what it means to give our children a beautiful and meaningful life. We’ve come to see giving more stuff as an end in itself, and in the process we’ve lost much of the beauty that comes in honest togetherness, such as doing chores together, making and sharing meals, and demonstrating responsibility.
This is not the first time I’ve said that caring about our children necessarily means caring about what kind of world they will inherit from all previous generations, including ours. We need to think about more than whether they’re dolled up in a Bugaboo stroller and attend baby gymnastics. We need to care about more than how Pottery-Barnish their bedroom is and redecorating it every two years. We need to think about more than whether by age seven they have their own iPad, cellphone, iPod, Wii and Facebook account.
Here’s the harsh part. I don’t think we’re really showing love to our kids as long as we live life as if there is no tomorrow. As if landfills the size of Texas for toxic plastic iPod castaways make no difference. Love for our kids demands consciousness. It demands making choices that transcend consumerism and an endless stream of buying, getting, trashing and buying and getting all over again.
Loving our children means showing them the beauty they possess inside. Cultivate that first. Not just as a shallow catch phrase, but as a reality defined by everything you do. THAT is what will give them a world worth inheriting, and one you can be proud to bequeath to them.
Does this mean you give up all buying, getting, trashing? No. But you could give up nearly 90% of it and still have an amazing quality of life. Start with 5%, and let it grow.
Beauty is whatever gives joy.
–Edna St. Vincent Millay
We can spend all day defining what beauty is. The bottom line is you know it when you feel it. Beauty is joy. Joy is profound, elated happiness. Sometimes a product or gift can make us happy, it’s true. But we all know deep inside what wise people have said throughout human history. That money can’t buy you love. That it’s the little things that count. That the most important thing in the world is the people in our lives with whom we share life’s joys.
Start there, and your focus on conserving resources to create a more meaningful life will only grow. It’s been inside you all along, just waiting to come out.
–Lindsay Curren, LadyVirginiaVintage