IMPERFECTLY SUSTAINABLE

Written by Jaimie McIntosh

In today’s society, everywhere we look we see a push for sustainability. It’s in adverts, product descriptions, or the news. The idea of being sustainable can be overwhelming, daunting even. How do you press pause and slow down when the world around you is moving so unbearably fast? How do say no to the plastic that dominates product packaging and essential everyday items? The task to be sustainable can be so big it can put people off. It seems like an all or nothing. Be 100% vegan or be a 100% meat-eater. Live a 100% minimalistic life or be a hoarder. Commit to Depop or just be another fast fashion consumer. I find that it can be hard to see the in-between, to see the small changes that are possible. 

Since launching DISCOVER ETHOS, I have become increasingly more and more aware of the unsustainable life in which I live. I found myself feeling guilty for not being plastic or waste-free. I felt guilty for wanting to buy something from Urban Outfitters. I dubbed this emotion as ‘green guilt’.  


Instead of allowing myself to be overwhelmed by the vastness of transitioning into a more sustainable lifestyle, I focused on the 1% marginal gain theory. 

The 1% theory is a very famous theory which was applied throughout my education but originated from the British Cycling team. Sir Dave Brailsford explained it like this:

 "The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of, that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.” (BBC, 2012)

This can be applied to everyday life. Take one area of your life you would like to improve on, break it down and go from there. Whether it be; bathroom supplies, diet, kitchen products or even your current buying habits, the theory can still be applied. 

Without you possibly realising it, making a small change will create a greater impact. By doing lots of 1% improvements, you will eventually get to a 10% cleaner and more sustainable lifestyle. 

It is okay to be overwhelmed and feel green guilt, but it is also okay to be making small changes and making a difference. It is okay to be imperfectly vegan as it is okay to be imperfectly sustainable. The changes you are making is better than no change at all. 


Here are some examples of 1% changes I have made in the last month: 

  • Switch to Oat Milk (I love cheese so won’t be lactose-free just yet!)

  • Have a meat-free meal once or twice a week when I can

  • Look to buy sustainable health care products after finishing the ones I currently own. 

  • Walk into town instead of getting the bus.

  • Buy plastic-free fruit and vegetables.


Whilst these don’t seem like big sudden changes, they will still be making a difference. 


The difference you make no matter how big or small is still a difference. 

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