How many times have you tried to make changes to reduce your impact on the environment? We are bombarded with tips and changes we can make to reduce our footprint – reduce food waste, make your own skincare products, cook from scratch, grow your own vegetables, going plastic free….and the list goes on. The changes I’ve made in my own life have been gradual over a number of years. I didn’t just wake up one day and overhaul my life to be more environmentally friendly (and let me be honest, I still have a long way to go). It took time to create the habits and changes one by one. But something I’ve noticed over that time is that these changes become easier and more long term when I am looking after myself first.
Permaculture zone 00
In permaculture we use zones to organise our garden designs and land into areas based on frequency of use and the needs of the plant/animal. So for example zone 0 is the home, zone 1 is close to the home and is visited several times a day (eg herb garden, compost bin) and zone 5 would be the wild/forest areas furtherest away.
Some permaculture designers also use zone 00 – an individuals physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. I think this zone is really important and shouldn’t be left out. I’ll explain why.
Why is change so hard?
Changing our habits and behaviours is difficult. We are wired to favour doing what is easier and more comfortable. Change requires both mental and physical energy. When we are depleted of energy (over worked, stressed, tired, anxious) we will find it much harder to make positive changes to our habits in order to have less impact on our planet. I know from my own experience that when I’m busy and stressed new habits tend to go out the window and I get frustrated with myself for not sticking with it. But getting frustrated will only make things worse. What I needed to do was look within and start focusing on caring for zone 00 (me).
Observation – a permaculture tool that can be applied to ourselves
In permaculture we are taught to observe everything around us. Observation shows us patterns and changes that occur over time and helps us identify solutions to our problems. For example observing where the sun and shade is over your yard and house throughout the year can give you clues as to where to position sun or shade loving plants, how to design your house so that you get lots of warm sun in the winter and where to place sitting spaces outside for warmth or shade in different seasons.
We can use the idea of observation for our own health and wellbeing. Taking the time to notice how you’re feeling at different times of the day, week or year. Noticing changes in your energy levels and motivation and slowing down enough to observe when you are becoming overwhelmed or stressed. When we take time each day to check in and observe, we can then respond appropriately to reset the balance.
Self care before earth care
Many of us have deep concern for the state of our earth and want to make a difference. And I think that’s great! We need more people like that in the world. The problem is we often push forward with our sustainability goals and forget to look after ourselves. Then we wonder why it’s so hard to stick to the changes we are making and blame ourselves for not being consistent. We also compare ourselves to others and feel like we are not doing enough.
I want to stop right here and ask you to first look at what you need. Do you need space, sleep, rest or self refection? Are your goals realistic based on what is currently happening in your life? Do you need to lower your expectations and start small? Do you need to not make sustainability goals at all and focus on you for a while? When we take the time for self care, we put ourselves in a better position to look after the earth. Yes I know many of us feel the urgency but we will not be successful if we are burnt out and overwhelmed. And remember we don’t all need to be doing this sustainability thing perfectly. We just need to focus on what we can do within our own limitations. Some people may do more and others less but it all contributes to a better place for future generations to live.
Let me know how you like to look after your zone 00.