Eco-Confessions of an Imperfect Environmentalist

eco-confessions with Jess Baum
On the very first day of orientation for my Environmental Studies grad school program, a professor invited us, bright-eyed idealists seeking to change the world, to do an odd thing. He stood before us, talking about the environmental crisis that faces us all, then admitted to an environmentally un-friendly aspect of his own life. He asked us each to own up to eco-confessions on a piece of paper taped to our chests and thus greet the cohort we’d spend the next two years with. An odd yet poignant way to begin, this exercise was a declaration that even in a community devoted to enacting positive change, perfection is an impossible and unnecessary standard. As I walked around the room bearing the burden of my bashful confession: “I take a lot of baths in an oversized claw-foot tub,” I felt the crushing weight of my self-prescribed need to be perfect, dissolving. I realized I didn’t need to be a hero to enact change. In fact, my power resides in my ability to be human, flawed, and relatable.

eco-confessions help us become better environmentalists

And so, dear reader, we fast-forward to today: I sit and write to you surrounded by the beauty that is Badger headquarters. Birds chirp, butterflies, and bees swirl around nearby flowers. And it feels odd- to be witness to such natural splendor, documenting it on a laptop and watching emails flicker in on the iPad beside me. It’s an odd paradox to feel both at one with the natural world yet tethered to the practical experience of being human. The purist in me wants to leave no footprint, to practice nothing but perfect kindness for the planet and people with each moment. And I’ve tried (see: my grand adventures as a twenty-something living off the land in an intentional permaculture community in Hawaii). My dearest dream remains to raise a family in a modest home on a peaceful plot of land to homestead while engaging in work that heals people and planet. Still, what I’ve learned from swinging the pendulum of attempted sustainable daily life to the extreme is that balance and moderation are ok too.

eco-confessions looking ahead

The realist in me knows I need to get to work (a 25-mile round-trip commute) and use electricity in the apartment I rent, and buy food and clothes, and work on a computer. I’ve felt the all-or-nothing human pull to say: well, if I can’t do this thing purely and perfectly, why bother trying?  I’ve talked to countless others who feel this similar sense of powerlessness.

Yearning to make the world a better place yet feeling entirely powerless over creating any real impact on the tragedy that befalls planet earth each day is painful. Yet, my heart and science tell me that there is hope, that each small impact and choice matters. That intention matters. That it is not the large action of a single person, but the collective small actions of many that will make a difference.

eco-confessions Badger Balm

So, what are my latest eco-confessions? I really like clothes, especially pretty dresses. Recently, I bought several that can only be described as “disposable fashion.” While my goal is to slowly transition my wardrobe to only second-hand or high-quality clothes made of sustainable material and manufactured with ethical standards, like these adorable leggings made of post-consumer recycled water bottles and organic cotton I recently bought, I like to indulge in inexpensive fashion at times. I’ve dedicated my life to healing and helping planet earth, but I’m not perfect! And you don’t have to be either. Sustainability is a team sport. We don’t need to adhere to anyone else’s rules to play. We can have eco-confessions of our own, and still be champions for the planet and people!


Jess is Badger's Sustainability Manager & Community Coordinator. She came to Badger after earning a Master's degree in Environmental Studies, for which she co-created an Environmental Management System for Badger. An herbalist and Reiki practitioner, Jess is on a mission to heal people and the planet and feels abundantly grateful to have found her dream job with her dream employer! Jess enjoys making jewelry and medicinal herbal elixirs, running, learning and teaching about food as medicine, reading, and spending plenty of time in nature and in community, Jess’ favorite Badger products: Unscented Face Cleansing Oil, Damascus Rose Body Oil, and Poetic Pomegranate Cocoa Butter Lip Balm.

6 comments on “Eco-Confessions of an Imperfect Environmentalist

  • A beautifully written post with a message that we all needed to hear… perfection isn’t possible (though hard to admit occasionally), but effort (from monumental life changes to a simple change in routine) and passion to lead a more holistic life, makes the earth smile and trees dance (or so I believe). I work in KM/IT yet am a Reiki Master Teacher and live in a rural area (not far from Badger HQ) where I am in tune with nature and can work remote. I really appreciate your post, Jess, I feel less isolated in my “am I doing enough” while being OK with my less “eco-confessions.” Best to you!

    • Thanks so much for writing, Kelly! Sending much light to your remote corner from ours! It is so lovely to remember that even in isolation (and in our imperfection!), we are not alone!

  • I appreciated reading this post. I think it’s important that we don’t beat ourselves up over not being eco conscious enough. Instead it’s important that we pat ourselves on the back for the things we already do correctly. I think it’s important to find a balance between trying to live an eco conscious life and still being able to enjoy technology as well as other modern advances.
    I try to buy mainly organic or farm fresh ingredients but that isn’t always possible. I just try to do my best.

    • I completely agree, Anna-Lena! And I think that doing this invites others to join the conversation. When we preach perfection, we alienate the majority of folks, who want to do something, but can’t do everything. When we do our best, and make incremental shifts and changes, the collective result can be huge! Thanks for reading!

  • Hello from an old NC friend! Very well said, and kindly written. Reading this on a lunch break, and recalling my own personal indulgences that are good to reflect on. Keep up the good work, and continue making the collective small actions that we all have to do! I hope all is well in NH!

    • Hi Colin! Thanks so much, and lovely to here from you! Wishing you well, too, and let me know if you’re ever passing through NH!


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