This post was sponsored by Who Gives A Crap, who I’ve been a fan of for years now. All opinions my own.
This year I turned 25. That’s right, despite still looking like I’m about to start university, I am actually an official grown up. It’s also coming up to the two year birthday of this blog, and this combination of mini milestones has gotten me thinking a lot recently about why I do what I do; what keeps me going despite everything you uncover researching sustainability and ethics for a living, and what makes me continue to care when it starts to feel hopeless. These thoughts began at the back end of last year when I first sat down to talk with Who Gives A Crap, a company that specialises in sustainable toilet paper and supports sanitation projects across the world. A 30 minute coffee turned into a two hour conversation on ethical living, and how their determination in one area has led to both smart solutions and global impact already. It’s taken a few months of mulling over this conversation, but today I want to share my thoughts.
I feel incredibly passionate about my little corner of the internet, and I’m regularly amazed by the initiatives and people I get to encounter through this work. But at the same time the level of research needed for the job keeps you very aware of all the ways humanity is failing, and it can feel overwhelming. It’s at this point that you have to stop caring as a kind of passive afterthought, and instead make an active decision to push through and keep going, to make intentional choices about your life. There’s a point when you choose to give a crap, and you choose to keep trying to do something about it.
When I think about what has sustained me this far, I think it’s the ethos of companies like Who Gives A Crap that can really help us go the distance.
Founded in 2012 in Australia, Who Gives A Crap was started when founders Simon, Jehan and Danny learned that 2.3 billion people, around 40% of the global population, don’t have access to a toilet. This means that around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation, or one child every two minutes. We hear statistics like these so often that we can be left completely desensitised, like the problem is way too big to even attempt something. But Simon, Jehan and Danny didn’t do that. They decided to do something about it anyway.
That thing was toilet paper. After a successful crowdfunding campaign where Simon sat on a toilet for 50 hours, their first batches of toilet paper were delivered in March 2013, a year after they first learned of the overwhelming need when it comes to sanitation. In the five years since their toilet paper has spread from Australia to both the USA and the UK, with 50% of their profits being donated to projects that help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world. So far they’ve donated $1,250,000 Australian dollars, and it’s only just the beginning. Instead of becoming paralysed by the problem they focused on doing one thing really well.
As this article from Grist explains:
‘Climate change is an existential threat… feeling terror and despair isn’t the same as truly coming to grips with the fatal implications of climate change. They’re the product of futility brought about by anxiety — the running-in-circles sensation of not being able to do enough to save the world.’
Problems like climate change, poverty and social justice feel very external. In a sense they are, because their effects are felt in very tangible, physical ways. But at their core each of these issues is inherently existential too. It requires us to think about huge concepts like mortality, suffering and hope all in the same space. To recognise the fullness and largeness of the problem while still maintaining a hope and resolution that there is a better way and we can find it. Dealing with these kinds of problems requires us to think complexly, and to be able to navigate a space where we can hold several conflicting emotions and ideas at the same time. It moves beyond simple things like happy and sad, and that can be bloody hard work. It’s really easy to just let one overriding sensation (which is normally anxiety) completely take over. The task seems impossible, so many of us choose to either look away or resolve that there’s nothing we can really do.
But I think there’s another way. And that way looks like embracing life in its messy confusion, and then getting stuck in when you can anyway. Have you ever seen that quote ‘the only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing’? It’s kind of like that. I stopped trying to articulate all my feelings. I let them all hit me in the often confusing bundle they came in, no longer trying to sift through and identify everything I was experiencing at the same time, and then I recognised that my choices didn’t have to be dictated by how I felt. I stopped being overwhelmed by guilt with my past lifestyle (a big problem for many of us), or anxiety, or stress. I got to a point where it was ok that I couldn’t know how my actions would play into a larger story, or how long a problem would take to get fixed. Instead, I just committed to doing what I could, where I could. I let that messiness fuel me forwards instead. Because once you’re not stuck in your feelings, you can actually get up and do something. That’s exactly what the Who Gives A Crap founders did, and the results so far speak for themselves.
This looks a little different for all of us, and so it should. We all live different lives. But as long as those of us who can continue to decide to make changes where we can, to show up for the causes that matter to us, and allow ourselves to still feel positivity, then we’re all working with what we have. Whether it’s fashion, food or toilet paper, they all add up.
And the best thing is there are others out there that make it easier for us. Like, so easy we have to put less effort in than before. Who Gives A Crap are also my favourite example of this, without a doubt.
The fact is, there are so many good things about these guys beyond their commitment to improving global sanitation. Apart from the fact that I can vouch for their A+ in person banter, every part of their product is a better alternative than conventional loo roll. Most toilet paper is made with virgin trees and packaged in plastic, instead Who Gives A Crap sell sell premium bamboo or 100% recycled paper (I go for the latter) made with no inks, dyes or scents, and their product is delivered to your door wrapped in super cute paper, and packaged in a cardboard box. You buy in bulk, meaning that the price remains reasonable and you never again have to deal with the late night stress of running out of toilet roll and making a trip to the 24 hour Tesco in your pyjamas. They also make similar sustainable tissues and paper towels, meaning that in one fell swoop your household choices can dramatically cut your plastic waste, the amount of trees being cut down, and the amount of people that don’t have access to sanitation. All while making your life easier as it’s delivered to you, and cuter because their designs are the nicest around.
Every single part of Who Gives A Crap has a positive impact, but it’s actually an easier option than what I had before, I just didn’t know about it yet. Someone else did all the work, chose to do something even though it’s hard, and with barely any effort I’ve been able to create a tangible difference in my life too. In this way, by focusing on one small step after the next, I’ve been able to move closer towards positive impact than negative. Companies like Who Gives A Crap have helped me get there and still stay sane.
I could’ve given up a long time ago, overwhelmed by how many things going on in the world made me feel like there was no hope at all. But then I come across brands like Who Gives A Crap and remember that not only are solutions out there, but there are a myriad of tiny ways, and small shifts we can make that, when made together, hold more power than we could ever understand.
So I guess that’s why I still give a crap. And I hope you do too.
(& to feel a little more hopeful, check out this article from Friends of the Earth, and remember that only bad news makes the headlines)