Sliding Doors, is, according to Wikipedia a romantic comedy drama film, that:

‘ alternates between two parallel universes, in a Butterfly Effect way, based on two paths the central characters life could take depending on whether or not she catches the train and causing different outcomes in her life’.

Reading Sustainability with Style by Lisa Heinze, strangely caused me to have Sliding Doors flash backs, and I consider writing this review as a therapeutic task to work out why. So please bear with me if you haven’t had the pleasure of watching this slice of 90’s rom-com cinema.

Whether you call it an ‘environmental awakening’, ‘doing your bit’, ‘a learning experience’, or ‘finding your path to voluntary simplicity, most green-centric folk will be able to tell you the moment they decided to take action. Like most of us, Heinze had made some small changes in her life prompted by the messages we absorb from mainstream media, simple changes like recycling and taking reusable bags to the supermarket. But the real life changing (compact fluorescent eco) light bulb moment for Heinze was the revelation that takeaway coffee cups are not recyclable.

This coffee cup moment of revelation for Heinze is the equivalent of Gwyneths Sliding Doors, character Helen catching her subway train. Subway train Helen heads home to her ‘loving partner’ to find him in bed with another woman. Where Subway platform Helen who in a parallel universe, had missed the train, never finds out she was sleeping with a man who was ‘screwing her over’.

The experience for Heinze was somewhat different to Helens, in that she really did have a loving partner and no missed trains were involved in her revelation, but she did realise she had been cheated. All this time she had been under the impression that her takeaway coffee habit was harmless, but unbeknownst to her (and millions of other coffee drinkers) every cup she disposed of was contributing to the 500 million coffee cups disposed in landfill each year. Why hadn’t anyone told her?

For Heinze, now a woman on fire, coffee cups served as the catalyst to a life overhaul. She changed her appearance (just like Helen), gets a new job (just like Helen) and begins a new Eco life. Like Helen, Heinze had periods where she grieved for her former life, but found the changes she had made we’re creating such positive effects she could help but move on. In true movie style the ending of sliding doors is a little too far fetched to be relatable to reality, so the parallels end here. However I also felt that reading Heinzes story was like reading my own ‘coming-of-eco-age’ and that perhaps her and I were living our own Eco ‘parallel universe experiences’.

Like Heinze, I too had worked in an industry that pushed consumer products like drug dealers at a rave. I was dirty pusher giving the addicted shopping masses what they wanted, fast cheap clothing. Heinze was helping us ‘product pushers’ advertise to the masses and create the demand. While Heinze had her revelation over coffee cups, mine dawned over coat hangers, ones specifically designed for a product we sold, hard moulded plastic, a thing of beauty that wasn’t recyclable, that the company I worked for wanted disposed of as they ‘didn’t match the department stores decor’. So I threw them in the bin, put the product on flimsy matching hangers, and decided I couldn’t put up with the waste anymore and quit several weeks later.

Sustainability with Style is a personal journey into Eco living. Heinze shares her triumphs and failures, and the things she has learnt along the way. I was specifically interested in her attempts to change the consumption patterns of others. She had several attempts at launching her own Eco campaigns (reusable coffee cups, beef free weekends, Eco dinner parties), and had some wins, and some near disasters (if you read this book you will know what I mean when I say ‘Beefgate saga’). I too attempted on many occasions to ‘show’ others the Eco way (launching my own Sustainability in Style student group at my university with successes and failures) and learnt exactly what Heinze did, people generally dislike being ‘Eco preached’ and are more interested in changing if they see a benefit for themselves. Heinze gives up on showing other the way and instead investigates how to green her life, and in doing so leads by example. This approach has a far greater success at changing others habits by being an example of Eco living, than a preacher of it, and her friends slowly start to change their habits.

It seems like no matter how you get on the sustainability band wagon, be it coffee cups or coat hangers, and no matter how different the journey seems, we all arrive at the same destination, and apparently IN or WITH style. I must say that it was totally weird that Heinze and I are two separate women, who have never met, but have lived the same environmental awakening and arrived at nearly the same name for our sustainability ventures. I would like to think that our two separate experiences show that no matter where you came from or how you get there we can all end up on the same sustainability page. This would be a win for the planet and a win for human kind.

So hopefully you’re feeling inspired board the sustainability train (read Sustainability with Style), realise you have been fraternising with the enemy, and began your Eco transformation today (and when things go wrong just think what would the blonde Gwen do?).

Let me know your thoughts on the book, or your own eco-tranfsormation, in the comment section below.

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