Rethink: 10 years later…


Ten years since writing our first Rethink article, we re-explore how far things have come, if at all.


We have all heard it or maybe even thought it before. When we meet a vegetarian we ask why. When we meet a vegan we ask why. When a Stop Oil protestor interrupts an event we ask why?

After the “Why?” often comes the following up question. 

In the case of the vegetarian we ask “But what about eggs and milk?”

In the case of the vegan we state “But I’ve heard vegan crops can be more damaging”. 

In the case of the Stop Oil protestors, we are first angered by the interruption and then ask “But China is worse than us!” Or “Protest government not us!”

We have become so self-obsessed with what people are not doing that we pull apart what they are doing. We have forgotten that old saying “Every bit helps”.

Put differently, we do not say to a once-a-week gym goer “But why don’t you go to the gym every day?”

Is this mentality because we like to choose what decisions other people make either affect or should not affect our lifestyles?

Are we scared of change?

Have we forgotten that our consumer decisions do in fact make a difference? 

An ant cannot lift a slice of bread alone but together, a thousand ants can. 

Nature is filled with teamwork, collaboration, and symbiosis. Yet, as humans, we divide ourselves into tribes worried about changing the status quo. 

Why is it that we feel so guilty when using a plastic bag when shopping and yet all we are doing is placing plastic items in our reusable bag? Do we feel helpless in a world of issues? Do we need to feel like we are in control or can we at least do something to help the ever-widening problem?

Rethink: The Fourth “R” in Sustainable Living

We are all familiar with the three Rs of sustainable living: reduce, reuse, and recycle. These principles have become ingrained in our collective consciousness as essential steps toward minimizing our environmental impact and conserving resources. However, as we face the pressing challenges of an increasingly fragile planet, it is time to introduce a fourth “R” into the equation: “Rethink.” This principle urges us to reevaluate our choices and behaviours before we even get to the stage of reducing, reusing, or recycling. Rethinking is a proactive step that can significantly enhance the effectiveness of our sustainable efforts and drive positive change in our world.

The Power of Rethinking:

At its core, rethinking involves critically examining our daily habits, consumption patterns, and lifestyle choices. It encourages us to challenge the status quo and seek innovative solutions that go beyond the typical recycling and conservation practices. Rethinking pushes us to reconsider the fundamental aspects of our lives and strive for more sustainable alternatives.

1. Questioning Consumption:

The first area where the principle of rethinking applies is consumption. In today’s consumer-driven society, we often buy things impulsively, driven by advertising and societal expectations. Rethinking calls on us to pause and question whether we genuinely need a new item or if it serves a real purpose in our lives. By adopting a more conscious approach to consumption, we can reduce the demand for unnecessary products, thereby curbing resource extraction and waste generation.

2. Design and Innovation:

Rethinking also extends to the design and innovation of products and technologies. As individuals, we can support businesses that prioritize sustainability, but we can also demand better and greener solutions. By supporting sustainable products and services, we influence companies to adopt eco-friendly practices and design products with the environment in mind from the outset.

3. Transportation and Energy:

Our choices regarding transportation and energy consumption have a significant impact on the environment. Rethinking in this context involves considering alternative modes of transportation such as cycling, carpooling, or public transit to reduce our carbon footprint. Similarly, we can explore renewable energy sources for our homes and businesses, contributing to the transition to a low-carbon future.

4. Food Choices:

Rethinking our food choices is crucial to building a sustainable future. Adopting a more plant-based diet can significantly lower our ecological footprint by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, land degradation, and water usage associated with meat production. Additionally, supporting local and sustainable food systems can promote biodiversity and reduce the environmental impact of food transportation.

5. Consumer Activism:

Rethinking also empowers us to become conscious consumers and activists. By supporting environmentally responsible brands and advocating for eco-friendly policies, we can push for systemic change on a larger scale. Our collective actions can influence corporations and governments to prioritize sustainability and make the necessary changes to protect our planet.

6. Environmental Education:

Finally, rethinking involves educating ourselves and others about environmental issues and the consequences of our actions. By increasing our knowledge and awareness, we become better equipped to make informed decisions that align with sustainable practices. Environmental education also helps spread the message, inspiring more people to embrace the principle of rethinking and become advocates for positive change.


Incorporating the principle of rethinking into our lives is essential for building a sustainable and resilient world. By challenging conventional norms and exploring alternative solutions, we can address the root causes of environmental degradation. Rethinking goes beyond the mere act of reducing, reusing, and recycling; it is a mindset that shapes our choices and actions. As individuals, we possess the power to create a profound impact, and by collectively embracing the fourth “R,” we can forge a path towards a more sustainable and harmonious relationship with our planet.

In the news

Source: Guardian

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