Plagued by a guilty conscience – and rightly so


The sky is blue, the birds are twittering and the sun is shining. We drive to the lake. The music is turned up loud, a delicious coffee to go from the bakery is in the drinks holder and the aircon is full on, keeping us nice and cool. At the lake, we take out the disposable BBQ; the very cheap sausages from the discounter will taste delicious and we’ll leave the beer bottles lying around when we leave. We’re enjoying life.

Well, does that sound familiar to you? I can only say that I have certainly done one or two of those things. And it is definitely great to spend a carefree Sunday afternoon like that. But to be honest, for me it is not quite so carefree because I know that it is not really okay to behave like that. My guilty conscience plagues me. And that is true for many of us, isn’t it?

Ignoring the eco-conscience

So what should we do? Ignore our guilty conscience, because as they say: Yolo – You Only Live Once?


320,000 coffee to go cups are used every hour in Germany.

Source: DeutscheUmwelthilfe

Nobody needs a coffee to go. The coffee cups are produced at high cost, thrown away after one use and then incinerated. I know that; everybody knows that. We see the piles of rubbish after the lunchbreak and the newspapers write about it. Of course, we can all drink a cup of coffee in the comfort of our home or take a reusable cup. My only reason not to do so is that a coffee on the road is quick, simple and tastes good.

Driving to the lake in the car with the aircon set to a pleasant 20 degrees – bliss! But we don’t have to always do that, either, do we? Air-conditioning uses a lot of fuel. Just as with our heating in the winter, it is in our own hands/it is entirely up to us whether we save money and energy and protect the climate.

And why take the car in the first place? A bicycle would have done just as well but we would have had to sweat a bit. On the other hand, we would have got some exercise and smelt the summer air in our nostrils.

Ever-present dilemma between comfort and a green conscience

This dilemma between comfort, laziness and a green conscience is omnipresent. Do I buy a new plastic bag in the supermarket because I have once again forgotten to bring my own shopping bag? Do I drive to the supermarket in the car because it is more convenient? Do I fly to the next business appointment instead of taking the train because it is faster and perhaps even cheaper? It’s all too easy to make the excuse that our behaviour doesn’t make any difference. Because that is simply not true.

If your conscience pricks you when you make such decisions, that’s good because it means that we actually know that there is an alternative and we should take it. A guilty conscience is like backache. It tells us that we have to get up more often from our desk and move around. And when we then have a good stretch, we immediately feel better. It’s just the same with green behaviour in our everyday lives. It is a good feeling to do without something or to choose a more eco-friendly alternative.

So let us listen to that voice in our heads or that gut feeling. And do we have to agonise if we occasionally commit a small eco-sin? No. Should we just try to do things better as often as possible? Most definitely, yes!