Who I am, Why I Care, and Why You Should Too
|image from http://galleryhip.com/lion-king-simba-and-mufasa-everything-the-light-touches.html|
I'm going to guess originally owned by disney
Mufasa- "Look Simba, everything the light touches is our kingdom. A king's time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time as leader, and will rise with you as the new king"
Simba- "And this will all be mine?"
It's a lovely scene. After my son was born, I had a similar scene play in my head, except instead of a rock formation, it was a hot pile of garbage. And instead of a kingdom, it was a hot pile of garbage:
Barbara- "Look Bubba, everything the light touches... oh for goodness sake! This whole place is covered in garbage! One day, the sun will set on my time on this Earth, and you will have to figure out what to do with this water that has more plastic than fish, this ever-increasing mountain of trash, and find replacements for all of the resources we have abused and used up. All this plastic will outlive us both."
Bubba- "And this will all be mine? Because frankly, right now I am pretty content with just boobs."
Barbara- "Sorry bub, everything here is your problem. Time to get some trash-compacting robots. Man, why does this suddenly feel more like Wall-E?"
|"Seriously, mom, what the heck is going on here?"|
Ralph Waldo Emerson said it beautifully:
"We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."
That's why he is an acclaimed writer and I write this silly blog.
It's not that I didn't know a lot of the things I write about before- yes, things made in China profit off of unethical labor and use a ton of fossil fuels. Yes, plastic and one-time use items creates a ton of litter and pollution. I have long invested in the politics of consumption, but mostly surrounding sexism and heteronormative nonsense- avoiding giving misogynistic movies and products my money. It seemed like a necessary evil to buy things that I pretty much knew were doing bad.
Then my child came, and all of the sudden, I couldn't ignore the articles with endless bad news about the environment. It struck me partially because of my philosophy as a parent, but also just as a citizen:
Being a good parent (to me) doesn't mean bubbling up your child away from the world. It means preparing your child to go out into the world and doing your best to make the world better for them.
I have always used the blog to chip away at problems I saw in my own approach to life and in the world. My 3 Things a day was meant to keep me positive and appreciative, even when life was not that great. I wanted to consume culture more thoughtfully, point out sexism as I see it, build community and kindness, spend my money of craft, and make creativity and art a part of my regular daily life. I felt like the goals I set were manageable and not too unrealistic.
On the other hand, the problem of our over consumption, of the epic scale of pollution and waste, the ridiculous number of complex issues contributing to our POOR stewardship of the Earth felt way beyond my help or even my comprehension. This problem I felt like these articles haunted me all of the time, and the negativity hung over me like a dark cloud.
There is no doubt about it- the damage we continue to do to the environment is huge enough to overwhelm anyone. Like so many problems on a global scale, it is way too big for one person or even one entity to solve. Because this damage is so overwhelming (and it indicts each of us so directly), I think for most of us it just feels better to ignore it. Like global poverty or sexual violence or so many things, it is so big that we 100% believe that we can't change anything. Organizations like Greenpeace or The Story of Stuff continuously shares this horrifying information, and it only gets more overwhelming. It feels beyond our individual control, so therefore beyond our individual responsibility.
I did love to buy "special" purchases made in the USA or on Etsy, but my everyday purchases, the ones I make the most, remained mostly habitual and not very thoughtful. I have never considered myself an "environmentalist"- I don't get the big deal about animals, I don't enjoy hiking, and I don't own anything made of hemp.
That's crazy! We can change it! Not alone, and not overnight, but we still have so much power to change the culture we participate in. This blog maintains its policy of strict positivity, because I believe getting discouraged and just focusing on the problems doesn't do any good. You can make changes, and so can I, and those choices will have wider effects than we can imagine. Here's how:
1. Have Less Stuff- Americans, on average, have 300,000 items in our homes. Some researchers think we have reached maximum consumption. Wanting less, instead of constantly pushing for more, is a radical stand against what the messages we receive every day- we should want exactly what we want, more is always better, and everything we have should come with relatively little cost to ourselves. Try something different:
- Buy Less. Give up on mountains of gifts or those Target impulse buys. Just buy fewer items. If it still works, use it. Take care of it, and get more years of life out of it.
- Don't Hold Onto Things You Don't Use. Donate it. Put it up on great groups like Buy Nothing. If you have something that someone else can use, but you aren't using it, you are contributing to the problem. Have a little faith that if you need it someday, another one will be available to you!
2. Change the Way you Shop- I know growing up, we were always looking for a deal. When someone said "Oh I love that shirt," it was totally appropriate to be proud that you got it for cheap. In the same way, the shopping was framed by "What do I want?" or "What might I want later?" for as little cost to myself as possible. What I have learned with age is that just because something comes cheap doesn't mean it doesn't have a high cost. A bleached, virgin tree paper towel might be the easiest thing to run out and grab at the store, but it puts chemicals in the water and robs the Earth of trees. A t-shirt from Kohl's may be a steal at 15 dollars, but how much was the person who made it paid? How were they treated? It's a huge cost, indeed. If you want to shift your world or just shift a bit of your shopping, ask yourself "What does the most good?" instead of "what do I want most?"
- Buy Used- You can't do better than buying things secondhand. It uses no new resources, it only requires local labor, and it creates no new waste. AWESOME! Also, it saves you a ton of money! Make your local Salvation Army or Goodwill your first go to instead of Target or Walmart, and you will be shocked how much money you save. You can also join amazing groups like Buy Nothing and start asking your neighbors for things (and you get them for free!). So far, we have been gifted a dining room table, buckets, baby clothes, a backpack, and so much more from six months in Buy Nothing. Best thing ever.
We need to stop assuming that consignment or secondhand stuff means you're poor or "trashy" (think about that word)! If we could shift our thinking, and everyone could participate in sharing this way (both donating and receiving), we could dramatically reduce the amount of stuff is being created in the world.
- Buy Recycled- Plastic is one of the biggest problems we face as a generation. Avoid it at all costs (go back to glass! It's way more eco-friendly, and it isn't pumping your family with endocrine-system-destorying chemicals). When you can't, get it recycled. Recycled paper products, reclaimed wood, there are so many cool options out there!
- Avoid One-Time Use. Did I mention I hate plastic? No more plastic shopping bags. No more plastic water bottles. No more one time coffee cups. For goodness sake, no more snack pouches for kids! Snacks were already portable! No more needless and ridiculous plastic packaging. Just, no more.
- Shop Local, Shop Made in the USA- You know how it costs you money and fuel to drive or fly yourself places? Now, think about buying 10 things Made in China. They all used fuel to take a trip from where they were made to your store, and that also uses fuel and resources. Then why is it so cheap? Because they use borderline slave labor to make it. Can you live with that? Our global trade wastes a ton of energy and fuel moving products that could easily be made nearby. Want to help your local economy? American workers? Slow our exhausting of fossil fuels? This is the answer.
-Shop Fair Trade- If they are conscientious about their materials and labor, they are most likely conscientious about their environmental impact as well.
- Cut Down on What You Know Sucks- For example, beef. Last summer, during the droughts, there was a lot of talk about slimming water usage. Domestic water usage makes up about 5% of the water use in this country. Dairy and beef farming uses 45%. 45. That doesn't even take into account methane emissions or the fact that it just isn't all that good for you.Everyone let that set in for a minute. If hamburgers are your thing, I am not saying give them up completely, but maybe cutting down to one meal a week! You can make a big difference by just indulging a little less.
3. Smart Disposal- Our world is increasingly covered in our waste. We pour them into landfills and our water, hoping it will be out of sight, out of mind, but it is becoming increasingly clear that isn't true. We are poisoning our food, our fish, and our selves with our garbage, and we can do better.
- Recycle. You have resources available. If you don't think you do, check a website like this one, which has tons of great information on your options. Everyone needs to recycle, and we need to buy post-consumer recycled products!
- Compost- A banana in compost will decompose completely in a week. A banana in the regular garbage may never decompose. It's just one more thing in the giant mountain of trash that could have been feeding the soil instead. That is tragic to me. Composting may seem like a pain, but there are lots of composting options available now, and you can do it in your own backyard.
-Donate First- Goodwill now accepts all clothing- underwear, loner socks, they can all be used as rags. Do your research and find out what you can give away that someone else might be able to use.
Now, is this going to solve all our problems, of course not! But the sooner we take ownership over our parts of the problem and make some changes, the sooner we can make positive changes that will add up!
Are you looking at this list and feeling overwhelmed? Me too! It seems like a lot of work! I am not suggesting that we should all Ron Swanson it up o n a mountain somewhere. This blog is about discovering how many GOOD options are out there to feel empowered to see it as a fun challenge instead of an impossible task.
MAKE SMALL CHANGES!
It's like a diet. You can go on a crazy only grilled chicken and legumes diet, but you know you aren't staying on that forever. It's better to make small changes you can continue and have a healthier lifestyle as a whole than to make a big stand you can't keep up with. It is exactly the same here- we are talking about SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENTALISM. Make a change at a time, and choose priorities that matter most to you. If I give up everything for a month, it won't make half the change that it would if everyone who reads this post commits to buying recycled paper towels (seriously, team, let's do this). It's the little choices that matter, and establishing consistent ones will have profound effects, even if they seem small.
Every dollar we spend is a vote. It sends the companies selling paper towels an important message about a shift in priorities if they notice recycled paper towels are on the rise. They see those numbers.They can see if people are refusing to buy Made in China clothes. The more we do those things, the more we invest in a different world, because companies will do what will make them money. Every time we buy uunethically-made things, we tell them we don't care, so they don't have to care either. Every time we refuse to spend money on something like that, they can see their tactics are making them less money.
The only thing that is unacceptable is to do nothing.
"But B, why should I care? This all seems like a real pain."
1. You should care if you live here on Earth, and you like it even a teensy bit. You don't have to hug trees to care that they can keep growing. You don't have to be an animal-lover to respect the importance of biodiversity. Breathing is super nice, and if you want to keep doing it, it's time to give a damn.
2. You should care if you eat food. I kid you not, it becomes more and more clear all this waste is poisoning us. Plastic water, plastic soil, it will destroy our digestive systems.
3. You should care because you are a Christian. God called us, from the very beginning, to be good stewards of this Earth He gave us. You want to show appreciation for the gifts He's given? Take care of them! This is on us, and we need to do something big.
4. You should care because you are a liberal. Enough saying we care about inequality and letting these things go on. We need to stop funding inequality every time we go to the grocery store!
5. You should care because you are a conservative. Want to make America great again? Bemoaning the American economy? Go to your closet and look at the last 10 items you have bought. Unless they are all made here, you have some work to do! You can fund the upswing, or you can be a part of the problem (I'm looking at you, person wearing a made in China Trump hat).
6. You should care because it genuinely makes life better! About a year since we started taking this really seriously, and I have to say, I really think it's kind of fun and awesome to find what you need this way. It's like a puzzle or a quest. We have also saved so much money, especially on baby clothes, and we eat healthier by avoiding the food that comes in so much packaging. It really has only done good for us personally to live life a little slower, to make real plans, and to be more critical about our own purchases.
I hope you enjoy the blog! Please consider sharing the posts and commenting. I also love to see the Made in the US, used, or Fair Trade items that you are buying or the eco-friendly projects you are taking on so I can be pumped for you! You are awesome. We can do this!