Well, it’s been an embarrasingly long time since I posted the first one of these, but better late than never, right?
That’s actually an important message in climate change–doing something, ANYTHING, is better than doing nothing at all. Like, even refusing a straw one time at a restaurant means one less straw wasted. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s not Whole 30 here. Making an effort is truly making a difference in the battle against a warming planet.
Have you seen the fatalistic articles lately that say we’re all doomed? I know I have!! Ignore them. I mean, don’t, because it’s deadly serious and we are definitely without a doubt on a trajectory towards a mass extinction, but we CAN change that! We CAN avoid that!! We need to:
a) pressure lawmakers to get it together NOW to lower our emissions;
b) vote for lawmakers in 2020 that will lower our emissions;
c) do everything in our power as ordinary citizens in the mean time to cut down on waste and lower our emissions.
Which brings me to letter B: Buy less stuff. This is perhaps the single most important thing you can do as a consumer to fight climate change. It’s easy to remember, hard to do! But I have a few tips.
Why should we buy less stuff? Well, stuff takes energy to make. Every bag of chips, every tee shirt, every dollar store dinosaur toy (just me that buys these all the time? Okay then) was manufactured in a factory. That factory burned fossil fuels to make your item, then burned more to ship it to the store where you bought it. Not to mention the energy used, as well as water, to power the lights, a/c, bathrooms, etc. at the factory. Did you know it takes 9 gallons of water to make a single disposable diaper? It does!
Then once you have your stuff, you don’t keep it forever. And when you throw it out, it takentakes energy to get the stuff to the dump or incinerator. where it either takes more energy to burn (thus releasing the chemicals in your stuff into the air) or it just…sits there, leaching chemicals into the soil, taking up space, and releasing gases into the atmosphere. Contrary to popular belief, most stuff in landfills does not break down. There have been studies of landfills done where intact heads of lettuce have been found wrapped in newspapers from the 1940s. Because of plastic bags and how packed landfills are, it’s basically an anaerobic environment, which does not allow for things to decompose like they naturally would. If heads of lettuce aren’t breaking down, what do you think is happening to your disposable diapers? (Sorry about all the diaper talk. With a newborn headed my way in about a month, I’ve got diapers on my mind.)
But you recycle, right? Well, sort of. First off, not all cities recycle. Secondly, many cities end up burning or trashing their recycling rather than actually recycling it because we’re recycling too much and the recycling infrastructure can’t take it. Recycling programs are not federally mandated or funded, and they’re only as good as the time and energy people spend on maintaining them. China used to buy 90% of our recycling and process it there, but now they take almost nothing from us. So, don’t feel better just because you tossed that can into a recycling bin–best case scenario, it will burn energy to get recycled! And there are many more worse scenarios possible.
So, we need to buy less. This is just inescapably true. It’s hard, I know. I myself am guilty of strolling through the dollar spot at Target, pondering whether the foam numbers for the bath will make my son smarter. Our culture is obsessed with more, bigger, and better. We buy things all the time to treat ourselves, as a pick-me-up, and as gifts for others. We buy hoping this next product will make us happier, more organized, prettier, or better parents. But the hard truth is that most of them won’t. And we’re killing the planet to lie to ourselves about it. Here are a few easy areas to start cutting back–
- avoid fast fashion. Besides the horrific human rights abuses perpetuated in factories worldwide, we’re wasting tons of energy making tee shirts we’ll wear once then throw out. Target, Old Navy, Forever 21, H&M…these places do not sell you high quality clothes that will last you season after season. I’m not suggesting that you buy all designer clothes–that’s not feasible for most of us. But I am suggesting you consider what you really need. I shake my head every time I pass the huge 4th of July displays at stores. Do I really need another star-spangled tee shirt? Can’t I just wear last year’s, or better yet, something I own that’s red, white, or blue?
So, skip the single use outfits. Shop second hand or vintage. Trade with a friend who’s a similar size. Shop thoughtfully and invest in some high-quality staples that will last you more than one use. ESPECIALLY with kiddos–I’m as guilty as anyone of dropping some serious cash on a cute outfit for a kid, but I know he’ll outgrow it soon and that there are scores of cute outfits at the secondhand shop that have only been worn once or twice! When you buy clothes, consider if they are really meeting a need or just a temporary pick-me-up.
2. Shop in bulk bins when you can. Food waste is coming up in a later post, but grocery stores give you a heck of a lot of stuff you don’t need. Plan ahead so you don’t make impulse purchases that end up rotting in your fridge. Think about ways to cut down on food packaging (like making your own spice mix instead of buying those little packages of taco seasoning–everything you need is probably already in your pantry.) Get a big tub of yogurt instead of little tubs. Buy a huge bag of goldfish instead of individually wrapped snack packs. Just stop buying snack packs, if you can. Bulk is better. Bulk is your friend.
3. Use the internets!! Facebook marketplace/poshmark/ parenting lists/ebay/etc all sell used stuff at great prices. It takes a little hunting sometimes, but you can score a great deal on used merch and do Mother Nature a solid as well! I bought my double stroller for $60 on facebook marketplace instead of paying $350 for it new and it’s barely used and in great condition. Let’s go back to our hunter/gatherer roots and barter for the things we need from our neighbors. Even ordering something from poshmark and having it shipped to you is more energy efficient than buying new. Anything at all you can buy used instead of new is a big win.
Making used a part of your lifestyle takes some getting used to. You might not be able to find exactly what you want right at the second you want it. But won’t that make finding it all the sweeter when you do? I challenge you to try it for a week–other than essentials (groceries, toilet paper) can you go a whole week without buying a book, toy, or clothing item? See how long you can go! Your closet thanks you, your mental health thanks you, and your planet thanks you too.
That’s it! Coming soon (much sooner than 6 months I promise), C! C is for “call your reps.”