In my day job, I spend a good amount of my time thinking about ways to educate 17-20 years about sustainability issues, which has triggered a profound level of self-reflection regarding my lifestyle habits.
I’ve always been concerned about the environment, but in a “convenient for me” kind of way. I recycle. I buy a lot of organic. I believe in fair trade and support local agriculture when I can. I’m a vegetarian of 26 years. I try to buy eco products. I do more than most.
But honestly, if you look more closely at my consumerism, there are flaws in the rhetoric I espouse. I consume too much. I don’t think about the fabrics I buy and buy new more than second hand. I’m a lazy environmentalist. It’s true. And that’s “ok” as I know I’ve done more than most and do work to encourage others to rethink their environmental footprint. It’s not perfect but I’m trying. And the more I learn, the more I think about how to manifest a more mindful sustainability in my day to day life.
I started off 2018 with a minimalistic purge. I emptied cupboards and closets and dug deep to get rid of a lot of the excess in my life. While I got rid of a lot, I’d be lying if I said this work was anywhere near done. I still have a lot of things to sort and purge. A shameful amount of things really.
How did we get to this point of excess? As individuals and as a society? Even after my decluttering process, my house is full of so much stuff. I literally wanted to cry when I realized how much money and effort I’d put into this ownership of stuff. How much of my happiness had been consumed by consumerism. It made me think a lot about the emotional nature of consumerism and what society is teaching us about possession.
And now, prepping my college students for a campus wide plastic straw ban and education about the problems with single use plastic, I am learning so much more about plastic than I ever expected.
Shit people, I am feeling that same dismay over how much our society has become dependent on plastic and how very harmful this product is to our ecosystems. From olive oil bottles to shampoo, everything we own seems to be sold in plastic containers. And recycling it really doesn’t solve the problem. From clothing to kids toys, we are killing ourselves, and not even slowly.
My partner and I have been talking a lot about how we can start reducing our dependence on plastic in small consistent ways. What we can do while we shop, replacing our tupperware when they break with glass, etc. We’re looking at small, incremental steps but I won’t lie, I think we both feel totally overwhelmed by it given how EVERYTHING is wrapped in plastic.
And let’s not even get started with how we’re going to convince our family to not feed into the plastic consumerism when it comes to gifts for our son! Trying to encourage family to buy experiences instead of gifts has already proven to be an epic fail in our family (don’t even get me started on the rage this stirs up in me with regard to family dynamics – I know you can’t convince others to share your beliefs but respect for your beliefs should be a given and yet it’s not. There is so much anger to unpack in that statement, it’s best left at that!)
But thankfully we’re both committed to trying to do more. It won’t all happen today, or likely even this year, but that’s ok. Small steps will help. And as we learn more, we’ll be able to do better.