My journey to achieving a “sustainable” life has been a bit frustrating because, in the grand scheme of things, my bamboo toothbrush is not really making the biggest impact, but at least I’m trying.
It gets thrown around a lot that we are the ones who put the planet through this misery which technically it is true, humans are, for sure, the number one reason climate change has accelerated throughout the years. But your average citizen is not necessarily at fault for it, years of policies, regulations, oil drilling, deforestation, industrialization, to name a few have led us to where we are right now. We are at fault for ignoring it, maybe we didn’t know any better, but now that we do it’s different. We can’t avoid this responsibility.
After more people take action, communities strive to become greener and will start demanding solutions from companies and our governments. At the end of the day, governments and conglomerates are the ones who have the biggest impact on our environment.
By now, we should know recycling is not the end-all solution (especially after finding out only 9% of recollected plastic is actually recycled) nor is living a zero-waste life. Which is as much as we can control or contribute on our daily decisions or so we think.
Becoming more sustainable comes at a higher price and unfortunately, it’s not the most affordable option for some families. In my case, I can afford to switch to more alternative solutions and try to avoid certain products. But for other families, they can’t avoid buying plastic water bottles when they don’t have access to clean water (hopefully, they’re recycling those bottles).
Sustainability is not a straight line. There’re a lot of factors that restrict us from becoming a less wasteful society, especially from the socioeconomic standpoint. People who gain minimum wage in America can’t afford to buy sustainable jeans or avoid fast fashion altogether, it’s unreasonable to buy $100 jeans, and other families can’t even afford to buy fresh produce and opt for McDonald’s.
Ok, so transitioning into zero waste it’s not a piece of cake, that’s clear, but we can consume less. This is why in my minimalist post, I said minimalism helps you become more sustainable at the end. Yes, becoming zero waste means opting for more sustainable options but now that it’s clear it’s not viable for everyone, we can try and be more conscious about our consumerism. By no means I’m implying you should give up entirely on becoming more sustainable because it’s too expensive, no, don’t use it as an excuse either.
The most tangible result of man-made pollution we’ve seen so far has been the amounts of plastic and waste we see in our oceans. This means the easiest way you can have a positive impact and contribute is by reducing your waste.
America produces around 728,000 tons of daily garbage and consumes 17% of the world’s energy; That alone tells you how big America’s carbon footprint is and I’m probably not wrong speculating that a chunk of this waste comes from the consumerist culture here. I really do believe adopting minimalist practices will get you closer to a zero waste lifestyle.
My waste and carbon footprint augmented after I moved to America. As I said before in my post about minimalism, when I moved here I became ten times more materialistic.
America’s culture is very different from Venezuela (the country I was born and raised in). In Venezuela we’re not used to throwing things away once they get bad, we try to fix them first, and extend their lifetime before discarding it. In America, it’s cheaper to buy it new rather than trying to fix it. You can see where I’m going with this…
Sadly, you’ll never be 100% sustainable. Not even our Lord and savior Leonardo DiCaprio is. It’s like going off-the-grid, virtually impossible because there are many factors beyond our control that will affect the environment. It’s not the lack of trying or effort you might put into the daily choices, it’s because what’s causing the biggest impact in our environment comes from faults in our systems.
So, don’t obsess over not being 100% sustainable and waste-free; it’s fine, but don’t stop trying to be. Also, don’t shame people into it either. Be considerate and empathetic with this attitude you’re able to inspire more people instead of spooking them away by being annoying.
This post overall was inspired by this video. It’s a more empathetic way to see sustainability and how it means different things for people. My main takeaway of this video, which is something I mentioned in my Minimalism post, is that the goal is to strive to have less. If we consume less, we produce less waste.
Becoming eco-friendly it’s not a competition of who has the most aesthetically pleasing pantry or who’s wearing jeans made of 100 plastic bottles because you’re falling into the consumerism rabbit hole once again.
The idea is to reduce our consumption and reuse what we already have. Getting creative with what you already own before throwing it away and trying to become more conscious about what you’re buying next time.
Hey man, it’s not easy but might as well try.