Plastic, and the pollution that results from it is everywhere- our shoes, our cutlery, our technology, and yes, even our food and water. Whether we are aware of it, accept it, or are actively fighting it, it is overwhelming. We're in far over our heads. Which only makes it easier to write off our individual impact. There are so many of us, and so much unconscious consumption. What good can one shorter shower, one bottle recycled or one meal eaten without meat do? It's true that legislation is necessary to create waves strong enough to implement true sustainable change at this point in time. But I am here to argue that that one shorter shower, that one bottle recycled and that one meal eaten without meat can make a world of difference! Sure, the effect is not immediate, but its ripples are immense.
At the root of any sustainable leadership philosophy there is something resembling the line “to be a great leader one must be able to lead to create other great leaders”. When you acknowledge the materials you are or are not consuming (the plastic of your water bottle, the the styrofoam of your takeout cook-out tray, the synthetic fibers of your clothes), and make a conscious decision to abstain from those that will harm the earth, you take responsibility into your own hands. When you post a photo or video of sustainable action on social media (a recent rising trend) you plant that seed of a lifestyle somewhere into the conscious or subconscious of every viewer that scrolls past it. As grass roots organizations can teach us, the power of the people is strong. Our voice not only serves to make change, but to stimulate it by promoting- one person, and one conversation at a time.
Let's take it all the way back to that should-be familiar proverb, “reduce, reuse, recycle”. Sure, most of us claim to “recycle” but what is little known is that the bulk of what we do toss into the blue bin actually never makes it through the recycling process. Any kind of styrofoam, plastic bag (including trash bags), container holding hazardous chemicals or cleaning products, food contaminated items (such as pizza boxes or unwashed yogurt containers) gets pulled from the recycling line and thrown into the trash along with anything else it contaminated. Sometimes, if a batch of recycling is too tainted (for example, if an entire apartment complex puts their recyclables in trash bags before putting them in the dumpsters) the whole batch will be disregarded and sent to the landfill.
Which brings us to reuse, did you know that it takes 700 gallons of water to make a single cotton shirt? Well it does. The average American throws out about 82 pounds of textile waste per year. Clothing takes 40 years at the least to decompose, and that is only if there is enough oxygen at the landfill sight for decomposition to occur. With thrifting on the rise, the reuse of textiles seems to have a promising future. And yet, simultaneously, there exists the rampant “hype-beast” culture being driven by brand names and having the newest, hottest item on the market. These purchases are seldom investments, and usually pummel in worth after the trend subdues a few months in. Then, it is onto the next, newest product. The majority of waste that results from using new products is imbedded in the production process: the fuel to power the machinery and the air pollution resultant of it; the runoff that pollutes the local water and land of the production sight; the dense carbon footprint left behind from transportation and distribution of the product once created.
So finally we reach the first (and often over-looked) step in the cycle, reduce. This means actually cutting down on the amount of consumption occurring in the first place. It includes everything from not buying the single use product wrapped in three layers of excess packaging to not taking that second paper towel when it only takes one to dry your hands. It is a preventative action that seems to be disregarded in the address of our pollution epidemic. As “going green” hits a sharp incline in popular culture, reusable consumer products litter the shelves of any grocery or convenient store (their prices skyrocketing as a result). Corporate America has snuffed out yet another opportunity to capitalize on its citizens, promoting the purchase of new material goods when, in all likely-hood, you have just what you need to be a sustainable citizen in your home right now!
We need to stop consumption at is core, not just continue to post produce weak, reactionary and surface-valued solutions to extremely dense, multi-faceted issues.
Things you can do:
-Recycle, but do it correctly! CLEAN AND SORT YOUR RECYCLABLES . Avoiding contamination of your recycling hauls at the source makes it more efficient and cheaper for everyone.
-Resell, donate, or even regift (they don't have to know, nor should they care)! Minimize the amount of things that you yourself put into the trash bin. Reuse everything you can, and if you cant, let someone else! One mans trash is another mans treasure, after-all.
-Invest in products with will stand the test of time!!!!!
-Don't blame the corporations (even though *cough cough* they should be stepping up to the plate). Take responsibility as a consumer, do your part and then demand more from our legislation and our leaders!
And that’s that on that.