The planet is cooking. The oceans are filling with plastic. I’m over here, trying to be a good person, trying to raise my kid, trying to have some hope for the future of life on earth, but late capitalism makes that pretty impossible. Our economic system is set up to exploit all life on the planet as ruthlessly and recklessly as possible in order to enrich a handful of billionaires. Whatcha gonna do?
It’s true, “there are no ethical consumers in global capitalism.” It’s a fallacy that a handful of concerned, privileged citizens bringing reusable bags to Whole Foods can save the world. Individual consumer choice is not just a drop in the bucket; it’s a plastic straw in the Texas-sized Pacific garbage patch. And no matter HOW green you try to be, somewhere in the supply chain of what you’re consuming, someone is being exploited, something is being poisoned. Only revolutionary societal change and radically green public policy can prevent this planet from becoming a literal dumpster fire.
Given that I can’t be a 100% ethical consumer, is it a waste of time to even try to live marginally more ethically and sustainably? I don’t think so. By making choices that are more ethical, more sustainable, we elevate our consciousness of those issues, and we spread awareness. Using reusable produce bags makes me aware of the amount of plastic film I’m consuming. Other people see me using reusable produce bags and think, huh, I use reusable grocery bags, why not produce bags? More people start doing it. One sea turtle doesn’t choke on one bag. Consciousness is elevated. Ripples. Butterfly effect. Tipping Point. Then when election season rolls around, maybe we all support politicians who center environmental issues. Maybe some states eventually pass a law banning plastic produce bags. Do that enough times, maybe everyone starts to realize that piecemeal legislation isn’t going to save the planet from the aforementioned dumpster-fire-ification, and the people rise up and demand a total restructuring of our economic system. It could happen. What? it COULD! You don’t know.
I want to make very clear–I am not out here trying to shame anyone or feel superior to anyone. Ditching disposable is NOT easy. Capitalism loves and encourages disposable culture, because when you use disposable items, you’re constantly buying replacements. Everything is set up to make reusing stuff HARD and throwing away stuff EASY. Even when it’s cost-effective to go the sustainable route (in terms of TRUE costs, it always is, but that’s a topic for another day), it’s often more time-intensive. Having the time and money to make sustainable choices is a privilege not everyone has. I have a ton of relative privilege, in the global sense, as a highly educated, middle class white lady from the United States. The amount of time and money I can devote to living sustainably is just not possible for everyone, and I totally, totally get that.
Mostly this blog will deal with the very literal ways in which I am ditching disposable items–especially trying to cut out single-use plastic. But I hope to also delve into the ways disposable culture is toxic in a more metaphysical sense. What happens when we view places as disposable? Relationships as disposable? People as disposable? What about an entire group of people or even a country? How are we dishonest about the True Cost of throwing something or someone or some place away?
Since I was a teenager, a great deal of my thoughts have been consumed with worries about the future, despair for the environment, and guilt over my carbon footprint and consumption. I’ve rarely been able to share this part of my mental environment with anyone in my life. I’m guessing a lot of Millennials feel the same way I do, but we don’t really have pathways to talk about these things. I’m hoping this blog can start a conversation with others who are passionate about green living and public policy.
I am not an expert on green living. I am by no mean zero-waste. I’m not even vegan. I first learned about zero-waste a few months ago when I stumbled across a youtube video by Sustainably Vegan. Now here I am blogging about it. SEE–Butterfly effect. Hope in the Dark. Be the change. Let’s take some baby steps!