Today is apparently Earth Day, and while I'm all for a day focused on spreading environmentalism and becoming more conscious about humanity's impact on the planet, I really don't think one day is enough to make up for, well, anything.
I consider myself to be a very environmentally conscious person. I know to recycle plastics #1-5, I will sit in the dark for much longer than most people can so I don't turn on a light, I buy my produce from local farms, and I don't own a car. I'm even devoting my college experience to learning about environmental history, policy, and science.
However, I'm not doing as much as I possibly can.
Call me lazy, cheap, materialistic, vain, whatever - there are many parts of my life that aren't exactly eco-friendly.
Flaw #1: Being a College Student
From the mountains of take-out styrofoam to the piles of solo cups (which can't be recycled in Pittsburgh, at least) and Natty Light cans that arise every weekend, college students create a lot of waste. Then there are the stacks of greasy cardboard boxes that are the result of late-night study and pizza sessions. It's all just so gross and bad in so many ways.
- learn to cook. You think Chipotle makes a great burrito? Well, they do, but you can whip up your own for a fraction of the cost without the bagful of trash that comes with it. Buy some tortillas, canned beans, an avocado, and some tomatoes, and go to town.
- use a cup more than once. I thought I was a genius over Carnival when I brought my own mixed drink all over campus in my reusable Starbucks cup for cold drinks. It was inconspicuous and I probably saved over a dozen cups from getting used and tossed. Although I wouldn't recommend sucking up beer through a straw - that was weird. Now that daytime partying is over and done with for the year, I've cleaned it out and it is now providing me with enough homemade iced coffee (another great idea) to fuel me through finals.
- study in the library. I recently had the brilliant epiphany that if I stay on campus in the well-lit and properly temperate library then I will save money on my home utility bills. This also has the potential to increase overall productivity because there are far fewer things to distract you when you're not wandering around your room, which will give you more time to do things like cook real food, walk instead of drive, and lots of other great green activities.
Flaw #2: Magazine Obsession
I'll admit that I have a real problem when it comes to printed materials - I love, love, LOVE having stacks of magazines, catalogs, and newspapers to go through (keep in mind that this is in addition to all of the blogs that I'm devoted to). However, I'm so behind in my Newsweeks and Nylons that I don't actually get around to reading them all in a timely manner. I keep all of my magazines just in case I'll ever need to collage an old Chanel campaign or see what Sienna Miller was wearing on last year's September issue of Vogue, but unread newspapers just get recycled. And recycling is just as bad as throwing it in the trash if you never actually used it - it's wasteful.
- head to the library. Last summer I realized that the Carnegie Library in Oakland subscribes to basically every single magazine in any language you'd like, so instead of spending $4.95 to read an Olsen interview in a magazine that I would only really flip through once, I would utilize their selection. And if I really fell in love with a spread, only then would I go out and buy the whole edition. Saves money and trees.
- look for online editions and applications. I love the Nylon iPod app - they have some unique content on there and it's a good way to keep myself occupied during class.
Flaw #3: Compulsive Shopper
This morning my inbox was flooded with promotions for eco-friendly products - 'green' make-up, organic dresses, fair-trade gourmet coffee. But our over-zealous consumerism is really what is ruining this planet. The waste and emissions associated with the production, transportation, and disposal of even our most mundane purchases are causing a tremendous amount of strain on the planet. The energy and pesticides that go into making a new dress that I may only wear once are not worth the $19 that I'll spend on it at F21.
- shop your closet. I have a ridiculous amount of clothing that I never wear, but once I start scoping around the back of my drawers, I realize that I actually still like a lot of it. Before you pick up yet another perfect grey v-neck, make sure you don't already have something pretty darn similar already.
- sell/donate your stuff. As long as it's not gross, someone else will probably pay good money for your cast-offs. Just because those skinny jeans are now a little too skinny doesn't mean they should end up in a landfill. Drop your stuff at a local Goodwill, consignment shop, or set up your own Etsy site to clean up your closet.
- bring your own bags. While I feel especially giddy when I come through the door swinging several shopping bags, all stuffed with goodies and tissue paper, it's really unnecessary. So if you must scratch the itch to shop, bring a cute tote along with you and when the sales person reaches for a plastic bag, say, "Oh, I actually have my own."
This is really just scratching the surface of our deeply flawed society, but anything is better than nothing. No act is too small to make a difference!
How are you celebrating the Earth today? And how green are you really?