If you caught last week’s introduction then you know this journey started in response to a backslide I had in my environmentally concious habits. Over the course of a year or so I seemed to go from girl who took action for the planet to girl who seemed to be doing a lot to work against it. I had always thought myself relatively earth friendly. I’ve done a couple waterway clean-ups, sent a few letters to government officials encouraging various environmental laws, encouraged practices to reduce paper waste in offices where I’ve worked in and carry around a reusable water bottle most everywhere I go. The problem is my dedication to my conservation efforts has always waxed and waned; or for every one good thing I did, there would be an equal negative to muck it up.
I’ve picked up trash left behind on the beach but then shamefully passed right by garbage sitting on the ground. Maybe I was worried about germs, didn’t know where I was going to put it because there wasn’t a trash can around to place it in, or embarrassingly enough, was just too lazy. I’d pass garbage alongside the road, shake my head at it and tell myself when I had some time I was going to “go around and pick up garbage” but then I never would.
I’ve recycled both at home, and even tried to go out of my way to keep a recycling bin, which I would take to a drop-off, at the small office where I last worked, though eventually I lost steam. And then of course there was that whole momentary lapse that occured last year.
I’d keep all gift bags and tissue paper to reuse but half the time I’d still end up wrapping gifts at birthdays and Christmas time.
I take reusable bags with me to the grocery store, but sometimes I’d forget them, or send my husband unarmed and he’d return with armfuls of plastic bags. While those bags that come home always either get reused to line trashcans, pick up dog poop or were taken to be recycled, I recognize this is still not ideal.
Through cooking food from scratch for our daughter (who we affectionately call “Beans”), we have avoided many single serving containers, jars and squeeze pouches. Being a dietitian and knowing the importance getting plenty of fruits and vegetables, my eating habits have always leaned more towards vegetarian, therefore we don’t eat meat on a daily basis. Even before starting my journey I started grabbing beans from the bulk bins so that I had the freshest beans to cook for Beans. But, even the bulk would end up in paper bags…and the bags that house the frozen vegetables/fruits I keep on hand are in plastic bags…and the snacks we grab are in bags…and sometimes I’d bring home boxes with individual wrapped granola bars. Even things like milk, yogurt, butter, oils, spices, fresh vegetables, eggs, etc, all come in some sort of container.
Sometimes we order take-out or delivery. While not that often, it still feels like it was too often. Which for some reason it seems to come in styrofoam…why the heck are places still even using styrofoam?? Then somehow I never have a reusable coffee mug with me when I swing through for the occasional Starbucks. Have you ever noticed how much trash comes out of a drive thru window? Stacks of paper napkins, bags, cups, straws…its ridiculous.
Before this project began we went through paper towels, single use zipper bags, foil and used throw away utensils, paper plates and solo cups for parties…all the while feeling that twinge of guilt in the back of my mind, but never doing anything about it. A lot of times I’d simply be a bystander – attending a get together at someone else’s house who had the smorgasbord of trash being left behind in its wake.
Then there’s the fact that I couldn’t get on board with cloth diapers…
So even though I had always identified myself as someone who cared about the state of the planet and the effect of garbage on our ecosystems, I haven’t consistently lived the life of someone who did.
Out of curiosity, I took this footprint quiz the other week and was actually a little stunned by the results…
5 planets?! What the…
According to the Earth Day Network, the whole point of the Ecological Footprint is to “highlight the reality of ecological scarcity” and that “human society will need to make significant changes to ‘business as usual’ if it wants to create a sustainable future.” It takes into account all biological materials consumed and wasted in a given year. Basically as a whole our planet uses more from nature than our planet can renew in a whole year. Yikes!! Scary stuff and very important for all to think about.
In general I’ve been one of the many, playing a part in “overshooting” our planets resources: I’ve used electricity pretty liberally, my food hasn’t always been locally grown, I’ve made my fair share of garbage and have had times (particularly last year) where I’ve fallen into the consumer trap. Through this journey I hope to change that by: steadily cutting away at the things in my life that contribute towards the overconsumption of resources and living a life that treads lightly. Then, at that point, I will finally feel like I can truly consider myself earth friendly.