Earth Day Consumption

A few weeks ago I was looking for another 5K to join, maybe at the end of April. I was surprised to see one of the “eco-friendly” events was connected to Dow Chemical. Seriously? Run for Water. Clean water is VERY important – and I can get behind the cause of clean water to those who don’t have it. I’ve mentioned before that Americans have the luxury of clean water, FROM A FAUCET, that they can drink and bathe in with no ill effects.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be too judgmental about Dow Chemical. I’m prejudiced, maybe, because of their past implications in environmental toxicity and human suffering (you know, like Agent Orange “the government made us do it!”). Or their continued role with plastics (some of which end up in our oceans or are downcycled, at best in the developing world.) Should I applaud companies that were once known as the big baddies of pollution embracing “green” causes?

You know, like when Burt’s Bees, once known for their very little plastic (caps on toner bottles ONLY), and aluminum, recycled paperboard and glass packaging). A few years ago (before being purchased by Clorox) 80% of the company was bought by a private equity firm, many of their holdings being in packaging. This is when I noticed an increase in their distribution (as well as the repackaging of many of their products into plastic containers.

Burt’s Bees is still one of the highest rated companies when it comes to their environmental friendliness and natural ingredients. (You used to be able to EAT most of their products, they were that safe. Seriously.) If I remember correctly, when they were purchased by Clorox, Clorox announced that they would be taking a cue from Burt’s Bees and greening up some of their every-day products.

Greenwashing is a big business. I’m sure that large companies who probably didn’t care at all 20 years ago about their environmental impact care now, and maybe that is making a difference, despite their continuing to play a part in polluting the earth. Global warming aside, we can agree that clean water is an issue, and industrial pollution and insufficient sanitation is a measurable fact that has an impact on human society and the food sources we depend on.

On this Earth Day, I’m trying to be mindful of my consumption. I’m surrounded by plastic containers, and wonder what more I can do to make my positive impact more than it is. The key, as it always has been, is to curb consumption. Don’t buy what you don’t need or won’t use. Don’t buy what is unnecessary. (Will a good kitchen knife, kept in great shape, with some knife skills classes if you’re not skilled, do better than a handful of patented gadgets that all do something that you can do with one good knife?) Think about where everything in your life will end up one day. Landfill? Ocean? Your children’s house? Your garden? India? China? Out of sight shouldn’t equal out of mind.

You can’t consume your way out of consuming. Every choice we make has an impact, even if we don’t see it.

4 thoughts on “Earth Day Consumption

  1. Curbing consumption is good, of course. But I think the key is regulation. Making it illegal to use plastic in certain ways will do much more to reduce it’s use than a few of us trying to find the rare companies that choose to avoid plastic on their own.

    I’ve heard somewhere that paper is just as bad for the environment as plastic, because of how it’s manufactured or something, but I have a hard time believing that. It might involve carbon emissions or something, but paper is simply not going to end up floating in the pacific for the next 500 years, getting eaten by sea creatures and eventually making its way up the food chain and into our bodies, the way plastic does.

    1. They tried to have a “bag tax” in Seattle for the use of plastic bags. It was voted down by the public, “but what will I pick up my dog’s poop with?!” It was a lousy 25 cents a bag. I think it was the American Plastics Council that supplied most of the money against the proposition.

      Paper is bad for the environment with regard to air and water pollution in the bleaching and milling process, iirc. It’s also more energy intensive than plastic production. I think that it comes out to be that the energy to make a recycled paper bag is far greater than the energy required to make a new plastic bag. There are a lot of cost/benefits to look at. I, too, tend to look at where it goes, especially with the oceans and sea shore. On Cozumel, the shore is littered with plastic ribbons and crap. That’s the major debris. It’s hideous. Washed up glass? Beautiful (also, glass bottles can be habitats for sea life.) Paper? Degrades. Metal? Sinks. (Though, can be problematic depending on the metal.)

      It’s a tough call, but I’m OK with saying I want to curb my plastic consumption. Now to find a good shampoo/conditioner option that doesn’t involve a lot of plastic.

  2. I’m doing my part. Tonight, sizing parts and confirming lathe availability to rebuild the grass deck on a 1979 craftsman lawn tractor instead of buying a new mower.

    I can really get behind the ‘re-use’ part of reduce, re-use, recycle.

    1. I like re-use and repair as ways to curb consumption. One of my peeves is with shoes. The leather uppers on most of my shoes are in good condition long past the rubber sole’s life, yet it’s really hard to find a pair of shoes that I want to wear (at a price point that I feel willing to pay) that have the ability to be re-soled and the leather repaired as needed.

      Another way I like to curb consumption is to buy what I need the first time, over-specing if reasonable, if it means that what I’m buying will have a longer life/range of use than a lower priced alternative. This is where maybe I should get on board with buying $300 useful, though not sexy, Mephisto shoes. Really, it’s worth paying up front for something you don’t have to throw away and replace every 10-12 months.

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