In August I decided to learn about the state of the world from an environmental perspective, and also learn what changes I could make myself to have less of an impact.
There are a ton of environmental issues, but I ended up focusing primarily on two of the major ones:
Climate Change: We’re in a lot of trouble if we don’t change the trend.
Waste (specifically plastic): The problem with plastic is that we produce a huge amount of it (just look down an aisle in any grocery store) and it never goes away. This month I learned that unlike glass & metal which can theoretically be recycled indefinitely, plastic usually either:
- Doesn’t get recycled (a lot of the plastic that you put in your recycle bin simply takes a more expensive route to landfill because there’s no market for it), OR
- Gets “downcycled” into other products like polyester which itself never breaks down and ends its life in landfill or the environment.
We’re producing a never-ending quantity of plastic on a finite earth, and poisoning the planet in the process.
To educate myself about these issues, I watched a few documentaries & other online videos, and read articles online as well as two books. Rather than listing off all of the material that I consumed, I’ll just mention the items that I found most worthwhile.
Here’s a list of the changes that I made. Many of the changes happened during the month of August but manuy also came afterwards (it’s a lot of work to change everything at once so I’ve been doing it gradually). I’m only listing changes here that have “stuck”:
Snail Mail (for bank statements etc)
Online mail (canceled as much snail mail as possible).
In plastic bottles, with questionable ingredients.
No packaging, green ingredients (Local store Terra20 allows customers to bring in re-used bottles to fill with eco-friendly detergent).
In metal containers lined with plastic.
No packaging (I now buy them in bulk in my own reusable containers).
Sealed them closed with plastic tape.
Close them by just folding them (a minor change… but everything counts!).
Plastic garbage bags.
No garbage bags. Now that I’m composting all food waste, everything that goes into my garbage can is dry… and when the garbage can is full I dump it directly into a dumpster).
Disposable plastic produce bags provided by the grocery store.
Reusable organic cotton produce bags.
Baby carrots in a plastic bag.
Full size carrots in no packaging (except for a twist-tie).
In a plastic mesh wrapper.
Loose garlic heads in no packaging.
In a plastic package.
Quit eating seaweed because I can’t get it with no packaging.
In plastic bags.
No packaging – in bulk in my own re-used containers.
I’d cook only what I’d eat right then.
I now cook a few days’ worth in advance (uses less energy for cooking) and store it in the fridge.
In plastic packaging, and with staples holding the bag & string together.
In only paper boxes & with no staples (and when I run out of my existing tea I’ll buy it loose in my own re-used containers).
Plastic Cling Wrap
I’d use it to cover food.
I now store food in mason jars & re-use the lids.
In excess packaging, including plastic.
I’ve found Dove in less packaging in some stores, and with no plastic.
In a disposable aerosol can.
I now use soap instead of shaving cream – soap that comes in no packaging. Soap works surprisingly well!
I used paper towels often.
Quit paper towels completely. I use re-usable dish cloths instead & wash them in the laundry. Why didn’t I think of this before? Paper towels are crazy!
I used glasses that were built for drinking. But my city can’t recycle them.
I now drink out of mason jars, because they’re recyclable when they break.
I’d recycle them.
I put them in the garbage because they contain BPA which gets into products made from recycled paper (i.e. toilet paper).
In plastic containers.
Quit buying berries since I can’t get them with no packaging.
In plastic bags.
Quit buying grapes since I can’t get them with no packaging.
Apple Cider Vinegar in a plastic bottle.
Switched to other types of vinegar that come in glass bottles (rice, red wine, white wine).
Bulk Foods (oats, sunflower seeds, quinoa, almonds, sesame seeds, etc)
I’d put them into the disposable plastic bags provided at the bulk food store.
I put them into my own re-used containers.
Bought physical books.
Got a Kobo and will be buying electronic books from now on.
The result of this month is that I now care more, and do more to try to preserve our future. It has taken about 4 billion years for evolution to produce life as we know it. And now, in the evolutionary blink of an eye, we’re destroying it. I hope we can find a way to stop before it’s too late.