Going Green, But Not Green Enough
In the past few years, how ‘green’ have you been? Do you know exactly how much carbon footprint you’re leaving behind? A great number of people live their lives in an eco-friendly way. This planet-saving movement isn’t just a niche thing anymore. It has almost become a standard for societies around the world. Trash bins that segregate garbage for recycling are found in private and public spaces alike. People are taught at an early age on how to recycle and segregate trash properly. We are going green but are we going green enough?
The History of Recycling
Recycling became a worldwide phenomenon back in the 1930s when the Great Depression kept people from throwing used objects and instead reuse them to save money. However, the economic boom after the war gave birth to extravagant consumption. The 1970s was when recycling became a mainstream idea, with the first Earth Day happening in April of 1970, an event that was considered to be a catalyst for the environmental movement.
The Effect of Progress
Despite the eco-friendly movement initiated in the late 20th century, present-day earth is still in deep trouble with the amount of garbage contained in its many landfills. The staggering amount of pollution has had a detrimental effect on the world due to the speed at which we as a civilization have grown. Advancements in technology have enabled big corporations to increase their production rates exponentially which in turn produce more waste that needs disposing of.
For example, over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed by pollution every year. Approximately less than 60% of the lakes in America are still habitable for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming because 1.3 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, stormwater, and industrial waste are dumped in US waters every year. Carbon footprint is another thing that’s been rising in the past few decades. This is defined as the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide. According to the Global Carbon Project, global carbon emissions in 2018 are set to hit an all-time high of 37.1 billion tonnes.
Going Green, But Not Green Enough
There are numerous ways to make a difference if you want to save the planet, from buying alternative and sustainable products to pushing for a zero-waste lifestyle. You can also avail of goods and services that are less harmful to the environment. However, one has to know for sure what these products do and how they are made instead of buying them blindly due to ads, packaging, and going with the trend of being environment-friendly.
What many don’t realize is that some products that are branded as ‘eco-friendly’ aren’t all that green. Here are a few things that you might think are 100% eco-friendly but can be deemed otherwise.
Buying Organic Produce
You have probably come across this term when at the grocery store. Organic vegetables and fruits are ones that are free of toxic chemicals such as insecticides and pesticides which a lot of big farming companies use to maximize profit. The downside of this is that a lot of the organic produce you see are actually shipped in from abroad.
The importation of these fruits and vegetables involve the large consumption of gas, resulting in exhaust fumes that damage the atmosphere. So even if you avoid buying products that patronize the use of harmful chemicals, that is canceled out by the exhaust fumes you get from food miles. If you have the means to, why not grow your own vegetables or start your own chicken revolution?
Using a Hybrid Car
When we talk about the green revolution, one of the lasting symbols that represents this movement is the hybrid car. Whether it’s the Prius or the Tesla, hybrid cars are driven by people who wish to make a statement on the need for a greener attitude towards the planet. After all, hybrid cars don’t consume conventional fossil fuel. However, it takes a whole load of resource materials to produce one of these cars. It is more eco-friendly to walk, run, or bike whenever you can when going from one place to another.
When you segregate plastics and send it off to be picked up by the garbage truck, that doesn’t exactly mean your recycling journey is complete. There are over 50 different kinds of plastics and not all local plants are equipped with the technology to recycle these various types of plastic. Instead, you should avoid using single-use plastics as much as possible and go for items that are packaged in easily-recycled material like glass, metal, or paper. This way you can be sure you aren’t just adding to the already enormous amounts of garbage in landfills.
Biodegradable Poop Bags
Taking your dog for a walk is the perfect time to have him or her take a dump away from your home and at a place where the stink won’t be as intrusive. Using a biodegradable bag when this happens is a great move, but don’t just stop there. Throwing these bags just anywhere will result in the bag decomposing and the contents in the form of methane gas will be released into the atmosphere. The more environment-friendly thing to do is to wait and find a poop-only bin, or bury the bag if you have a back or front yard.
Going vegetarian is often associated with eco-warriors and environmental activists as a movement may be one of those things that sounds like something an eco-warrior should be doing. After all, you prevent yourself from consuming meat that took a great number of resources to produce, not to mention the amount of methane coming from farms all around the world.
Vegetarianism will help with going green to some extent, but there are some kinds of food you should avoid. For example, dairy has a big environmental cost to produce while cacao is causing Amazon forests to be razed. In Mexico, the expanded production of avocado has caused rainforests to be constantly displaced.
What You Can Do
At the end of the day, as much as we try and have a greener lifestyle, large corporations are the biggest offenders when it comes to polluting the environment. Buying produce with fewer food miles or avoiding meat or dairy may be a decent idea, but it would be better to raise awareness about the troubling realities mentioned above.
Contact customer hotlines of your favorite products and request feedback on the environmental impact of what they are buying. Share these bits of information with your friends and on social media to help your message reach a wider audience. Don’t be angry and inconsiderate towards those who don’t make the same efforts as you do when it comes to saving the environment. Educate them instead of belittling them. Kindness goes a long way, especially if you’re raising awareness to those who are uninformed.
However, it is still important to know that eco-guilt isn’t enough to save the environment. That kind of mentality is a bit shortsighted, as it takes a conscious effort and genuine intentions to properly live an eco-friendly lifestyle. You need to know why you are doing the things you do as an eco-warrior, instead of blindly or half-heartedly joining a bandwagon.
Consumers need to understand the trade-offs and know what is best to buy and learn more about the activism that they are getting themselves into. They need to go out of their way to research which purchases are ethical. Keeping in mind things like sustainable fishing practices and ethical treatment of rainforests is a huge favor to the planet. You can also choose sustainable products that were made entirely by artisans, like handwoven vintage rugs or custom furniture.
Another big thing you can do is to commit to consuming less altogether instead of looking for alternative ‘green’ products and services that take up environmental resource to make. Reducing your carbon footprint is one of the best things you can do as an eco-friendly individual. Of course, reducing your food waste goes a long way in maximizing the natural resources that were used in producing what’s on your plate.
It’s Not All Bad News
The good news is that recycling and composting prevented 85 Million tons of material from being disposed of in
2010, a great improvement compared to the 18 million tons in 1980. Recycling also creates 1.1 million jobs in the US, with $236 billion in gross annual sales and $37 billion in annual payrolls. Every bit of recycling, no matter how big or small is helpful. Stanford University saved the equivalent of 33,913 trees and the need for 636 tons of iron, coal, and limestone after one year of recycling their wastes.
Recycling and being eco-friendly is always. It is when consumers take the convenient shortcuts instead of spending more time on internalizing how to become genuinely eco-friendly that recycling doesn’t fulfill its promise. You have to start looking at the bigger picture. It’s not the product itself that is ruining our planet; it’s the production, packaging, transportation.
Saving the planet isn’t easy. Going organic, using biodegradable poop bags, and vegetarianism are all acts that mean well. But when done for the sake of being considered ‘green,’ these acts don’t help the planet as much if not done correctly.
About the Author
Besides being eco-friendly, Raina Fadel is a fan of art. She is interested in handwoven vintage rugs and other vintage interior decors.