The more I travel, the more I become aware of my waste.
This began on my trip with GIVE volunteers in Thailand. We embarked on a tuk-tuk to a remote village far North of Chaing Mai, near the Burmese border. Our leaders took us on a tour of our accommodations and pointed out the various trash cans (metal, plastic, compost, etc.). They explained how many of these villages do not have waste management systems, and how it is important for tourists to be mindful of this and aim for the “pack in, pack out” mentality. This consisted of taking shorter showers, not “donating clothes” by leaving them at the accommodations, and bringing all of the trash we accumulated back with us. I was also able to practice this in Laos and Tanzania with GIVE. Yes, my pack was a little heavier, and yes, I sometimes had to take a few extra steps to put my can in the proper bin but after a few days, it was simply habit.
Contrary to popular belief, your trash does not just disappear when you put it in the dumpster or roll your bin to the end of the driveway. It is sent to a landfill, unsorted and crushed to create another layer of waste that emits toxic chemicals into the dirt (OUR FOOD), groundwater (OUR DRINKING WATER), and air (OUR SOURCE OF OXYGEN).
I know this is when many of you will say “oh no, not another environmentalist shaming me for being ‘normal'” and close out your browser, but I promise that is not what this post is about.
For many of us (especially coming from personal experience of being a college student on a tight budget), we cannot afford to shop at only local grocery stores or for various reasons may not want to go vegan. But there is all at least one thing we can do to be a better, more mindful global citizen. The truth is, many of us will never understand the negative effects of our disposing behaviors, but eventually someone will…maybe our grandchildren or someone in a less-fortunate situation who has an increased risk of exposure to these chemicals. Either way, this is unjust, and we must all take on the responsibility to do our part.
“Okay fine, Lane. What can I do? (But don’t go crazy!)”
Have you ever read “Made in ______” on your tank top? Unfortunately, many companies exploit their workers and underpay them. This also tends to disproportionately affect women, which indirectly impacts children and education. I’m sure you can now picture the cyclical process of poverty being reenforced globally.
So where can I shop? Thrift stores, Patagonia, Adidas, Zara, and H&M. How do I know if it’s eco-friendly? Download the app, “Good on You”. You can search any brand! Although many of these prices may be SLIGHTLY higher, the clothes tend to be made of higher quality and will last longer.
No, you don’t have to go cold-turkey vegan or vegetarian.
Some ways to grocery shop sustainably:
- reduce using plastic bags
- buying seasonal food (costs less too!)
- reduce meat consumption
- buy items with less packaging
Also, eating locally and buying from a farmer’s market are other great ways to be environmentally conscious. An easy way to implement this is to look for the words “fair-trade” on the label.
Compost and Recycling Bins
As many of you know, many cities provide free recycling pick-up. Also, there are many free drop-off locations for composting.
My roommates and I keep a bowl in the kitchen with a lid. Things that can go in a compost:
- Food scraps
- Coffee grounds and tea bags
- Dryer lint
- Hair from hairbrush
Plastic comes in a variety of forms: plastic bags from the grocery store, plastic utensils, straws, water bottles, cups, etc. In many other progressive and even developing countries, these things do not exist. Don’t use straws at restaurants! Buy portable utensils, so you don’t have to use plastic ones! Bring reusable bags to the store! Use tupperware instead of plastic bags!
Here is what I have bought and keep on me at all times:
- Bamboo utensils
- Fold-up reusable tote
- Water bottle (myth buster: tap water is better quality than bottled water with higher regulations!)
- Solar portable charger
The truth is: we all vote with our dollar. Even if you may not be politically active, your dollar says a lot about what you believe in. Let’s fight for our home (Earth) and for the future generations by just taking one step! Comment with your step and share with your friends!
So that I can be held accountable…My change will be: air drying my clothes instead of using the dryer.
- Carpooling or Public Transportation
- Stairs over the elevator
- Use cloth instead of paper towels
- Go paper-less! Newspaper apps, electronic banking statements and billing, etc.