I’ve noticed that a lot of people have provided lists of things to do (or not do) on Earth Day this year. Since there are almost an infinite number of things you could do (today and any other day) to benefit the environment, I’m going to propose something a little different: This year, for Earth Day, think. Think before you act, think before you consume, think about the fact that each of your actions has an impact on the Earth. Whether it’s positive or negative is totally up to you.
So, really, it’s about consciousness. Before you buy something, consider the raw materials that were extracted from the Earth, the impact their extraction had on natural habitats and animals, the human cost of the conditions under which the final product was produced, the resources it used to get to you, its effect on your own body, and finally, its fate after you have finished with it. The lack of transparency in the supply chain makes it harder, but not impossible, to be a conscious consumer. Always, the cost goes far beyond the sticker price.
Let’s take chocolate, for example. $1 will net you a pretty good sized Kit-Kat bar. You may think you’re buying chocolate, but you’re actually supporting a chain of events that has involved deforestation, child labor, orangutan endangerment, unsustainable agriculture, and non-renewable, pollutant energy. For an end product that is neither good for your body nor even tastes that good? I don’t think so.
The same consciousness can be applied to evaluating almost all of our actions, from the length of the showers we take, to how many kids we have, to whether we buy organic or not, and to how much stuff we buy at all. Think about your actions enough, and you’ll consistently make more sustainable, humane, environmental choices. The problem is that we — and that certainly includes me — don’t like to take the time, don’t want to change our comfortable lifestyles, don’t want to think on these terms. It’s so much easier to buy something labeled ‘eco-friendly’ than to really think about what we’re doing.
Earth Day would be an ideal time to start thinking. If you need a reminder, watch The Story of Stuff again. Who knows? It might just be the start of the kind of thinking that we all need to start doing if we want to stick around on this planet for a while longer.