These are some of the actions I’ve started taking since the beginning of 2010 to be more environmentally friendly:
- Sign up for online bank statements.
- Carry a reusable bag in my purse (one of the tiny ones that rolls up into the size of a cell phone).
- Use a cloth bag for my lunch.
- Switch to cloth napkins.
- Unplug/switch off appliances before leaving for work and going to bed.
- Walk to the farmers’ market.
- Buy more local and organic produce.
- Buy only used and vintage clothing.
- Switch to more natural and sustainably made personal products.
- Clean with baking soda instead of Ajax.
- Switch to natural fiber sponges and use them instead of recycled paper towels (exceptions made for exceptionally messy things, like cat vomit).
- Buy local, organic milk in glass bottles.
- Take my car to the car wash instead of washing it in the driveway.
- Donate to Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, and WWF.
- Wash my clothes on cold with Seventh Generation detergent and line dry when the weather permits.
- Use tupperware instead of plastic bags and plastic wrap for food storage.
I’ve already been a vegetarian for a few years and took the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement pledge when I was a teen, which are actions that have significantly more impact than all the 16 listed above. But there are days on which I read something about how pandas and polar bears could be extinct in a few decades, or about how global warming could cause catastrophic economic collapse, in response to which…I wrote a check? Turned a knob on the washing machine? Saved a Ziploc bag from being used??
The proportion of the actions we take to the size of the problem is sometimes laughable. So why bother? I ask myself this whenever I’m ready to conclude that my actions make no significant difference in the overall scheme of things. Apparently I’m not alone. Sami Grover on Treehugger also wonders about the impact of these little eco-habits and comes to the conclusion that, although limited in their total effect, these small things we do symbolize a different attitude (and commitment) to using resources more consciously.
I agree, but would argue that the main reason I continue with my eco-habits is personal. If I am aware of the problem, and aware of ways — however small — to help alleviate it, it is my moral responsibility to do them. If I can’t be the solution, or even part of the solution (and let’s face it, any first world citizen is probably not going to have a beneficial impact on the Earth), I want to be as little of the problem as I can.
Environmentalism isn’t a part of everyone’s moral code, but it sure as hell should be. Why shouldn’t it be uncomplicatedly wrong to treat the planet we depend on (far more tangibly than we depend on any deity) irresponsibly?
Until we all get there, I’m clinging to my eco-habits, negligible effects and all, because I want to be the type of person who consistently tried to do the right thing by the planet.