Paltry Things

These are some of the actions I’ve started taking since the beginning of 2010 to be more environmentally friendly:

  1. Sign up for online bank statements.
  2. Carry a reusable bag in my purse (one of the tiny ones that rolls up into the size of a cell phone).
  3. Use a cloth bag for my lunch.
  4. Switch to cloth napkins.
  5. Unplug/switch off appliances before leaving for work and going to bed.
  6. Walk to the farmers’ market.
  7. Buy more local and organic produce.
  8. Buy only used and vintage clothing.
  9. Switch to more natural and sustainably made personal products.
  10. Clean with baking soda instead of Ajax.
  11. Switch to natural fiber sponges and use them instead of recycled paper towels (exceptions made for exceptionally messy things, like cat vomit).
  12. Buy local, organic milk in glass bottles.
  13. Take my car to the car wash instead of washing it in the driveway.
  14. Donate to Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, and WWF.
  15. Wash my clothes on cold with Seventh Generation detergent and line dry when the weather permits.
  16. 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??

Lame.

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.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Emec on 05/06/2010 at 21:25

    I like your blog! I appreciate that you admit that you’re ‘medium green.’ It seems like the greenest solution is to live like the Buddha: sit under a tree all day and eat a few grains of rice. With the American system today, nobody can be perfect and even though many of us try to be green, there are so many ways that we can be greener. I struggle with my greeniness too, and I often wonder if it really makes a difference. With the animals going extinct and our atmosphere disappearing… I often feel so guilty to be alive.

    I’d like to continue reading your blog. I put a link to your blog on mine and I hope that’s cool…

    Reply

  2. Posted by ailanna on 05/06/2010 at 21:50

    I’m flattered by the link and will attempt to update more often! I’ve bookmarked your blog as well. Thanks for finding me — an impressive feat, given that I do pretty much nothing to promote this blog.

    Reply

  3. Hi Jennifer!

    First, I want to thank you. I really like your blog and have good time reading your posts which are very interesting. I share most of your thoughts.
    But sometimes there’s something I can’t agree with and that’s why I decided to comment here, hoping we can have kind of a dialog and think further on this together. In this particular article you mention that you’re a member of The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. I can’t agree with the main idea of the movement and want to share my thoughts on this. //Just for information – I’m not an american, I’m from Ukraine, IT specialist and kind of a traveler temporarily working in US, trying my best to be green, almost married and not fascinated with a thought of having a baby //
    So it’s obvious for me that decision like being child-free are made by intelligent, often highly-educated people. And it’s also obvious that kind of movement like VHEMT is much more likely to take place in an economically developed country like US. So, what VHEMT members believe and I don’t is that population decline at the expense of lives of intelligent people is the way to solve global ecological problems. Do you really think that if smart people die out, less smart ones will not be happy to take their place? Don’t you think that it is important that conscious people stay here and spread awareness and continue to develop ecologically-friendly production and technologies that will work for the good of humans and the Earth? I can’t imagine that people who are not conscious enough now to live green and teach their kids to do so will become more conscious when you and me will die and release some free space and resources for them. I believe we should stay and fight, and teach our kid if we finally decide to have one so that he\she will represent green thoughts in the future world and contribute to the development of technologies and protection of the environment.

    P.S. Sorry for so much text I just tried my best to express what I think and English is not my native🙂

    Reply

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