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Better You, Better Planet
We (privileged people) use a lot of stuff. That stuff is made from resources that we overconsume.
In a society like that of the United States, so many of our purchasing decisions and basic choices about how we live our lives are based around what's easiest, what takes less time and what requires the least personal energy. One way to look at it is a sense of entitlement that comes with living in a wealthy nation. We have become accustomed to much of what we want being instantly available.
Look around you. How many single-use, premade products are in your kitchen? How many disposable plastic bottles are on your dresser and in your bathroom?
At the start of the pandemic, people were stockpiling toilet paper.
I remember going to a superstore in March and was astonished to see bare shelves. Everything was gone because of the stay-at-home-driven shopping storm, but within weeks, people were already complaining about not being able to find their preferred items back in stock because, duh, the supply chain was supposed to be back up and running, right?
Outside of convenience and entitlement, the market for goods that promise to make life easier regardless of the waste and pollution they create grew before the pandemic because life was too hectic for anyone to think. I know I certainly didn't have extra energy for cooking after a long round-trip commute, working, parenting and PTO'ing all day. I would seriously watch a chef on the Food Network prepare a beautiful meal from scratch while feeding my child takeout food and lounging on the couch. I was tired! Worse than that -- I was exhausted!
The pace of life pre-COVID turned out to be unsustainable. Everyone and everything around the entire world was forced to halt. There were bumps along the way. There still are immense hurdles. Some people, however, were afforded the time to ask the life altering question: "What the hell am I doing?"
Life is so short. We never know when our time will come to an end. This can be used as an excuse to live recklessly. Pre-COVID, we were moving so quickly, even if we wanted to change things (which was often the case), we couldn't fully execute while being on the go, go, go!
If you have cleared mental and emotional space, you should indeed reflect on how you are using your most precious resources -- the first being your time and a very close second being natural resources you have access to thanks to the environment.
Leave it better than you found it!
That's the motto that was drilled into me during every church camp and Girl Scout outing as a kid. Somewhere along the road of adulthood, I lost touch with this tenet. As I was recovering from the shock of seeing bare shelves in the paper goods aisle, I began to question whether I really couldn't do without something like paper towels. First off, they aren't cheap, but mostly, they're wasteful. So, I went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of washable towels and swapped in dishcloths for disposable napkins. I keep paper goods on hand for guests, but the reusable items are daily staples for my son and I.
In a previous blog post, I detailed my holistic experience with gardening, but one of the reasons I have gotten so heavily into growing my own food is because grocery shopping is expensive. A $2 pack of seeds, on the other hand, can produce a mountain of produce. In a time when furloughs and job cuts are always possible, trimming the budget was a top to-do just in case.
Further, COVID showed me that our reliance on our capitalist economic system for sustenance is an example of extreme dependence. Between labor, transportation and marketing costs, food companies almost have to charge high amounts for items that are actually pretty easy to grow with some seeds and soil in our own yards. It is more sustainable to simply walk out to your garden and select what you need for a salad as opposed to buying pre-cut lettuce in a plastic bag that has been sitting on a shelf for days after being packaged and driven in from God knows where only for you to let it go to waste because you forgot about it in the bottom of your fridge. (This may be a circumstance that I dealt with on more than one occasion...)
I even shed some pounds because of my healthier eating habits. Carrying watering cans from my house to the community garden certainly helped, as did my long leisurely walks in the park nearby.
Both my son and I took pride in our meals because the dishes were not only homemade but also homegrown.
Lastly, I learned a ton about not only the crops but also myself as I tried something new (ehem... Intellectual Wellness).
At the end of the day, incorporating Environmental Wellness into your life offers a number of win-win benefits and above all, it encourages intentional living.
In order to be intentional, you have to be reflective.
As you enter 2021, ask yourself three questions (citation):
- What is around you?
- Who is around you?
- How do you get from one place to another?
Try making just one change to boost your Environmental Wellness.
These don't have to be big or expensive changes. For example, in addition to creating less waste by using washable cloths in the kitchen and buying fewer convenience foods, I committed to drinking from reusable mugs, cups and bottles as often as possible. I stopped purchasing plastic water bottles and replaced this wasteful practice with a sustainable option: a water filtration pitcher. It is super easy to use and was inexpensive in the grand scheme of things.
Check out and share this "Simple Swaps" image. Tag @mahoganymanifesto on Instagram and let your circle know which easy change you will be making in 2021!