Disclaimer: Unfortunately, in today’s social climate, the ability to go eco-friendly is a privilege. Sustainable products have yet to become accessible to the masses and changing one’s lifestyle can be challenging when limited by socioeconomic status, disability, etc. NO ONE should feel obliged to implement ‘green’ solutions nor should they feel ashamed if they cannot. What is important is that you do your best to positively contribute to the community in whichever way is most comfortable.
Navigate This Post:
- Cycling through tech every time a new product is released: the dangers of e-waste and benefits of second hand tech
- Who else has a bag of bags: relying on getting new plastic bags every time you shop has a bigger impact than you think
- Buying hundreds of metal straws to replace hundreds of plastic straws isn’t great either: over-consumption of ‘green’ products is not sustainable either
- How many clothes from your closet do you actually wear: bigger closets, bigger problems
Consumerism feels really good. Whether it’s online or in store there is a very satisfying quality to tapping a card and being handed your purchase. However, personally, the act itself is not what makes shopping so gratifying. Buying a shirt or even a simple Starbucks bevy feels good because it reaffirms the idea that I can buy it and that I have enough money and independence to do so. Allow me to explain.
In my first year of university, I broke my phone horribly beyond repair. The screen shattered, and somehow, I managed to bend the device entirely. It was time for a new one. So, I turned to the online Apple Store and made an impulse decision to pay $1000.00 for a new phone with money from my savings. Why? It certainly wasn’t because I didn’t have time to research cheaper options. Rather, I was just now starting to develop my idea of independence and there is nothing that screams ‘I’m independent!” more than buying your own phone at full price. It felt good to be able to look at my bank account and say, “Yeah, I could swing it!” (when, in retrospect, I could not).
Roughly a year later, my sister’s phone started to deteriorate, and I began pressuring her to ditch her ancient model and splurge on a new one. After a few months, she finally did, but instead of going directly to the Apple Store, she took to Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, and even eBay to find one for cheap. However, she didn’t find just any phone. She purchased the same model that I had spent a thousand dollars on for a fraction of the cost. What is worse, by the time she got it, her phone was in even better condition than mine.
This story perfectly illustrates 2 important points that will be addressed throughout this post:
- Second-hand shopping is amazing as it saves both the environment and your wallet.
- We must all be willing to admit that in today’s age, shopping is more of a therapy than it is a necessity.
With these in mind, let’s explore some of the most wasteful consumption habits and ways we can kick them!
Cycling through tech every time a new product is released:
As technology continues to evolve at ever increasing rates, consumers are being bombarded with new releases almost daily. The most obvious problem with this is the financial strain frequent cycling of tech can cause. While it is not necessary, many feel pressured to spend thousands of dollars on new products for fear of becoming disconnected. So, we often end up setting aside months of pay checks and squeezing our eyes at the register just to stay current. However, our bank accounts are not the only ones who suffer every time we purchase a new computer. Frequent technological cycling also has severe negative repercussions on the environment as it generates mass amounts of e-waste. Less than 15% of this waste is recycled every year which leaves more than 41.8 million tonnes of scrap metal in landfills that further pollute environments. The process of recycling e-waste itself also creates ecologic dead zones that are contaminated with harmful chemicals such as mercury, lead, and halogenated compounds. These chemicals can cause significant deterioration of human health by impairing brain development, acting as carcinogens, polluting lungs, and damaging livers. This is a significant problem in developing nations where often, individuals’ livelihoods are dependent on recycling e-waste which leaves them vulnerable to developing many health problems.
Purchasing used electronics is an excellent way to slow the input of e-waste into landfills and recycling communities. It reduces the rate of inflow and further prevents the production of new technology. What’s more, you are sure to save a lot of money! So, the next time you find yourself wanting a new phone, computer or camera, ask yourself this: Do I really need it? And if you do, try perusing a second-hand store. You’d be surprised at the amazing products and prices you find!
Who else has a bag of bags?!
Plastic bags have been at the forefront of sustainability discussions for decades. Just about every department and grocery store has struggled to toe the line of best practice when dispensing these renowned environment killers. Some have put a price on their bags, and others have gone the extra mile by switching to a more eco-friendly version. On a bigger scale, governments such as Germany’s have begun to completely ban the use and distribution of single-use plastic thus setting an example for the rest of the world. However, while your local grocery store may be partly responsible for providing you with the bag, I know that many of us are guilty of hoarding them. A bag of bags was something that I grew up with. My father would always groan about it and my mother would always insist on it. However, today, there is no debating it, this practice has to stop. Plastic bags threaten marine ecosystems, are rarely recyclable, and when they accumulate in landfills, can release toxic chemicals that further pollute our environment.
Many are aware of this problem and its solutions yet struggle to kick the habit. If you are unable to purchase reusable bags, a good start would be to reuse plastic bags you have already accumulated. To promote this use, you may consider leaving the bags in your car or by the door, so they are not forgotten. If possible, you may consider investing in durable reusable bags made from recycled materials. These will not only reduce waste but will likely be more resistant to the tearing we all experience when we put too many heavy cans in one bag.
Buying hundreds of metal straws to replace hundreds of plastic straws isn’t great either!
After years of advocating that individuals become more eco-friendly, activists have generated progress in an unprecedented way: they made sustainability somewhat of a trend. Hydroflasks seem to be the most popular water bottle, and everyone is investing in metal straws. However, this popularity presents a new challenge as individuals are now excessively consuming products simply because they are deemed to be ‘sustainable’.
Buying a pack of metal straws is amazing yet only the first step in reducing your straw consumption. You should also avoid using them when you get your Starbucks drink, remember to maintain the straw quality so you don’t end up buying new ones often, and refrain from purchasing too many. Metal straws are not just sustainable because of the material they are made from but also because of the reduced consumption pattern they encourage us to develop. This simple principle is applicable to just about any ‘sustainable’ product you may purchase. Choosing to buy a reusable water bottle is great, but less meaningful if you have many more stashed away in your cupboard!
How many clothes from your closet do you actually wear?
If you live in an old house, you may notice that your closets are much smaller than those of your friend’s new build. This is because in today’s age, it is standard that new houses have walk-in closets for every member of the family including the dog. This is very telling of our ever-increasing consumption patterns. It often feels as though, for members of the upper middle class, it is not acceptable to simply own clothes that they need but rather to own so much that most of their clothes never see the light of day. Many will even concede that while they don’t need 10 pairs of jeans, they want them; and that is justification enough. However, while a shopping addiction may not seem harmful in the moment, and may even make you feel good, in the long run, it can do a lot of damage. Fabric production is very resource intensive and has been known to wipe out ecosystems and cause significant human health problems to those involved in production. Furthermore, careless consumption can cause junkyards to fill with garments thus polluting environments and atmospheres.
It is imperative that we all become better consumers. Second-hand shopping for clothes is an excellent way to reduce our footprint and save money. It also discourages the production of new clothes and slows the exploitation of precious resources. To maintain the fashion-recycling industry, we should also consider contributing our own clothes. This will give eager environmentalist greater options when perusing thrift stores.
Clapp, J. & Swanston, L. (2009). Doing away with plastic shopping bags: International patterns of norm emergence and policy implementation. Environmental Politics, 18(3): 315-332. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644010902823717
Kumar, A., Holuszko, M., Espinosa, D. C. R. (2017). E-waste: An overview on generation, collection, legislation, and recycling practices. Resources, Conservation, and Recycling, 122: 32-47. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2017.01.018
Wagner, T. P. (2017). Reducing single-use plastic shopping bags in the USA. Waste Management, 70: 3-12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2017.09.003