sea turtle
World care

Consumerism vs planet earth – it ain’t pretty

First things first. I am not a marine biologist. Or any kind of marine scientist. Nor have I – before about 3 years ago – considered myself an environmentalist. I think I fancied myself as one when I was younger. Watching Greenpeace protests and activists sparked something in me… but the spark never caught fire. I was far too self involved and happy with consumerism to bother being truly educated about the environment.

Then I had my children. It wasn’t a light-bulb moment. But slowly and surely, I’ve realised what a shit show we are leaving our future generations. We are killing our poor earth, the very thing we need for survival. And slowly but surely, I realised it wasn’t too late to do something. Anything. And what we can’t afford to do is nothing.

I don’t purport to know lots about our environment, and I don’t care to get involved in arguments about the accuracy of global warming. All I know is that there is evidence being provided at an alarming rate about how poorly we are treating our earth – and the awful consequences.

Here are some examples of what we are doing;

  1. Allowing plastics to enter our ocean in an unprecedented number… killing sea life in the millions – by accepting that plastic bag at the supermarket.
  2. Allowing ancient forests across the world to be needlessly, ferociously cut down to serve our consumer driven single use mindsets – by buying new, every time.
  3. Allowing hazardous chemicals to pollute our waterways – by purchasing high fashion brands that use dangerous dyes and chemicals.

Sounds overwhelming huh? It’s hard to imagine that we can do anything to help make a change.

I always thought that way. Until I had kids. Then I realised that if our world is ever gonna change, ever going to beat the odds of global warming, then we have to try, one person, one family, one small change at a time. I desperately want to teach my daughters to view the earth as a precious, frail and dying creature. And I want to show them that there is hope for this frail soul. That if we each make some small changes, if we edge away, ever so slightly from the chasm of destruction – we just might bloody well save planet earth.

Along with not purporting to be a scientist or ‘real environmentalist’, I also cannot profess to be doing this ‘saving our earth’ thing very well. In fact I’ve been of been guilty of some pretty heinous crimes! I get lazy and complacent, choosing to buy the takeaway coffee cup instead of remembering my keep cup, forgetting to take my reusable bags to the grocery store, mindlessly filling the rubbish bin instead of deciding what could be fixed, reused, or given away. And it’s a slippery slope. Once you start not caring, it’s hard to go back.

But nowadays, if I drop something in the bin that I know shouldn’t be going to landfill, my conscience stops short of screaming at me. I just can’t get away with it like I used to! So i’ve made a pledge to my conscience. My inner environmentalist.

  1. Do whatever I can do reduce the plastic going into landfill and our oceans.
  2. Purchase and consume mindfully. Choose second hand items where possible.
  3. Educate myself on the myriad of chemicals my family is exposed to everyday and attempt to limit that exposure, bit by bit.
  4. Do not, under any circumstances, beat myself up when for whatever reason, I can’t do any of the above. Get back up and try again.

When I starting looking into how I was going to achieve these goals, it did become pretty overwhelming. You quickly find out about certain zero waste gurus who are leading the way and surely doing more than their fair share. Point in case, Bea Johnson, whose family of 4 produces a 1 quart jar worth of rubbish every year. Amazing and inspiring but this is not my goal.

I’ve pledged to do whatever I can. If I really wanted to live a zero waste/zero plastic lifestyle there would be dire time consequences (think making your own bread, milk and cheese)… things i simply cannot do with a young family whilst attempting to live a living slower and simpler.

Here are a few things I CAN do though to keep my end of the bargain;

  1. Refuse extra plastic when produce shopping. I brought some reusable cloth bags about 12 months ago and they are brilliant. For those living in Motueka, New World sells them. Otherwise you can find them here.
  2. Choose the brand of sugar, or anything, in the paper bag, even if i have to fork out an extra 10 cents.
  3. Ban glad wrap. I brought lunchboxes that have compartments for food, but was still buying glad wrap. Then I read about how sea turtles mistake plastic for jellyfish, and that one-third of sea turtles are estimated to have ingested plastic. We haven’t had glad wrap in our drawer for a few weeks now. I use baking paper and tinfoil instead. Cover leftovers with a plate. Use sturdy ziplock plastic bags that can be washing and reused – see not perfect at all! Ideally i wouldn’t use these either… small steps though.
  4. No more plastic straws! We never really used them and have had some paper ones which are ok but still go in our rubbish bin. This year I’m going to invest in some stainless steel straws.
  5. Find an alternative to a plastic bin liner. This is the one thing that’s kept me from banning plastic bags completely. What on earth do you use as a bin liner? I know some people just put their rubbish straight in the bin and then wash it. That would certainly get you thinking very mindfully about what you put in the bin. One really good option if you have time to spare is making newspaper bin liners.
  6. Buying second hand when possible and mending something when it breaks. There are so many advantages to this. Obviously the effect on the environment, but also the positive effect on our wallet.
  7. When you can’t buy second hand, buy good quality. This ain’t always realistic though, and i’ve forgiven myself more than once for shopping at Kmart. But small steps. There’s a skin care range i’m really into at the moment, whose name i won’t reveal, but it’s packaging is very pretty. I’m also attracted to it because it promises to be all sorts of ‘free’ – which is great, but I wonder what happens to the pretty packaging we pop into the ‘recycling’ bin after we’ve finished? I think I need to swap out to good ‘ol bar soap instead.

No, I won’t save the world by myself. Yes, i’ll still pick up my dog’s poo with a plastic bag when she does her business on the sidewalk. But, bit by bit, tiny step after tiny step, i’ll try to treat the earth with the respect she deserves. And above all I hope to pass on the lesson of empathy and respect for her to my children, so that they too might care for this frail, wounded soul.

Thanks for listening to my rant. Have a great week and remember to think twice before you consume!