Conscious Consumerism: Survival Skills for the 21st Century (Part II)
"Sooner or later, we will have to recognize that the Earth has rights, too, to live
without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot
live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans."
— Evo Morales
Sometimes I bury my face into articles and environmental news feeds that I get so overwhelmed with the issues we are facing in today's world, I don't even know where to begin. It's devastating to see these disasters affecting so many people around the world, yet our developed society turns the other cheek, distracted in our Facebook feeds and self-created illusions.
And I'm not calling anyone out, because we are helplessly brainwashed and it does take awareness and practice to reprogram our minds to see the truth of our reality. I can't even admit that I don't get lost in it at times either. But with this carried awareness, we start to peel the layers and shed away from the illusion created by our society and our egos.
Often, it is not until someone we know or a region very close is struck by a disaster, that we are shook by the environmental adversities of our today. The hurricanes in the past few weeks have been bringing more attention to climate change more than ever, but we don't seem to truly understand the reality of these disasters until we are close enough to be affected by them.
However, at this rate, even the most vacuous climate denialists and those of us living in a world of ignorance will have to adjust to the facts raining down from the sky.
A recap of what is happening - temperatures are rising more than ever, and according to climate scientists, we could be seeing an earth that would be uninhabitable for humans in some region during our lifetime:
Although the regime in the White House is doing its best to ignore it, these global weather extremes are clearly exacerbated by climate change, and have been predicted by climate scientists for decades. What is so disturbing is that we're experiencing this wave of disasters at a global temperature roughly 1°C above historic norms. It's a virtual certainty that we're going to hit 1.5° before long—perhaps in the next ten years—and unless we do something drastic to transform our fossil fuel-based society, we could be hitting 2°C as early as 2036. By the end of the century—when half the babies born this year should still be alive—conservative estimates have global temperatures hitting 3.3°C above baseline, based on the commitments that formed the 2015 Paris agreement at COP21. And that's not including potentially devastating feedback effects such as methane leaking from permafrost, which could lead to temperatures way higher, causing an earth that would literally be uninhabitable for humans in many regions. - Jeremy Lent, Eco Watch.
Here in developed countries, we may not see the effects of what is going on, other than hotter summers and weird patterns in weather. Meanwhile, in countries such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and countries within Africa, people are dying from massive floods. More than one third of Bangladesh's land mass has been submerged, people in regions of Asia are starving because of horrible cropping seasons due to changes in precipitation patterns, droughts are leaving many people around the world dying of thirst with poor sanitation, and much more.
I know in a previous post, I talked about seeking clarity in response to climate change, so this is not something I am writing to discourage you or make you feel horrible about what is going on. This is to add to that insight in a way - my personal process of seeking clarity by doing research, spreading awareness, and making changes in my everyday.
Enough of us are directly effected by what's happening to our health and environment that we necessitate change. We must realize that we are the ones who must act and embody that change. We must realize that we are the true catalyst for the change we want to see!!
Especially for those of us here in the developed world. We have the means to go around certain things, or the money to get food, clothes, etc. without thinking twice of where it comes from and how it gets to us. On the other hand, we are also the ones who have the luxury of time, money, and safety to take the steps to make a difference. So here I bring insight to you (and to me, to us), to help us expand our awareness and practice to implement a more conscious lifestyle.
"With just 15 percent of the world's population, developed countries have been responsible for 58 percent of human-caused greenhouse gases. All that fossil fuel energy is what permitted them to industrialize and thus become "developed," to the point that they're now consuming 80 percent of the world's resources, leaving the poorest three billion in the Global South to survive on less than $2 per day." - EcoWatch
... that in itself is a lot to take in, no?
Today I want to share a little something-something, adding to a previous post from a while back: Survival Skills of the 21st Century
Survival Skills of the 21st century, Part II:
Read your labels when purchasing anything!!
Nowadays we see labels everywhere on everything, many of them as a marketing strategy to get consumers to make the "healthiest and heartiest" choice. However, with this spreading awareness and a rise of the collective consciousness, there are many labels being created my nonprofits and other third-party businesses who aim to bring equality and an ecofriendly approach to the labeling business. Yes, because the certification programs are a business as well, it is hard to know what you can and cannot trust. But that's just the thing - at times we must go out of our way to do the research and truly be conscious consumers.
The easiest thing for us to start with is coffee and chocolate (because how many of you don't have these things). For example, coffee is the second largest commodity in the world, after petroleum (and yes before meat). So as you can imagine, our lovely cup of joe we reach for in the morning is actually detrimental to the environment; accordingly, many labels are put to coffee and you can find the brands that are environmentally and socially friendly, finding the ones with the right labels. Next time when buying coffee at your local market, maybe look for labels such as Fair-Trade Coffee, Shade-Grown Coffee, or Rainforest Alliance Certified.
Here are a list of ecolabels that you can look for when going on your next grocery run for all sorts of products and produce. And remember, try to do your own research as much as possible!!
When consuming, think twice about where a product comes from/how it gets to you, and the price that comes along with it.
If you can't take the time to read and understand labels, or when you are buying clothes that don't necessarily come with labels, simply take a moment to reflect on what it is you are consuming. For example, if you're shopping for clothes and the blouse says it's Made in China, and costs $2, realistically, how can it be so cheap? Think of the people, the energy and emissions it took to get to you.. How is it that the shirt is only $2?? That must mean (extremely) cheap labor, exploitation of raw materials, and mass exportation coming from more cheap labor and crazy carbon emissions. And because of the cheapness, this shirt will probably last you only a year or so until you pass it on or throw it in the dump.
I know for many of us, we are looking for the most efficient and cheap way of buying and selling. And we are brainwashed with the sneaky marketing strategies that these businesses and large corporations pull. And again, this is all something to slowly move out of, as it is hard for us to transition and change our habits - it is all the process; with this awareness being the first step into transforming our culture, collectively.
Kill Fast Fashion before it kills us!!
The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world, after Big Oil.
"A current trend in fashion retail is creating an extreme demand for quick and cheap clothes and it is a huge problem. Your clothes continue to impact the environment after purchase; washing and final disposal when you're finished with your shirt may cause more harm to the planet than you realize." - Glynis Sweeny via EcoWatch
I will go more in-depth about the clothing industry in a later post because there is sooo much ground to cover about it; today I want to share with you some quick insights so we can work to make changes in the way we buy and shop for clothes.
- The clothes we wear either come from plants and/or natural fibers (cotton, silk), animals (wool, suede), or fossil fuels (synthetic, man-made fibres, polyester, acrylic, nylon, spandex). All of these, in their own way, are destructive to the environment (and to human/animal health): whether it'd be exploitation of raw materials, carbon-intensive manufacturing, or the toxic release of chemicals.
- Toxic chemicals are released in the manufacturing process, but also each time we wash our clothes, and eventually when we throw our clothes out (appropriately 2,000 different chemicals are used in textile processing, including lead, formaldehyde, chlorine, and mercury).
- Most of what we wear is not biodegradable - even if it's natural fibers like cotton, because of the dyeing and manufacturing process it has gone through. So the afterlife of the clothes also have a huge impact on the environment as it takes hundreds, even thousands of years to (not fully) biodegrade, releasing toxic (even deadly) chemicals.
I understand some of us are into keeping up with trends - if that is the case, look into supporting brands that are environmentally conscious and/or sustainable. Because there is a massive shift in consciousness, there are so many out there now really moving for change (brands like Patagonia, Reformation, Conscious Clothing). Or like my cute, hip, fashionista sister, get creative and look for thrifty finds at second-hand stores.
Be a conscious consumer and you will feel more beautiful in your clothes! Again, I will be writing more on fast fashion and moving away from a detrimental industry)
Less is more!! Seek quality rather than quantity of clothes
Some of us may think that it is okay to continue shopping without a care and ignorantly keep up with fast fashion because we can just donate our clothes to charities such as Good Will or the Salvation Army. Which, yes, is a better choice than throwing your old clothes out straight to the bin. But to have that be your reasoning as to why it's okay to endlessly shop for new clothes is a bit naive.
“People like to feel like they are doing something good, and the problem they run into in a country such as the U.S. is that we don’t have people who need [clothes] on the scale at which we are producing." -Pietra Rivoli, a professor of economics at Georgetown University (via Newsweek)
According to the Council for Textile Recycling, charities overall sell only 20 percent of the clothing donated to them at their retail outlets. The rest are sold to textile recyclers, which lead to an unimaginable amount of greenhouse gases released (some are shipped to developing countries or straight to the garbage - in any case it is a lot of waste emitted in the process).
So try your best to buy and have clothes that are worth keeping. If it costs the extra $20 but you know it will last years longer, isn't that an investment anyway?
Also, with saying less is more, comes with less emissions of waste. Emissions meaning every piece and part of waste we emit. I'll be writing more into this - for now, simply and truly bring your attention to everything you are throwing away. How often does your bin fill up? What is it being filled with? Where will it go? Be aware.
Many people talk about how disturbed they are of pollution and climate change - but before we go pointing fingers, we must take a look at ourselves first.
Let us strive for a greener future by making the changes that are necessary. Some of us may think, "well, it's already in the store and if I don't buy it someone else will anyway", and you may not feel as though your decisions and actions make a difference. This is a collective effort, and if it doesn't start with you, if it doesn't start with me - nothing changes. Everything is everything.
What can I do to make a difference?
Some ideas and insights - steps we can take to become a conscious consumer
- Get creative!! Thrift shop, find second-hand treasures (salvation army, GoodWill, second-hand vintage stores) - lucky us in California it's super hip to own vintage, and less cool to "be mainstream"
- Trash the throwaway-mentality: move away from "mainstream", step away from fast fashion and mass-producing stores (H&M, Forever 21, GAP, Urban Outfitters), wear your clothes longer, restyle and reinvent them (again, get creative), give them to friends, donate.
- When shopping, look at tags in clothes (opt for locally made, organic dyes, sustainable, etc.) and labels in food (organic, fair trade, local, rainforest alliance, etc.)
- Before making a purchase (especially online), just think back to the commodity chain - how is it getting to you, is it ethical? sustainable? With this awareness, slowly detour away from making impulsive or reckless buys
- If you go to the dry cleaners, find a green clean!
- Wash your clothes only when necessary! It will make your clothes last longer and help to reduce carbon emissions. (also wash cold as much as possible: the heat uses more energy and breaks down the fibers, wearing material down faster)
- Line dry clothes, stop using the dryer. Again, it will help to make your clothes last longer and reduce emissions. Line drying for six months of the year can eliminate up to 700 pounds of Greenhouse gases a year!!
- Start to notice what you throw away. Maybe even track what you throw in the bin for a day, or even a week. You might start to see what you can cut down on or prevent from using/throwing away (I will write about this more in-depth later on!)
- Hold yourself accountable. Everything is everything: even if you think your decision doesn't change much, it truly does. It starts here with us!!
- Be aware, stay woke!! Together we rise.