Recycling is probably the most popular eco-friendly action that people undertake. I can’t count how many times I was just having a conversation with people revolving around the environment, and the first words that come out of their mouths even when I’ve never asked is “but I recycle”. Now recycling is great, I wholeheartedly encourage it, but it should be the last resort. The 3 R’s are “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.
Why do I bother saying this? Because people often want to do their part to live as sustainable a lifestyle as possible, but they often feel powerless because they don’t feel there are many things they personally can do to make a difference. Many people with full time jobs, children, and bills to pay just don’t have time to do activism or anything political. With most people not having a lot of free capital, making investments into solar, geothermal, or a more fuel efficient car is just out of reach. Something that can be done day to day is watching your consumption, and reusing everything you can before recycling it or throwing it away.
There are a few very simple examples I can give personally that I think most people can relate to. I am fortunate that since I am in college I have time to devote to activism and politics, but financially I might as well be below the poverty line, as I am dependent on the parents. So what have I attempted to do to lessen my impact? Well before I really thought about these things much, I used to buy a bottle of water at school nearly every day, which raised my consumption of plastic. Not to mention, just those purchases of all those bottles totaled over 100$. Now I just have my own water bottle which I refill at fountains, or from the kitchen sink. Small change, but it does add up ecologically and economically. I suppose I must have become a plastic warrior, another ex is that almost never take a plastic bag when I buy anything, I always try to find a way to just carry everything. Before, I used to just say “sure put it in a bag” without thinking about it. Beyond refusing plastic bags, I never tell food joints “to go” since they then put the food in a bag. I just carry the food out now if I am leaving with it, and if it’s difficult to have in my hands I bring a bag I already have and put the food in it. Real quick, a couple other changes have been cutting my once long energy/water intensive hot showers from 30 minutes down to 10, and when I turn my laptop off, I unplug the charger from the wall so that it does not continue to draw energy.
While there are other larger-scale, and more small-scale things I have attempted, the above are just a few things that perhaps you, and I know myself at one time just didn’t think much about. Simple choices where if a lot of people made them, you’d be surprised how much of a monumental difference that would make.
Here is an interesting article I read today about how some other countries have mastered re-using things to an art, and shows that we in the US need to up our game: Real Recycling