New Year, New Me: Environmental

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As I mentioned in my food post, I know, I know, corporations are the biggest generators of greenhouse gases, by far, and any individual changes that a person makes won’t make any discernible difference, blah blah blah…

I’m a big believer of putting my money where my mouth is, and also that money speaks louder than words, and writing those out one after the other makes me think that they mean the same thing? Anyway, I believe very strongly that corporations will shift their behavior based on the public’s spending habits (for example, I thank moms everywhere for making a fuss about nut-free snacks, because I get to reap the rewards!). Likewise, if my and other’s spending habits reflect our values, then that will send an even louder message to corporations to do better. (Unfortunately, this also means that the journey is a marathon, not a sprint, which sucks! but that’s capitalism!)

There’s also a part of me that needs to act in ways that “solve” my problems, even if those problems are actually way outside of my hands. For most political and social issues, that means signing petitions and donating money to charities. Likewise, for environmental issues, this means making lifestyle changes, no matter how small, and being more conscious about my consumption.

I acknowledge that this is a very privileged place to be! Not everyone can afford the upfront monetary and time costs of even attempting to go zero-waste! or buying and cooking fresh produce! or a compost service! But my hope is that, ultimately, using my money to opt into these programs and show that there is interest will demonstrate to the rest of the world that the demand is there, and hopefully, over time, increase access for everyone.

Is that too optimistic? (Probably!)

Composting

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I started composting last year and I’m never looking back! Our town does not have a municipal composting program (though the next street over has a free, city-wide program – but whatever!) so I signed up for Garbage to Garden instead.

It was definitely an adjustment, especially for Bryan, who definitely did not sign up for such a big lifestyle change. Obviously, it was easier for me to pick it up because I had shelled out the money for the service, but I had to be patient and gently remind him to use the bin for food scraps. Even so, I had to gingerly pick more than a few banana peels out of the garbage and into the compost bin.

Over time, however, it’s become second nature for both of us to put food waste away in a separate container. I’ve even started to feel even the tiniest bit guilty about throwing food into the garbage when I’m not at home.

Admittedly, this little section is less of a “new” resolution – we’ve been composting for just about a year now – but it’s something that I don’t actually discuss with other people, and I want to share my experience! Composting is awesome!

Waste Mindfulness

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We – yes, even you – make so much trash!

This is one that I’ve been trying to incorporate over the past couple of years, though it’s admittedly been extremely hard to keep up as Covid-19 precautions have taken over.

For example, I became diligent about bringing my own shopping bags, including vegetable bags, to the grocery store. Later, as quarantine started, I found myself accidentally walking out of the house with bags when going to the grocery store after remembering that the store wouldn’t take them. Even later, as restrictions became more relaxed, I then found myself not bringing bags to the grocery store at all when they started accepting them again! How tiring!

Though I’m still wary about using my own bags at the grocery store (among other things that I’m still cautious about), there are other ways to cut down my waste that I’ve been trying out!

The main one is avoiding ordering things online. In general, in the “before times,” I wasn’t a huge fan of buying online because I liked the idea of having an excuse to go to the store and leave the house (remember that?). Additionally, this never felt like a wasteful activity to me before, but after reading some articles and realizing how much cardboard, tape, and other packing materials go into every package – not even taking the literal act of shipping into account! – I felt even more assured in my decision to cut down my online shopping.

Oddly enough, this was another habit that was affected by Covid-19. Because I was going out less, and even scared to touch things when I did go out, I leaned on online shopping more, even just to get new things because they were new, and I needed new things in quarantine, if only for my sanity (capitalism!). I’ve been buying things online more now than ever before! Heck, I got 5 packages this week alone, where, in the before times, I would’ve only gotten maybe 1 package a month.

My desire to keep up these habits in the coming year will, unfortunately, hinge a lot on the world’s response to Covid-19. My desire to ~save the environment~ in my own tiny, little way has to come second to my desire to keep myself and those around me healthy. (Blah blah, the best thing you can do for the environment is to die, because overpopulation, ok ok, I’ll see you in my upcoming mental health post!)

In any case, the first step to any of these habits is awareness, so I will continue to keep an eye on my own consumption and re-evaluate which habits I feel comfortable re-introducing into my routine little by little. Hopefully, over the next few months, I’ll feel more safe about bringing my own bags to the grocery store, but I’ll never start doing it again if it completely falls off my radar!

Thrifting and Making Investment Purchases

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In the same vein as waste reduction, I’ve been trying to stop relying on fast fashion. C’mon, I watched The True Cost – what kind of ~conscious consumer~ would I be if I didn’t at least think about cutting down on my clothing?

I admit that I’m very blessed to have a Buffalo Exchange and a Goodwill both within a 5 minute walk from my house. (There used to be another huge thrift shop down the street from my house, though that one closed a while ago. I’m spoiled!) This made it extremely easy to get into the habit of thrift shopping for new clothes, as well as really getting to know the local market for thrifted clothes (that is, I know what things I’ll need to buy elsewhere, because I never find them at the thrift store).

Again, Covid-19 precautions have caused me to shy away from thrift shopping a bit. Neither store has opened their fitting rooms, and both have also reduced their hours so that they are only really open during my working hours (though I’d be lying if I haven’t spent my lunch break window shopping at least once). The Buffalo Exchange in particular is quite crowded, even in normal times, and I definitely would have to peek in to see how busy the store is before even setting foot inside.

In any case, this is another habit that I’m constantly re-evaluating and would love to get back into once quarantine is over. I was one of those people who loved browsing the aisles at TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, and the thrift shopping experience is not much different!

In the same vein, I’ve been trying to invest in specific, more timeless pieces in my wardrobe as well. For example, I’ve wanted a plain, white t-shirt for ages, but could never find a good one at the thrift store. Instead, I’ve been on the lookout for deals at quality online stores to buy them instead, with the hope that doing my research and investing in quality pieces will mean that they last longer and, hopefully, don’t find their way to the trash so quickly.

(But you just said you were trying to cut down on online shopping! Yeah, I know! It’s complicated! Maybe I should have clarified above about making impulse purchases online? Because I’m sitting on these online purchases for a while!!!)

(Also, I’ve yet to find a good white t-shirt online! I never know if it’ll fit me correctly unless I try it on! But I can’t find a good one at the thrift shop! And I can’t try a shirt online before buying it! And I know I can return it but that’s just more packaging and more shipping and more of a headache than I’d care to take on! AH!)

Anyway, all of this to say, I’m trying not to buy new clothes as much as possible, and relying on my thrift shops to find used clothes that need a second home instead. If there’s any way that I can stop being a cog in the wheel of fast fashion, that’s leading us all slowly to more waste!, poverty!, and global warming!, then dammit, I’ll do it. Maybe I’ll learn how to sew next…

And hey, I spent the last 5 months looking at Madewell jeans in my inbox every day, then found 2 great pairs at Buffalo Exchange and got them for cheaper than I would’ve gotten online – I’d say that’s a win, right?

On that note, my next “New Year, New Me” post is going to be about finances – another lifestyle area that’s seen a lot of very drastic changes since quarantine has started!

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