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going green: the spectacles way

April 22, 2010

Today is apparently Earth Day, and while I’m all for a day focused on spreading environmentalism and becoming more conscious about humanity’s impact on the planet, I really don’t think one day is enough to make up for, well, anything.

I consider myself to be a very environmentally conscious person.  I know to recycle plastics #1-5, I will sit in the dark for much longer than most people can so I don’t turn on a light, I buy my produce from local farms, and I don’t own a car.  I’m even devoting my college experience to learning about environmental history, policy, and science.

However, I’m not  doing as much as I possibly can.

Call me lazy, cheap, materialistic, vain, whatever – there are many parts of my life that aren’t exactly eco-friendly.

Flaw #1: Being a College Student

From the mountains of take-out styrofoam to the piles of solo cups (which can’t be recycled in Pittsburgh, at least) and Natty Light cans that arise every weekend, college students create a lot of waste.  Then there are the stacks of greasy cardboard boxes that are the result of late-night study and pizza sessions.  It’s all just so gross and bad in so many ways.

You can:

learn to cook.  You think Chipotle makes a great burrito?  Well, they do, but you can whip up your own for a fraction of the cost without the bagful of trash that comes with it.  Buy some tortillas, canned beans, an avocado, and some tomatoes, and go to town.

use a cup more than once.  I thought I was a genius over Carnival when I brought my own mixed drink all over campus in my reusable Starbucks cup for cold drinks.  It was inconspicuous and I probably saved over a dozen cups from getting used and tossed.  Although I wouldn’t recommend sucking up beer through a straw – that was weird.  Now that daytime partying is over and done with for the year, I’ve cleaned it out and it is now providing me with enough homemade iced coffee (another great idea) to fuel me through finals.

study in the library.  I recently had the brilliant epiphany that if I stay on campus in the well-lit and properly temperate library then I will save money on my home utility bills.  This also has the potential to increase overall productivity because there are far fewer things to distract you when you’re not wandering around your room, which will give you more time to do things like cook real food, walk instead of drive, and lots of other great green activities.

Flaw #2: Magazine Obsession

I’ll admit that I have a real problem when it comes to printed materials – I love, love, LOVE having stacks of magazines, catalogs, and newspapers to go through (keep in mind that this is in addition to all of the blogs that I’m devoted to).  However, I’m so behind in my Newsweeks and Nylons that I don’t actually get around to reading them all in a timely manner.  I keep all of my magazines just in case I’ll ever need to collage an old Chanel campaign or see what Sienna Miller was wearing on last year’s September issue of Vogue, but unread newspapers just get recycled.  And recycling is just as bad as throwing it in the trash if you never actually used it – it’s wasteful.

You can:

head to the library.  Last summer I realized that the Carnegie Library in Oakland subscribes to basically every single magazine in any language you’d like, so instead of spending $4.95 to read an Olsen interview in a magazine that I would only really flip through once, I would utilize their selection.  And if I really fell in love with a spread, only then would I go out and buy the whole edition.  Saves money and trees.

look for online editions and applications. I love the Nylon iPod app – they have some unique content on there and it’s a good way to keep myself occupied during class.

Flaw #3: Compulsive Shopper

This morning my inbox was flooded with promotions for eco-friendly products – ‘green’ make-up, organic dresses, fair-trade gourmet coffee.  But our over-zealous consumerism is really what is ruining this planet.  The waste and emissions associated with the production, transportation, and disposal of even our most mundane purchases are causing a tremendous amount of strain on the planet.  The energy and pesticides that go into making a new dress that I may only wear once are not worth the $19 that I’ll spend on it at F21.

You can:

shop your closet.  I have a ridiculous amount of clothing that I never wear, but once I start scoping around the back of my drawers, I realize that I actually still like a lot of it.  Before you pick up yet another perfect grey v-neck, make sure you don’t already have something pretty darn similar already.

sell/donate your stuff.  As long as it’s not gross, someone else will probably pay good money for your cast-offs.  Just because those skinny jeans are now a little too skinny doesn’t mean they should end up in a landfill.  Drop your stuff at a local Goodwill, consignment shop, or set up your own Etsy site to clean up your closet.

bring your own bags.  While I feel especially giddy when I come through the door swinging several shopping bags, all stuffed with goodies and tissue paper, it’s really unnecessary.  So if you must scratch the itch to shop, bring a cute tote along with you and when the sales person reaches for a plastic bag, say, “Oh, I actually have my own.”

This is really just scratching the surface of our deeply flawed society, but anything is better than nothing.  No act is too small to make a difference!

How are you celebrating the Earth today?  And how green are you really?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2010 5:28 pm

    Hey Anna! Well I’ll be honest. I do not receycle enough. My school is pretty behind on recycling–while we do have recycling receptacles in each dorm and campus building we have very few places on campus to recycle paper, so out of laziness I probably throw away a lot of things that I could be recycling.

    Not even thinking about Earth Day, my friends and I walked to the local park and spent an hour or so just hanging out. We got a good walk, saved gas and got to enjoy the sun and dirt, loved it.

    I struggle with being green in some ways, if recycling isn’t enough, do I compost? Do I not drive for weeks at a time and then drive hundreds of miles in travel? I think a lot of it has to do also with spread out suburbia. When I’m home in Baltimore I can get most places pretty easily but in the Lehigh Valley it’s almost impossible to go anywhere outside a three or four mile radius without a car. And I’m not gonna lie, I LOVE driving–I love the freedom, blasting music, windows down, thinking, sometimes crying, laughing with my friends. That is something I would have a very hard time giving up even though I try to consolidate trips and drive as little as possible.

    Whew that was a novel.

  2. April 22, 2010 7:05 pm

    Thanks for the novel!

    It’s tough when your school doesn’t make it easy for you to ‘do the right thing.’ My high school was pretty good about it, though. They even composted stuff from lunch and used it in the school garden (well, it was Vermont). Last summer, my roommates and I tried to start our own composting effort in our little concrete backyard, but that ended when we had a massive fruit fly and maggot problem (think the grossest smell possible, and then imagine something even worse than that). So even when you try to do the right thing, it’s like the world is working against you.

    Your day in the park sounds amazing. And sometimes there isn’t anything like a good road trip. It’s that stupid conscience that gets in the way every time! I will definitely be ignoring it while I drive places this summer.

  3. April 23, 2010 7:43 am

    I don’t think Solo cups are recyclable anywhere…good planning on their part, right? I’m giggling at the idea of sipping beer through a straw though!

    At school, I walk everywhere, cook most of my meals, use only cold water to wash my clothes, spend half my time with the lights out because one of my roomies are sleeping, and don’t buy many magazines because I have nowhere to put them. At home…errr. I should probably work on NOT going through a tank of gas in a few days. At least my baby isn’t a gas-guzzler, I guess?

    Good luck with the rest of the semester!

  4. April 24, 2010 4:51 pm

    Interesting thought re: library! That has honestly never occurred to me, though I’ve complained about the wastefulness of leaving the lights on ALL NIGHT LONG, even the first week of school when no one’s pulling all-nighters yet, quite often.

    Great post, Anna!

  5. Katherine: What About Summer? permalink
    April 25, 2010 7:35 pm

    I feel like being a college student keeps me from being green. I waste a lot of paper and …just create a lot of waste… college I want you to end now!

  6. April 25, 2010 10:54 pm

    I know there are SO many more things I “should” be doing to be green…but I do everything I can within my limitations. I bring my own bags to grocery stores, reuse cups and even plastic utensils and plastic containers and ziplocks.
    I can’t study in the library, though….it’s just so cold, and I will fall asleep!

  7. April 26, 2010 2:19 pm

    Great tips! I especially like the mix drink/Starbucks one… wish I’d thought of that myself!

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