The world is in dire need of change. Climate change over the past 150 years has resulted in global warming, increased health problems and natural disasters. We are no longer shielded from the horrifying consequences. We all know and want to “save the environment.” From sharing posts about detrimental effects of plastic to volunteering to clean the beaches, we all tap ourselves on our backs for being environmentally conscious.
We forget that we’re all hypocrites. We know the steps to make our lives more sustainable. Always recycle, be a minimalist, and god forbid you even touch a single-use plastic. We all believe in climate change mitigation but we are hypocrites for not doing everything that we could do to make the necessary change. Why? Here are some of the excuses we tell ourselves. Firstly, it’s the industry’s fault.Industries including mining, fossil fuel production, fashion, and animal agriculture are some of the most polluting in the world. Large scale corporations such as Starbucks and Coca-Cola also make unsustainable choices that produces an immense amount of unnecessary waste. It is easy to put the blame on these large industries and corporations. After all, they’re the ones deciding to produce the unimaginable amount of waste – not us. The only way we can pressure harmful corporations to change is to stop demanding their products. By buying less from H&M and Forever 21 or finding energy suppliers that work with renewable energy, companies will feel the urge to make sustainable changes. As consumers, it may take some effort to make changes when it tends to be easier (and sometimes cheaper) to access these companies’ products instead of more sustainable alternatives. However, putting more of your money into these sustainable companies will make it more accessible in the future. Don’t point your finger at the corporation because at the end of the day, you’re only pointing at yourself.
Changing all our habits to more sustainable alternatives is easier said than done because of our wants and needs. Being surrounded by the fast paced culture of constantly creating new fashion and technology, make us consumers want more than what we necessarily need. Furthermore, a lot of cultures are based on unsustainable practices – meat tends to be the main dish of every meal even though we are aware that animal agriculture is one of the most polluting industries (even United Nations recommends a global shift towards a more vegan diet for environmental and health reasons). Technology has also exceedingly moved forward the past century so much so that our everyday lives depend on them. It is necessary for us to have phones, cars, and refrigerators to survive this modern world. When it comes to necessities, it is unrealistic to expect changes. On the contrary, luxuries such as clothes or meat could be consumed less. It is easier said than done because our desires are strong. The easy accessibility and constant advertisement of our wants make us devour these luxuries without grasping the actual large amount of consumption. It is up to us to change market demand. Buying clothes from sustainable shops (or depop) or eating meat only twice a week could help the environment immensely.
Moreover, we are told that one person’s mistake won’t make a difference. So we forgot to turn our lights off in the house, we got a plastic bag at Tesco, and we threw it in the general waste bin. These are just small mistakes that will not end the world. However, we are all doing this habitually. One person may not make a difference but collectively, we cause detrimental effects. Indeed, Dame Ellen MacArthur has estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.
Even though we know the damaging consequences, we are still reluctant to undo our habits because other people around us are not willing to change. We as selfish beings despise the thought of others reaping the benefits from our sufferings and hard work. Call it naive but we have to believe that our own habitual change will encourage others to do the same. Or another reason: tell yourself that at least you’re doing your part and stop feeling guilty. What is the point of mitigating climate change? It’s not like there will be an apocalyptic disaster in our lifetime (hopefully). Nevertheless, the consequences of climate change includes a shorter and less fulfilling lifestyle. Personally, since my time on earth is limited, I not only want to live as long as possible but I also want to maximize my time. If we have the choice between to breathe or not to breathe clean air, I will pick the prior. A reality in Beijing and Delhi, I do not want the inconvenience of wearing masks all the time when I am outside and having to unnecessarily spend time going in and out of hospitals.
Even though we may not always be doing the most sustainable actions, there are times when we need to really try. However, actions we think are environmentally friendly may unintentionally do more harm than good. Starbucks recently announced the replacement of straws with strawless (yet still plastic) lids.Starbucks argues that straws are too small to be captured in modern recycling equipment in comparison to the lids. However, considering that most of the plastic is not recycled in the first place and many recycling plants are now refusing polypropylene (the type of plastic the lids are made of), the change may not be as sustainable as consumers believe.
I wish I could stop consuming things that I do not need and live with zero waste. Unfortunately, we all know that this will not happen. Consumption will not stop, but it could decrease or shift. Being mindful of the detrimental consequences and put effort in habitual changes. It is too late to alter the damage that we have already made but we can still stop going down this path.