Mindful consumption

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No, this post is not about me lecturing you on how you should completely change your habits overnight, such as becoming a vegetarian or only use public transit. These, quite frankly makes me cackle more than anything else.

 What I would like to accomplish with this post is the start of an internal -or not- dialog when it comes to our excessive consumption. Being more mindful of what we consume is definitely good for the environment, but also very good for our wallets!

FIRST, SOME BASIC RECYCLING STATISTICS

  • Plastics: at best twice. 90% of plastics in Canada aren’t recycled, even when you put them in the applicable recycling bin. Most plastics are actually not recyclable. 
  • Batteries: once. it is crucial to recycle these, as some of the metals they contain are highly toxic and polluting. 
  • Electronics: once. Most materials are 100% recyclable. 
  • Paper: maximum 10 times. I used to think paper could recycle indefinitely, this is not the case.
  • Metals and glass: infinite, including cans.
  • Never recyclable: Styrofoam (polystyrene), aerosols, ceramics, Pyrex, household glass (mirrors), standard incandescent bulbs

The above can help anyone make better choices when shopping. Have you noticed how much stores love plastic packaging? or packaging in general? They can charge you more money for that! 

SECOND, SOME pollution STATISTICS

Most polluting sectors:

  • Energy: transporting people and stuff accounts for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions due to the burning of fossils (aka fuel)
  • Electricity: particularly if produced with coal
  • Industries in general: what we produce and how much we produce 
  • Agriculture: yep, what we eat too has an impact on our environment. Livestock account for a large portion of methane production
  • Land use: the way we use land can be either polluting or helping the environment. 

the real questions IS “how much”? 

North Americans are trapped in an excessive consumption cycle. Their European counterparts are also racing close by.   

The single most important question we need to start asking ourselves is “how much stuff do I really need?” This needs to cover all aspects of our life, from our closets to our home, from our garage to our fridge, our annual vacation, our gift-giving habits and so on. 

The best part is that we actually don’t need to drastically change our habits to help the environment….and our wallets at the same time. 

  • Do you really need to eat meat 2 or 3 times a day? Could you reduce it to once a day? You are not asked to become a vegetarian.
  • Could some of your errands be done by walking or taking public transit? You are not asked to ditch your car. 
  • Do you really need 2 cars? if not, you can definitely ditch -sell!- one. 
  • Do you really need to take far-away vacation every year, or several times a year? Could you find a closer spot? You are not asked to stop taking vacation. 
  • Do you really need 10 pair of shoes? Could you do with 3 or 4 instead? You are not asked to stop buying shoes. 

What we are all asked is to be more mindful of our consumption, and to reduce it when appropriate. In order to do so, honesty is required, as well as the ability to distinguish “want” from “need”. 

FOLLOWED BY “WHERE” AND “WHO”

If we all collectively did the above, the environment would be in better shape. And so would people. Behind our excessive consumption, also come the questions of “where” do the products come from and, most importantly, “who” made the products we are about to consume? 

The majority of items we use on a daily basis are made in China or neighboring Asian countries such as Vietnam or Sri Lanka. The quality is usually pretty poor, meaning we have to throw away and replace these products more often, and yes consume more!

But most importantly are the labor conditions. How much are the employees paid in these countries? Are they provided with benefits? How many hours a day do they work? Could children be working? 

These are tough questions most of us, in our quest for the cheapest bargain, do not want to face.  Our consumption habits contribute to and subsidize modern slavery. This is a very inconvenient truth….