The Environment: Making an Impact YOUR Way

One day I came across a stream of videos in the vein of minimalism and environmentalism. Through this, I watched the turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose video. With tears and a surge of anger, I went to Amazon and decided to take a gamble (let’s be honest, I didn’t check my bank account) on a pack of stainless steel straws and thanks to Amazon Prime, they were on their way to me.

With my journey to environmental consciousness, I read articles and watched videos on plastic free living. I became more rigid (to the point that I was willing to put my recovery from an eating disorder on the line all to obtain plastic free food). I am very deliberate in this article being shared in July. In the Zero Waste, Low Impact, whatever this environmentally conscious movement now wants to call itself, July is referred to as Plastic Free July. And, as passionate as I am about my environmental impact, I absolutely cannot talk about the importance of being plastic free in the methods that I used to. I now strongly believe that this movement is not centered around the environment as it is around class privilege and accessibility, both areas that affect low income communities, people of color, the disabled, and those battling mental health.

Many prominent voices in these environmental movements not only look one way, but honestly, are teetering a wave of hypocrisy. These same voices initially started with soap box and megaphone aggressive speeches. Now, they are attempting to speak about those that are not as privileged to participate. You see, consumerist culture is what lead to the rise in paper plates as dinnerware in many households over a sturdy reusable set. We throw away money with the use of paper napkins and paper towels being such a mainstay on our grocery lists compared to the cloth napkins that were so common in previous generations. Consumerist culture is still handling the “Zero Waste” movement as we rush to Target to purchase cotton napkins for our dinner tables and the perfectly accented cloths for us to dust our houses.

When I was younger, my parents would have me dust the wooden furniture with an old t-shirt so oily from Pledge furniture polish that I one day realized I never knew what the original color of the t-shirt was. We’ve never had a fancy water pitcher, but instead have been refilling the same 3 gallon plastic juice jug that once upon a time used to hold cranberry juice. Batches of food would be prepared and later frozen for subsequent lunches and dinners. Overripe bananas were immediately consumed in the form of banana bread or homemade pancakes. My family isn’t low income, but my parents grew up in eras where such actions were ordinary life. The principles of re-purposing are nothing new. Yet, so many of us flock to Target to purchase the perfect mason jar and the cutest reusable bags for our shopping for the #aesthetics. When my dad would go to grocery stores, he would continue to reuse the paper bags from a previous trip. Our bathroom trash cans were lined with the plastic bags from shopping escapades. Gift boxes have been recycled for subsequent gifts for so long in my household that you can see the names of previous recipients. This demeanor, so common for many low income families and people of color, is just a way of life. When money is tight, why waste it on such frivolities? 

I write this today to free you. However you wish to impact the environment, know that it’s not an aesthetic. Thrifting may be fun, but for so many, that was the only way they could afford decent clothes. Sometimes, you have no option than to eat the shrink wrapped sandwich because you can’t remember the last time you ate and your body is so so deserving of being nourished. We can all cheer the small steps, but some people need to use a plastic straw for health reasons. Others cannot afford to buy the trendiest basket to go to the Farmer’s Market for produce and take a picture for their social media as proof. And you know what else? Sometimes, it’s no one else’s business how you make your impact in this world with whatever means are best for you.