Last Thursday started like any other afternoon. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and I was meeting a friend for coffee. I turned off all the lights in my apartment, went out the door, and walked to the market to meet my friend. I’d forgotten my mug, but figured that wasn’t a big deal, I could borrow one. After few minutes I was picking my delicious cup of coffee of the counter, and a split second later, half that coffee was in my lap. Despite the graciousness of everyone around me, and the fact that I wasn’t scalded, I was still left with soaked pants and a sour mood. In that moment I found my self wishing for the worst of all possible things…a PAPER CUP!!!!
Before you start cursing me in rants about carbon footprints and trash build up, be advised that I know what you’re going to tell me, or the general basis of it anyway. I know that coffee cups are not recyclable, and that 1 million coffee cups are thrown in the trash everyday in Toronto alone (Globe and Mail, 2009), but I also know that I would’ve liked to have dry pants that day. (A little digression for those that don’t know me, I have a disability that effects the way I grasp things, as well as my reflexes, and some mugs are just hard to grab on to.)
I didn’t use a paper cup that day, though I did use some paper towel to dry up my pants. I could argue that I had a really good excuse that day to destroy the planet just the tiniest bit for the sake of my own comfort, but instead I feel guilt. It’s not just about the coffee cup, but the way I run my life. To give you an idea, here are a few examples of my crimes against the planet.
- I’m guilty of leaving lights on in my apartment when I’m running late.
- I buy granola bars, because I like them…despite their packaging.
- I flush the toilet every time I use it.
- And I’m genuinely upset about banning plastic bags because I use them to clean up cat litter.
I try to do good things for the environment. I recycle, I don’t buy bottled water, I bring a backpack for my groceries, I don’t turn the heat on unless I absolutely need to, and I’m even becoming a vegetarian. I’m not alone in my guilt though, in a recent editorial printed by Chatelaine spoke to this subject and the overwhelming pressure she was under to be kind to the environment, despite already having made huge life changes. Though I don’t usually equate this magazine with pearls of wisdom, I couldn’t help but agree that “any movement that doesn’t take into account the vast contradictions of human existence is alienating at best, doomed at worst…with the same rigid, unyielding self-righteousness that got us here in the first place” (Chatelaine, 2009).
For me the question has become, how do we make environmentalism inclusive and practical? Perhaps it’s time to stop telling people what to do, and start making it easier to incorporate into our daily lives. Support biodegradable bags, instead of banning them altogether, and other people-friendly solutions. According to the CBC, 10.8 percent of Canadians lived in poverty in 2005; with our current economic situation those numbers are likely to climb. For these people, buying Earth friendly products is not always an option, let alone solar panels and Earthships.
I didn’t write this to give answers, but I think it’s time we worked toward them.