How to get started in not killing everyone

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

– Albert Einstein

The idea to start a new blog (you can see my first clumsy attempt here) has been stuck in my mind, unshakable, for several months now. Originally I was thinking about a how-to-everything site where I would research the best way to do everything, from folding a T-shirt to running for political office. But that project proved too big, too lofty. I needed to hone in on something more specific.

I have been an environmentalist for many years now and have sought to make changes in my own life to lessen my impact to climate change and the Earth’s delicate ecosystem. But I rarely make changes without doing a bunch of research–likely a holdover from my days writing research papers. And I realized two things:

  1. There’s a lot of misinformation out there leading people to make choices that are counter-productive, and
  2. The best environmental choices are rarely intuitive or without complexity.

For example, take grocery bags. We all know plastic grocery bags are bad, right? So we should use reusable bags, like a tote bag! Not so fast there, bucco. What you’ll find when you search for whether tote bags are better than plastic bags is a bunch of different sources saying there’s not a real clear-cut answer, but… no, tote bags aren’t the fix-all solution.

The problem is that tote bags are mostly made of cotton, which is a very thirsty plant. Cotton is hard to grow and uses a lot of resources, and then there’s the issue of transporting the heavier tote bags to whatever store they’re being sold in. Add all this up and it equals a fuckton more CO2 emissions than a plastic bag, to the tune of needing one thousand plastic bags to equal the emissions of one tote.

This fucking bag wants to kill you AND your whole family

All that being said, cotton tote bags at least don’t add to the plastic pollution problem in our oceans; they’re biodegradable. So… yay? Or maybe we should use paper bags instead. Oops, nope, they’re also worse than plastic.

So… should we all just resign ourselves to death by starvation because there’s literally no way to carry our groceries home in bags? Yes, but only because we’re mostly all Millennials or Gen-Z’ers and we have depression. But aside from that, no. Really, the bags aren’t as big a deal as we think.

I image searched “sad bag” and wasn’t dissappointed

See, here’s the thing. What bag we put our groceries in actually matters a lot less than, say, the groceries themselves. Did you buy red meat? Are there a lot of plastic packages? How much local stuff did you buy?

Also, the way you got to the store matters, too. Did you drive a car? What are the car’s emissions? Is the store within walking distance, or is there the possibility of taking public transit? (We’re going to do a blog post about transportation so hold your breath for that!)

I’m also planning on doing a full blog post on plastic bags in the future that will seek to answer the question of what bag is best. But as a teaser, here’s something you’re going to see a LOT of in this blog and elsewhere as you research being more green: reuse. Don’t replace something you already own that is still usable. If you already have tote bags, keep using them until they have worn completely away. And try and reuse plastic bags, both at the store and around your house. And when THEY become unusable, recycle them.

And that’s really the over-arching theme. Just try not to buy new shit. Use what you have until it has gotten to the point of impracticality, and then try and either repurpose it or recycle it. And when you do buy stuff, try and buy it used. I’m going to advocate hard for thrift stores here.

If you’ve made it this far with me without having rolled your eyes, then I assume you’re on board with going with me on this journey to discover ways we can do our part. Perhaps you’re already on your own green journey or maybe you’re ready to just get started. Either way, there’s something I want to make sure you fully understand first.

We HAVE to stay optimistic. Because here’s the thing. It’s probably going to get worse before/if it gets better. As of this writing it’s clear we don’t have the support of the majority of those in positions of power. Not yet, at least. That is probably changing but it’s not going to change fast enough. And while we shouldn’t be solely responsible because we didn’t solely create this fucking mess (looking at you, ExxonMobil) there are things we can do without a terrible amount of effort to lessen the impact that we are directly causing and I do think we owe it to the planet and our future generation to do them.

So keep that hope. Futility will gain us nothing. The news will be full of apocalyptic, dire warnings, and some of it will be accurate. But the fight goes on. If you find your hope slipping… if you find yourself saying “what’s the point”… I have a cure. Watch Sam’s speech from the end of The Two Towers.

If Sean Astin can’t help you, then I certainly can’t

Watch that. Then watch it again. Then again. As many times as it takes for you to believe it. Then take all of that positive energy, run through a brick wall, and tell this fucking stupid world that your’e coming to save it!

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