Because of the pervasiveness of capitalism and consumerism in Western culture, it has been ingrained in our heads that buying “green” products is the only way to be a better environmentalist. As a result, living and eco-friendly lifestyle has evolved into more of a trend than merely a more sustainable way of living. this has led to eco-friendly products and other means of “hopping on the trend” have become pricey and inaccessible to a lot of people, for example, I’m thinking of electric cars, farmers’ markets, and local bulk and refill stores to name a few.
The reality is that consumer capitalism has taken over and entered every inch of our lives in Western culture. Many of our ancestors really didn’t need consumerism to live happy and fulfilled, sustainable, lives, and we don’t need it either. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, when trying to live more sustainably, we should not shame ourselves for needing to buy certain products, but rather examine how and if certain green products, that may cost more, are effective for a long-term eco-friendly lifestyle.
Here are 5 ways to be more eco-friendly for the planet, community and yourself.
Connect back to your cultural roots, personal lived memories of what your family and loved ones did that made them sustainable. A neighbor of mine (she legit lives a couple of doors down from me) is quite known for her amazing volunteer work in the local Muslim community and abroad. We had the opportunity to chat a while ago about composting, as I was working on launching local compost pickup in our area. We discussed her time living in Malaysia, where they, despite essentially living in poverty, always composted every scrap of food they had in a huge hole in the ground that everyone in the community worked to maintain. Even when these people has not much else, they were still taking care of the Earth and not wasting anything. And of course, all this great compost only served to benefit them, as they could use it to enrich their soil and grow more food. As small of an initiative it was, it is a story that is so powerful, of how we as humans, have always known how to live in harmony with the Earth, but this in modern, capitalistic culture, we have lost this crucial connection.
When buying more eco-friendly products, always research brands to know what that products is made out of, what their production practices are (animal testing, sweat shops etc.) to make sure that the brand is ethically sourced and aligns with your own values. You may have seen some of my brands of choice in my previous anti-consumerist/zero-waste posts, notably, this one. I’m not here to endorse any brands, but any brand that I do choose to buy from, I have chosen because it aligns with my values as a vegan intersectional environmentalist, as well as my budget.
When considering a product swap, ask yourself if you need to try that product, or could perhaps find a different alternative, (one that you could make yourself for instance) or if continuing to buy and use the exact same product you always have might be the best option for you, even if it is plastic and not as eco-friendly. Not all products work well for everyone or meet everyone’s needs, so it’s important to make the changes you can (always think #progressoverperfection).
Environmental and social justice advocacy should not stop at purchasing products. Ask yourself what other issues you care about that you can get involved in, to give your time and/or your money and support. My favorite organizations that I donate to at least once per year because they are close to my heart are: Fauna Foundation, a chimpanzee sanctuary in Montreal that I used to work at; the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation, an organization that means so much to me as they supported me in my Master’s research and they are constantly building toward a more sustainable and integrated coastal management system along the Lake Huron shoreline and serve as a model organization for the Great Lakes coast; 4Ocean and Coral Gardners whose missions I really love and support, even though they have a more consumerist-approach than other charities; of course, the Sister Sabria Foundation, Sabria is literally the most generous and kind-hearted person I’ve ever met, and I am so lucky to have met such an inspirational person; and finally Black Visions Collective, a Black, Trans, and Queer-led organization that is committed to dismantling systems of oppression and violence, and shifting the public narrative to create, transformative, long-term change.
Now that you want to create local and/or system change, the next step is to educate yourself and others around you. This means encouraging eco-friendly product swaps, but also diving deeper than just sharing your favorite products to help provide a larger context to the climate crisis.
Thank you to Isaias Hernandez on Instagram for sharing the information making up the backbone of this post.