Today was the first day at school after winter break. In one high school German class I repeated how to write an argumentation with my students. Since this was more about the writing skills than any specific topic, the students chose a thesis themselves: “Plastic straws should be forbidden globally.” I felt pretty smug when I could immediately present a pouch with stainless steel straws that I keep in my handbag. But while my students collected pro and counter arguments as well as facts and examples, I thought more about my ecological footprint.
So, yes, I own these metal straws. But when I ordered them, I also bought cheap clothes from the same online shop at the same time. And when that order arrived, each piece had been packed into its own plastic bag. Not environmentally friendly at all.
Plus I own a huge amount of clothes. Although I usually keep them for years, I hardly ever really wear them off. (Except for my stockings of course which the cat regularly destroys when his claws get stuck.) I have had some pieces for about 15 years and just added more over time. While I know people who buy all their clothes secondhand, I buy my clothes everywhere – new and secondhand. I also cannot take to the idea to purchase socks and underwear secondhand. Although, saying this, the same people also own bigger cars, financed by their parents. This again I find weird. On the one hand, those people promote saving the world. On the other hand, they also harm the environment. They also don’t have issues with flying on vacation.
I realize though that I am still worse. I also own a car. What is more, an old car that uses quite a lot of gas. I regularly buy new clothes. I travel a lot. Recently I even flew from Boston to New York City because it was cheaper than any bus or train. I hardly ever buy organic foods. I never say I want to save the world. Costs determine my choices more than anything. It makes me wonder if – at least in the U.S. – you have to be well-off in order to save a little more world. If I didn’t pay half of my net salary for my rent, I might reach for the even more expensive organic tomatoes.
Instead of buying a newer, more eco-friendly car, I have my car repaired again and again. Here I kind of believe that in the U.S. cars are driven many more years on average than in Europe. Garages are skilled in repairing everything. Esp. when I go to poorer places, my car from 2004 looks pretty young. So at least cars are kept and used until their very end.
I feel more like a small-time environmentalist. I do bring my own canvas totes when I go grocery shopping, but often I drive to the supermarket. I separate my garbage at home (yes, three different bins: organic waste – recycling – residual waste). I often bring my reusable coffee cup, but not always. I also usually bring my metal bottle filled with water, but just then I also often feel like having a coke or orange juice. I only use handkerchiefs made of fabric and put them in my laundry. And for cleaning I have microfiber cloths that I also wash regularly. But most of my many beauty products have plastic packaging and I own way more than I need. I buy all natural cat litter (pine sawdust compressed to pellets), but I also daily feed wet food from tins to the cat. I use a good amount of energy for all my technological devices that I don’t want to live without. I still also use paper to write on and I enjoy reading paper magazines. I am aware of all the things I could do so much better in order to contribute to protect the environment. But knowing and doing are two very different animals.
And of course I still have my metal straws to clutch at so that I won’t drown when the sea levels continue to rise.