Sunday, February 02, 2020

How would you live if you really cared about the environment and climate?

I don't remember the trail of breadcrumbs that led to it, but I recently found myself watching a YouTube video of a Millennial lifestyle influencer type who was about to show her audience how she made her dinner.

Par for the course with lifestyle influencers.

The thing that stood out for me was the profuse apology for having brought home the groceries for said dinner in a single-use plastic bag. There was a rational explanation, she assured.

Nothing was said of the stream of single-use plastic clamshell fruit and vegetable packaging that emerged from said plastic bags, nor of a subsequent video of weekend trip by plane to British Columbia (a trip of over 4000km).

It's been in the back of my mind for years that the people that are highly vocal professionally about their concern for the environment and climate don't seem to be doing very much in their own lives to suggest that they really do take it seriously.

It has for some time been my thinking that healing a sick planet is not so much about doing more, but doing less.

And so I think that if I really cared about the issue to the extent that I was moved to do something about it, I would:

  • Not use the car, except where there was no real alternative. Electric cars are not a solution.
  • Live closer to work. Or at least live closer to a transit hub.
  • Forego or reduce certain things that require the use of a car because of my poor choice about where to live.
  • Not use a gym. There are plenty of things that need doing that can be done as exercise - including walking / biking / running to places that don't need to be driven to.
  • Work from home to the extent that it will not be a disruption (certain type of work is done better in the office). Not only does this save money and energy, but it frees up transit spaces on crowded transit for people that can't.
  • No more long-distance vacations. Planes especially are out. Cruises even more so.
  • Avoid the use of hydrated products where dehydrated products are as good or better (for example: bar soap and not body wash; ultra-concentrated laundry products; dried beans and not cooked/canned beans). The packaging is wasteful and it's more wasteful to produce and ship the products.
  • Look at things more as an issue of waste and less as a business proposition. For example: it's not better to buy the thing that will need replacing 5 times over the one that will never need replacing just because I could buy 5 of one for the cost of 1 of the other. It's not just about my personal bank account, and I don't need to "get my money's worth" from municipal waste services.
  • Resist "events". The amount of garbage that comes from organized events is astounding.
  • Resist useless additives. Fabric softener, air fresheners, scents, and dyes, for example.
  • Reusable produce bags? How about no produce bags?
  • Air-dry laundry. This is a no-brainer. It's very energy-intensive to dry anything with stored energy. In the summer things hung outside dry quickly outside with free energy from the sun; in the winter, things still dry quickly because the indoor air is so relatively dry and provides much needed humidity.
  • Leave time to care, stay informed, and reflect. Busy lives are sometimes necessary but often self-inflicted and they leave you in a daze. It might be worth it to you if you are making lots of money from doing it, but there's a cost to everyone else in the form of the above.
  • Remind myself that the cumulative effect of making small changes is significant. I usually think back to a previous post previous post to remind myself of this.
  • Remind myself that every single dirty industry exists to provide me as a "consumer" at the end of a chain with goods and services that I buy. There's a dirty industry out there to produce the twist ties that hold together the cord on your new kitchen gadget of questionable utility. You can't buy your way out of this problem - only do and buy less.
There are so many other things. This is a place to start. I am doing well at some of these things. Some I have regressed, and some I have earmarked to deal with on a certain timescale. This is my biased list and I'm sure others have their own.

Aside, I am less concerned about the energy consumption of data centres and digital services. To be sure, there is a lot of waste and needless digital activity out there (I shudder to think how many resources are diverted to keeping online and backing up near-identical photos of the CN Tower in the cloud, for example - to name just one world landmark). However, think of what data centres offset:
  • Manufacture, storage, and distribution of video material on plastic. Trips to the movie rental store to buy/rent.
  • Manufacture, storage, and distribution of paper books, newspapers, and magazines. Trips to the library to borrow them.
  • Trips to the bank.
  • Paper statements and the paper they are printed on (by a very dirty paper industry)
  • Postal mail and the paper it is printed on.
  • Plastic bags to carry all of the above.
All of the above were essentially dependent on harvesting natural resources and transforming/delivering them using fossil fuels. It is now possible to replace them with digital distribution powered by electricity that in theory could be renewable. Isn't that the dream?