Illustration: Dev Murphy
I am someone who was raised in the country, and while I don’t think I ever really made it into the middle class as an adult, my circumstances certainly lessened when I became a single mom, then lessened again when I was laid off. For me, having a dishwasher would be a marker of success. I’m not there yet.
I have thought about buying a standalone dishwasher, but our older kitchen is extremely small. I don’t have the counter space for a counter dishwasher. So, even though I have read a dishwasher can actually use less water, I have to wash dishes by hand.
I wash all of our clothes in cold water in the washing machine. I don’t wash my own shirts or jeans every time I wear them, both to conserve water and electricity and to extend the longevity of clothes. But my son’s clothes, stained with dirt, grass and paint, I have to wash often.
I hang most of our wet clothes to dry, which is another time-suck and one of my least favorite chores, but prevents the energy utilization of the dryer and maintains some shirts from shrinking.
Today’s expenses: hand washing dishes: about 50 pennies a batch ; washing clothes in cold water: about $1.50 a loading
My son and I are traveling this weekend: flying, which is not an environmentally conscious thing to do. We don’t travel often, but this is a special, long-planned trip to visit family in Colorado, route too far to drive with a small child and my 18 -year-old Honda. I would love to replace my vehicle. I know a new model would be more gas efficient, but it’s not possible for me right now financially. A hybrid, or any new or utilized vehicle, is simply out of my reach.
One of the impacts of our current eco-consciousness is some people feeling bad for decisions largely out of their control- and many people not feeling bad for actions they can control. I feel guilty for flying to see loved ones. Do executives at Coca-Cola feel guilty for their massive plastic pollution?
Somehow I doubt it.
The inventor of Keurig K-Cups, a source of mounting plastic pollution, did publicly express remorse for his invention. I was gifted a Keurig coffee maker, but utilized the refillable attachment, putting in my own ground coffee rather than the plastic cups. When that coffee maker broke, I started employing a simple French press.
You can purchase carbon offsets to try to mitigate some of the environmental damage done by flying. The notion is to invest in green options, like gale farms. This is not something I have done before, and I have to admit, it’s a little overwhelming and confusing, especially as many carbon offset companies work directly with airlines and other corporations now.
We’re taking a direct flight to Denver, which helps cut down on more unnecessary traveling pollution, and we carpool to the airport. I bring empty reusable water bottles for myself and my son, and fill them up after security.
I’m disappointed to see the recycling and trash can at my airport appear exactly the same: the recycling can is overflowing with trash. Some airlines mention, as the flight attendant collect items after the drink service, that they recycle those cans and little plastic cups. But do they?
Today’s expenses: glass French press for coffee, $28.00
I haven’t buy much new dres for years. Proportion of that is out of necessity. Not merely can I not afford it, I live in an area without many shopping alternatives. We have a mall, but more storefronts are empty than occupied. The closest Target is across state lines. The biggest clothing retailer in my township is Goodwill, and all my friends and I shop there, and at other, local charity-based thrift shops.
It’s normal in my town to wear utilized things- something I believe should be normalized everywhere : not to be sporting the latest trend, but to be wearing a piece that meant something to someone you know, that has a story or history. For an item to take up space in this rapidly filling world, it should really matter.
It’s so typical to wear employed clothes where I live that my friends and I hold clothing swap parties, where we bring bags of clothes that don’t fit any more or household items that we no longer need, and shop one another’ closets. Once, it would have mortified me to be out wearing a dress that a friend pointed to and said: that used to be mine . Now it’s a source of pride. Clothing connects us. It’s more than only fast fashion. That shirt brought me luck , person said when I held up a red T-shirt at a clothing swap. Maybe it will bring you luck too .
I didn’t buy anything new for my journey to Colorado. My sneakers are several years old. I rinse them carefully, and replace the laces. I do have to buy new shoes for my son often, as kids grow quickly. I sometimes buy items from ThredUp, an online resale garb shop, and I sell clothes to them as well, usually saving up credit for trade so I don’t have to expend a dime.
In Colorado, after eating at a eatery, I feel nervous asking for a box for leftovers, fearing the most difficult: Styrofoam. But at every restaurant in Colorado that we patronize, the carryout boxes are recycled or recyclable cardboard.
I don’t think we talk enough about how the America consumer’s attempts to go green involve so much uncertainty and absence of agency. Starbucks, for example, gives me a plastic fork for a sandwich I order and certainly don’t need a fork to eat with. They don’t ask first if I want a fork, and should. I leave the fork unwrapped and dedicate it back. But will they just throw it away?
Small choices like this feel huge- but many of them aren’t even selections we as individuals can construct. I can’t bringing my own takeout receptacles to local eateries in Ohio – it’s a health hazard, according to the restaurants. On our Colorado trip, my mom was amazed at a store that sold soap and shampoo by the barrel – you bring your own containers to fill. There are no stores like that near me.
There are no bins or instructions about recycling in the Airbnb we have rented. So we pitch all the empty cans, bottles and cardboard into a couple of grocery suitcases, and at the end of our trip, trek them back down the mountain to my boyfriend’s mother’s house in the city( sorry, Judy ), where they can be recycled.
Today’s expenses: a pair of kids sneakers, utilized, about $16 ($ 35 -4 0 new )
A couple of years ago, inspired by several classmates, my son decided he was going to go vegetarian. Recently, he has started eating some meat again: chicken fingers, pepperoni pizza, but for the most part, we only eat meat two or three times a week. This does a lot, both for health- my dad’s physician commended my son for getting his grandpa to eat less meat, and my dad’s subsequent weight loss and lower cholesterol numbers- and for the environmental issues.
But eating vegetarian isn’t always easy, especially in rural Appalachia, and it isn’t always cost-efficient or healthy. Many of the meat substitutes I have bought my son- soy bacon, bean burgers- expense more than meat, and are much harder to find, requiring special trips.
Which means more gas. And more time.
Time is a resource, especially for women, people of color, people who are incapacitated and people who are poor, and to ignore the impact of time on environmental choices is to ignore the reality of many people’s lives. People have to work multiple jobs, have to travel for run or groceries, don’t have recycling available, don’t have enough childcare to spend precious hours hanging laundry or cleaning plastic bags.
A lot of things aren’t easy in my Appalachian home: finding work, procuring and affording a place to live. Why did we believe being green would be any different?
When it comes to the environment, I am not alone in feeling a predominating sense of remorse and concern. I have felt this a lot of the time, since I was a child and first heard in school about the depletion of the ozone layer.
We live in a time of such dreaded. We walk with and through dreaded constantly. Dread is our companion in 2019, and also the feeling of futility. So many news sites have tossed about data and studies on how long until we run this planet into the ground. The dates vary, but it’s not long. Not long at all. It’s overwhelming to suppose the burden of maintaining the world alive remainders on the shoulders of consumers. And frankly, it shouldn’t. Not entirely.
People need help from the companies that got us into this mess in the first place with their products and pollution. People need incentives- but also, assistance on how to be green. You have to offer and clearly label recycling bins, for example. Fresh, affordable produce needs to be available before we can focus on organic.
In order for people to construct eco-conscious choices, there has to be an eco-conscious choice available for them to stimulate . For many places, especially in rural and impoverished America, those choices simply don’t exist , not yet.
Today’s expenses: veggie hot dogs, $5.79 for four
Read more: www.theguardian.com