Happy Earth Day 2016, everybody!
I'm currently sick in bed, watching a grey day unfold around me from my third-floor apartment window, but even now, I'm so happy to be able to celebrate such a special day. Then again, that might be the Corenza C talking. Who knows?
Earth Day is an international annual event hosted in almost two hundred countries every April 22nd, since 1970 - two years before my mother was born, and many years before she would erroneously take perms to be the height of hair style. So, Earth Day is a second generation event to me, and I've taken some time to think about what that means.
Back in the 70s, the Earth Day organisers, along with other governing bodies, made some pretty grim predictions for our world. Mass extinction was inevitable, apparently, as was the end of civilization, set to take place in 1990 at the latest. And all but with the exceptions of North America, Western Europe, and Australia were to be in states of widespread famine.
Obviously none of these predictions have panned out. We're still here, and although still a privileged group, North America, Western Europe, and Australia aren't the only large areas without famine. Just accountability, that they do lack.
These doomsday tales remind me of a video my well-meaning biology teacher showed us back in the tenth grade. There was this old, dry man explaining to his children that there were once times when water flowed freely from things called 'taps', and that back in his day, there were no world wars fought over things like food and water.
The video scared me shitless. My teacher explained that this is what would happen if we didn't do this or that, but, importantly to note, what I took from that video was not that I could be an agent for change, but rather, that we were all doomed. And when you're told you're doomed, and that almost everything you know and love has been on the path to destruction for decades since before you were even born, you tend to give up. You give up on the planet, and you give up on anything you could ever do to help it.
It's because of this repercussion that I don't like most speeches about climate change. I realise it's often times necessary to be the bearer of bad news or inconvenient truths, as it were. Especially since there are so many people who are misinformed or don't take climate change as the serious threat it is. That said, I think we need to start placing an emphasis on the good each individual can contribute, and what we can do together, lest all our efforts only mean people move from being apathetic non-believers, to apathetic believers.
We tend to use way more water than we need. Yes, lathering up while warm water hits your body after a long day is a pretty amazing way to spend a quarter of an hour. And yes, nothing really beats a bubble bath, especially in Winter. But we don't give up unethical things we like because they're no longer nice. I still like the taste of meat, and taste is certainly not why I gave up eating it. I gave it up because, despite the sacrifice, it was the right thing to do. Taking short showers instead of baths, and turning off the faucet while you lather are the right things to do. If it's hard, and I know from Cape Town winters it can be, just take it in stages. One day on, one day off, and so on.
These kinds of speeches serve to make looking after the planet seem difficult, and relegates this role to celebrities with time and money, or to people best described by fear-mongering Republican leaflets from the 70s. This is far from the truth. You - yes, you - can be an eco-warrior. Uh, oh. Did I lose you? Okay, fine. No talk of eco-warriors. But are you sure? You could be great, you know?
Literally just quoting the sorting hat from Harry Potter. I'm sorry. Potterfeverforever!
In essence then, anyone can effectively help the world and the world of future generations. You don't need an Oscar nod to talk about rising temperatures, and nor do you need to live in a commune to do you bit to help limit carbon dioxide emissions. You can be you. Just, you know, a little greener. So, what can you start doing today to have a real, positive impact on our planet?
The Earth Day Network that runs things on this auspicious day, has developed 2016's theme around our sturdy friends, the trees. 'Trees for the Earth' aims to see 7.8 billion trees planted to fight against the effects of climate change. Trees, apart from being gorgeous shade-providing gods, are also responsible for turning carbon dioxide into oxygen, along with being homes and aiding in the habitats of many of the earth's animals. If you're not keen on planting your own South African-native trees, you could just donate one through Greenpop or Food and Trees for Africa, starting from R120 per a tree. Which is surprisingly small amount for something that's going to be such a big help to future South Africans. If you are down for planting your own, pledge to do so through Earth Expo's campaign here, and see this handy guide for tips.
P.S. If we get rid of all the trees, Ents will come find us and did you see how mad they were at the orks that killed their friends?
Buy fair trade
Not just a slogan on Chris Martin's t-shirts, hands, and abs - yes, really - fair trade means that an item was produced in a way that was kind to farm workers, and the environment. Basically, it's a stamp to say that a given company made efforts to ensure their employees aren't treated with the kind of contempt or neglect that many are, and that they have farmed ingredients for their products using sustainable methods. Keep up to date with fair trade news and brands here, and ask your favourite brands if they are 'for fair trade'. You can also take a look at this ethical company index.
With all the electricity cuts we've been having over the past few years, it's difficult to think South Africans still need to be told to switch off their lights and electronics when not in use. That said, a lot of people still leave things plugged in when they are switched off. This uses up 'phantom' or 'vampire' energy, because the outlet still gives off and feeds electricity to these plugs when not in actual use. Unplug those adapters and ease off the energy consumption, baby!
Before you buy something, see if you can make it with something that's already in your house, and think twice before throwing anything out. Pinterest is a crazy deep well of upcycling ideas, so give it a download and peruse.
Fostering this attitude, one that is specifically against a linear economy based on highly-unnecessary consumerism, helps to bring about the economy of the future - circular.
If you've been asked to do this once, you've been asked to do this a million times. But if you don't already - do! Recycling is easy. When you're done with glass jars or bottles, tins, and card board, give the relevant of these a rinse and then pop them in a bag or in a separate bin. If your building or neighborhood doesn't already have a recycling pick up, organise one. Here are some options for Port Elizabeth, Durban, East London, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. This one is especially close to my heart. Or take your recycling to the national plants. Check out this pretty nifty recycling guide from Treevolution for more info on what to and what not to recycle.
Although it's important that we reduce the amount of water use at home, only eight percent of water is used for domestic purposes. Most of the other 92% is used in food production, and meat is more water-intensive than vegetables. Meat is so bad for our planet that giving up beef would do more for the environment than giving up cars. Yup. CARS. If you're not ready to part with meat entirely, try stick to white meat, and support Green Mondays by eating meat-free one day a week with meat substitutes like Fry's.
And right about now you're like, 'Oh, is that all? WHY, THANKS!'. But really, doing one or two of these things every day will help, and like any big ethical change, you can do it in little steps. It took me about two years to go vegan since becoming a vegetarian. Not because I didn't think veganism to be the better option, just because for me, being a vegetarian was hard enough for a while. It was only after I had upped my vegetarian game that I though the time was right to put my skill points into veganism. A video game reference. I'm so sorry. I have no idea how this post got so nerdy. Anyhoo.
Before our time together draws to a close, I'd like to give the stage to Earth Expo, an event happening in Jozi in August.
It's going to be the first ever expo of its size and kind in South Africa, and it's going to be covering everything earth-friendly from kitchenware, fitness, energy solutions, and gardening, through to fashion and beauty. My kind of expo. Keep an eye out for them on Twitter and Facebook.
If you want to know more about going green, take a look at some previous blog posts, particularly those in the 'Ally' series. They're all babes. Also check out below for a round-up of some earth-friendly goods and brands.
Until next time,