21 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day: Source What You Consume

Each day of the month of April leading up to Earth Day (April 22), I will be offering a suggestion for how we can really honor the Earth this year. This list will go beyond the usual suggestions to change your light bulbs and take shorter showers. Instead, the focus is on collective action working toward radical social change.

By virtue of living in a modern industrial society, we are largely alienated from the material conditions of our existence.

As I sit here typing, there is a open can of Coca-Cola sitting on my desk.  Where did that can come from?  Where did the aluminum come from for the can itself?  Where did the water come from that is in the soda?  What about the corn syrup and all the other ingredients?  What about the carbon dioxide used for carbonation?  And what about the computer I’m using?  Or the chair I’m sitting on?  The truth is I have absolutely no idea about any of it.

Think about all the things you consume or use any given day, from food to clothes to transportation to your home to your computer or phone.  Now, think about just thing you consume or use on a regular basis.

How was each of its constituent elements obtained?  Where was it obtained from?  Who did the obtaining?  How did these elements get transported and combined?  And how did the final product get to you?  What is going to happen to it when you dispose of it?  And what is the real cost at each of these stages?  Not just the cost that capitalism recognizes, but the human cost and the environmental cost?

One thing you can do to honor the Earth this Earth Day is to source what you consume.  Check out this article by Rua Lupa on the impacts of our connections to the world.  Then choose just one product that you consume or use on a regular basis and source it completely.  Find out what it is made of, where each ingredient comes from, how it is created, how it got to where you are, and what happens to it when you are done with it. Determine what the environmental impacts are at each stage of this process.

Then ask yourself whether you really need the product.  If so, ask yourself whether there are similar products which are created locally or which are reusable or can be recycled or composted or which have fewer environmental or human costs.  The goal of this exercise is not just to reduce our consumption, but also increase our awareness and, ultimately, to transform our relationship with the Earth.

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