Is convenience hurting the planet?


Reflections on the U.N. report and climate change

Is convenience hurting the planet?

Subscription boxes deliver everything from food to clothes to tampons right to your door. Amazon allows us to order anything we could imagine. Starbucks and fast food restaurants offer us instant food and energy. Cars take us wherever we want to go as quickly as possible.

We live in a culture where convenience is our king. We search for what is easy, for this gives us more time to do what really matters. Right?

Yet is the cost of that convenience the health of our planet?

By 2040 (22 years from now), the earth could be so damaged by pollution and carbon emissions that there will be no turning back. The future that we deemed a plot of sci-fi movies (think wildfires, food scarcity and coasts being swallowed up) could soon become our present world. When we finally wake up to the reality of pollution and climate change, it will be too late.

I am overwhelmed by the recent U.N. report sharing these facts, and I understand that it is not just a consumer problem, but also an industry problem. Recycling all the plastic water bottles in the world will do nothing for industry-level waste.

Yet at the consumer level, is convenience hurting the planet?

Nearly 1 million water bottles are sold globally every minute. Of the 6.9 billion tons of plastic waste generated by 2015, only 9 percent was recycled. Twelve percent was incinerated, and 79 percent accumulated in landfills of the environment. The largest market for plastic today is packaging material. More than 40% of plastic is thrown away after one use.

At the same time that these facts shock me, I still like the convenience of Prime two-day shipping, the novelty of subscription boxes and the instant gratification of a cold drink in a plastic bottle. I still don’t plan ahead and end up driving back and forth in the same day to run errands.

Yet is this convenience worth the health of the planet?

No.

Moderation is the key to everything, and I am not calling for extremism over enjoyment, but rather care over pure convenience. I can make a conscious effort to begin a lifestyle of creation care.

Here are the steps I am taking to create life-long habits of creation care:

* Drive less – By making an intentional effort to combine trips for errands and by seeking to do things where I’m at instead of driving to do an activity (watch a TV show instead of going to the movies, etc.), I can cut down on my driving. I am also within walking distance from my work, so by planning ahead, I can walk instead of driving. This saves both money and emissions. 


* Ditch disposable – For all the people fighting to get plastic straws out of Starbucks, how many bring their reusable cups to Starbucks? It’s easier to tweet about straws than to make a conscious effort to cut down on plastic overall. By using reusable cups and water bottles, I can stop being a part of the plastic waste statistic. I can also be mindful of pausing to eat food instead of getting it to go; thereby eliminating my use to plastic boxes and containers.

* Recycle – The plastic I do use, I can recycle. It is shocking to me to see how many people don’t walk an extra few steps to throw away plastic in the recycling bin instead of the trash. 


* Buy and use less – A lifestyle of minimalism is often naturally one of creation care. By using and buying less product, I cut down on the packaging and emissions I use in my personal life. For example, by using two swipes of deodorant instead of four, the stick will last twice as long. By mending a torn sweater, I can prolong its wear without buying a new one. 


Will these steps heal our broken creation? Absolutely not. Yet perhaps if everyone has a mindset of sacrifice and care over convenience, change will come. If we collectively drive less, use less and buy less, differences will show.

I will do my part because in the end, I won’t be responsible for you and what you did or didn’t recycle. I will be responsible for my own actions, and I want those actions to be ones of creation care.

What will you do?

Sources and Interesting Articles:

Carbon Calculator | The Nature Conservancy

Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040 | The New York Times

On Amazon’s Prime Day, the environment gets a raw deal | Grist

Planet or Plastic? | National Geographic

Photo by Carolina Pimenta on Unsplash


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Hi, I'm Robin!

Welcome to This Vast Life, my journey to living naturally and holistically. 

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