This semester was really challenging for me. I switched my major to Environmental Studies at the beginning of summer semester so this semester I needed to be in some pretty intense classes to catch up with the program. On top of that I went from being an almost entirely online student to a daily commuter to campus from Kentucky. So needless to say, I am really looking forward to our winter break!
I am really glad I made the decision to take this course because I learned a surprising amount of information about things that are extremely relevant to my present and future. Learning about how zip codes dictate our health, how the consumerist cycle is wrecking our lives and our planet, and how greenwashing has tricked us into buying into the system without even realizing it has all taught me to see things differently, and to be more self-aware of my choices on a daily basis.
Being in this class has really had a positive impact on my semester too. I actually looked forward to coming to lecture every week! Also this class forced me to watch Before the Flood, which I actually avoided watching when it came out because I didn’t want to be depressed. I’m really glad to have seen it because as depressing as climate change is, some of the information actually gave me hope. Hearing that Obama changed his mind about same-sex marriage because thats what the people demanded, makes me think maybe the outlook on climate change in our government can be the same way, someday. The scientist in the last scene gave me hope as well. If he can be optimistic, so can I.
After watching Before the Flood last week, the days that followed seemed bleak and hopeless at best. It truly seemed like the future was set in stone and we have no chance to make a difference. But then I remembered President Obama changed his mind about same-sex marriage, because the people essentially demanded him to. I want to believe that climate change with Donald Trump has the potential to turn out the same way. It won’t happen right away, but I have faith that hard and true science will prevail.
Aside from this, I believe that one person can make a positive difference. One person alone will not stop the ice caps from melting. Enough people banding together might though. This lead me to read up on exactly how can an individual make a difference and heres what I found.
• We all know now that eating less meat is a simple and effective way to help save our planet, even just one day a week makes a difference! If everyone in the US ate vegan for one day a week its the same as taking 7.6 million cars off of the road. Just some food for thought (sorry I love puns couldn’t help myself).
Meat Eaters Guide
• Getting involved! Signing petitions and contacting local government officials, even getting involved with businesses that lack in the sustainability department matters. Especially if you can get a family member or friend to join you. Theres an abundance of petitions to sign and each one is a very simple, straightforward process that take no more than 2 minutes to complete.
We The People
• Donating is also a great thing you can do. If you find yourself thinking maybe you don’t really need anything this holiday season, gift donations to National Resource Defense Council helps. Even $10 matters. Also, its tax deductible!
• The biggest thing for me, and I think for a lot of my fellow classmates is staying positive and keeping our eyes on the prize. If you like me are in college for Environmental Studies, we are doing the absolute best we can to make a real tangible difference whether it be with water treatment, clean energy, research, farming etc. And as always, getting involved on campus is our best way to make a difference right here in our city and on our campus.
What Can You Do?
Top 10 Green Jobs
Over the past few weeks we have been really diving into what constitutes green washing and why we should be aware of it. Something we have yet to cover though in this arena is the greenwashing of meat and animal products.
The first part of this I want to address is with brands of eggs that are free-range, pasture-raised and cage free. Their is no regulation over these terms. Now aside from that, the terms are misleading. They all sound the same right? Well, free-range actually just means the chickens can “have access” to pasture, and access constitutes literally a hole in a wall that they may not even fit out of, just that they have access to look outside qualifies them for this tier of labeling. Cage-free just means they quite literally don’t live in cages, but they still have inhumane conditions, living with only 1-2 ft of space per chicken, indoors for their entire lives. Pasture-raised is the only decent term in this which states they must have outdoor conditions for some portion of their lives, but since there are no standards in place, we don’t know as consumers how long or how often they are outdoors.
Grass-fed meat gives us the impression that it is not contributing to factory farming which is to blame for loads of methane in the atmosphere as well as endless amounts of grain which takes up space to grow. But grass-fed meat unless it is raised and purchased locally, is not a viable alternative for the environment to survive through. The animals that are grass-fed are being raised in places like the amazon, which means rainforests are destroyed at a constant rate all so that cattle can graze there, be slaughtered and then be shipped to us which is another contributing factor to climate change. Organic meat is no better. The meat and dairy industry has found a way to reach people who used to be vegetarian by pretending to be concerned with animal welfare and our environment, but like all greenwashing schemes, it is a facade. Locally-raised eggs, meat and dairy are the only somewhat-sustainable options for our planet.
In this blog I wanted to write about green washing. We talked about in class how companies have started using this avenue of marketing to reach environmentally geared consumers. I was intrigued as to how exactly companies go about this.
The first thing I found was the most commonly overused phrase in green washing is “natural”. This is because there is absolutely no regulation over this term. It is easy to think natural, chemical-free, organic, healthy etc. are all synonymous terms but they aren’t. Only things labeled USDA organic have any set of standers actually applied to them. So whenever I see products that say “Natural!” on them now, with a green box and a picture of leaves on it, all I really see is “Lies!”
In the video posted below they briefly go on to describe that when products are green-washed, they usually lead the consumer to a website (which no one has time to look into) or even worse, don’t list any description of what the product does that really better for the environment at all.
What’s In a Label?
Something more interesting I learned, was that when things are labeled as organic, more than likely its not because the company truly cares about the consumers, its because that company gets a tax break. So leading us back to the discussion on stuff that’s “for a cause” but it’s really just covering up a problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place, green washing and organic labeling does the same thing. Organic products and natural pesticides should be the industry stranded, not specialty items. We live in an age of technology that I believe is more than capable of making companies beyond able to make organic and environmentally friendly products and still turn a profit.
Now on a positive note I want to change gears and say something here about companies that are doing good things for the planet. Over at least the past 15 years there has been a huge controversy over the use of palm oil and the massive amounts of deforestation it has caused. I looked into this because I was really 100% sure that green washing invalidated any claims from companies that said they were using sustainable oil sources, but as it turns out most of the claims are true! I used this really helpful iPhone app called Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping and it is SUPER helpful to see if you’re buying a brand that using responsible sources for their palm oil! So maybe with enough people being a voice for our planet, all hope is not lost.
Last week, we watched the Story of Stuff. It explained to us the process of how our material possessions come to be and the flaws within the system. It really got me think, why exactly are we so crazy about shopping and endlessly buying more and more things?
One reason, is like the video showed, we have this never ended source telling us we need to consume more things and not only that, but we also need to keep up with the latest trends of buying the newest, fastest, and best version of something we already have that’s working perfectly fine. After class I saw the new Macbooks that came out and funnily enough I thought to myself “Woah I want a touch bar!” but then, another thought came into mind which was “Why?”
This lead me to my next article reference which overall states that we use consumption as a way to promote our self-image or somehow change how other people view us as individuals. Having the newest technology makes us look ahead of the curve. As though, we are some how the most advanced and willing to spend whatever amount we need to have the best of the best. Its all about status. Additionally, in class Dr. Sastry mentioned driving an SUV and the fact that most people driving SUV’s never use them to their full capacity. He also mentioned the whole idea of green lifestyle geared consumerism. I myself am 100% guilty of this! I felt like such an idiot for falling into this trap. I have bought countless pairs of Toms, I buy products that give back to charity ALL the time, oh and I drive s Subaru Forester (SUV). It really blew my mind how targeted I have been my entire life as a consumer.
All of this thinking about consumerism and endless amounts of things brought me to ask Dr. Sastry, if consumerism is so terrible, how do we break the cycle? Does donating to goodwill solve any problem? He essentially told me that good will is better than throwing the stuff out straight away, but it still aides in the cycle of donations covering up a problem rather than pointing out how widespread poverty is which forces people to buy things at Goodwill in the first place. So I decided I’m really going to try my absolute hardest to pair down what I have by giving it to friends or family who would have a use for said clothing item or object and if that doesn’t cover everything, I’m going to either try to sell clothes on Poshmark or last resort, donate them. Once I’ve only kept what I need to be comfortable, I’m going to challenge myself to go 30 days without buying anything. The only exception my be Christmas presents, but even with those things I’ll either buy used, or make presents. How do you guys feel about this? Did watching that video have an effect on you and how you spend money? Also if you have any good ideas for handmade Christmas presents please let me know because all I can think of is cookies or muffins!
In class the other day the topic of animal cruelty came up and I wanted to expand on something Dr. Sastry mentioned, the idea of people adhering to ideologies about animal rights. It is really interesting to me how human beings pick and choose which animals they care about. Why does a dolphin matter more than a pig? I’d even go as far as to say why do people care more about puppies that are abused than they do baby cows in a factory farm?
Today after class I happened to see this article about how owners are getting upset over a new study that determined dogs dreams about their owners. People are actually crying and emotionally moved by the idea that dogs have dreams just like we do. So naturally I look at the comment sections and one of the first comments I see is saying basically pigs are smarter than dogs, which is true, so what on earth do you think they dream about while awaiting slaughter? Pretty hard to comprehend for me personally.
Why is that human beings, especially within America seem to go above and beyond for their personal pets and the thought of someone harming their dog is hard to imagine without getting upset, but we turn a blind eye to factory farmed animals left and right, acting as though, those animals just aren’t important to us whatsoever because just like the anthropocentric ideology of nature being for humans to just exploit, farm animals are beneath humans and therefore have no value other than for us to consume and use as we see fit. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Long gone are the days of newspapers and cable tv newscasts being the preferred outlet for readers. As some of you saw on Sunday evening, Presidential Nominee Donald Trump stated “Twitter happens to be a modern-day form of communication. You can like it or not like it. I’m not unproud of it.” This brings to question something I have considered for quite some time now which is, how reliable is social media to convey information that we consume and ultimately lead our lives by?
We’ve all seen articles that stem from some obscure source but seem totally credible, when in all actuality they are absolutely not. I remember earlier this year I saw a Facebook post of an article on some obscure new American journalist website saying Bill Murray was running for president. Well, I wanted to believe in my heart of hearts that was true, so I of course shared the glorious news with my friends. My dream was short lived because I found out later that day that alas, it was a hoax. Whats interesting about this is, other people who I shared with totally believed this to be true just as I did.
News from social media can come from a multitude of sources. Peers, businesses, professionals, journalists’ etc. So how are we supposed to differentiate between what is and is not reputable? Posting information to Twitter, or to Facebook, doesn’t guarantee that it is reliable. It could very well be nothing more than someones opinion or in my case, someone else’s wishful thinking.
Now when I look to social media now for news, I always double-check my sources before I believe anything to be true. I will look to see if the article, or even just the paraphrasing in question has been repeatedly posted by multiple media correspondents. Since we no longer have bonafide information being verified before its printed, we now really have to do our own digging to be sure that the knowledge we acquire is actually valid and sometimes includes real, concrete data or background history. Social media can be great to reach vast amounts of people in so many different areas of the world, but it can go both ways as to whether its spreading the truth, or lies. We have to take it upon ourselves to be the mediators.