Ross Bishop

Being Better Consumers

by Ross Bishop
There are many reasons for us to rethink our "modern" lifestyle. The biggest one is that may of our choices are putting the planet in jeopardy, and the pace of degradation is rapidly accelerating. It may not be immediately apparent, but if we continue, the walls are going to come crashing down if not for us, certainly for our children.
The corporations who control society are not interested in doing anything about the situation because encouraging the consumer lifestyle is the source of their livelihood! So the responsibility falls to us to do something about it. Whether we will accept that challenge remains to be seen.
As individuals we are nothing to the system, but collectively we hold tremendous power. You would be amazed at what happens when a significant number of people make changes to something as simple as their everyday consumption. That hits the system where it is vulnerable and where it will listen to us - in its bottom line. 
A Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "We must all learn to LIVE together as brothers [and sisters] or we will all perish together as fools."
But until a number of us stand together, we defer our power to the corporate special interests who are only too happy to take that power to serve their own ends.
Arundhati Roy wrote, "The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling - their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them."
A big part of the dilemma is, in all honestly, that we have become lazy and complacent. We are so accustomed an easy lifestyle that it is probably going to be difficult for us to change. And we are not very good at making sacrifices to our life of convenience. 
Things like recycling or eating healthier, even though they are better for us (and the planet), are inconvenient. They require taking more time and energy from our already busy schedules.
The corporations have taken advantage of this by creating a gadget filled, instant-breakfast consumer culture that attends to our every whim. Our grandparents and great grandparents were amazingly self reliant, but we have become so accustomed to having things done for us that the value of self-reliance has been lost on us. Can you say, "Alexa?"
The problem with a convenience oriented lifestyle is that the convenience comes at a significant cost, whether it's energy consumption, refuse in landfills, plastics in the oceans, fracking, downstream chemical pollution or global warming.
The impact of each individual thing we do may seem insignificant, but in the aggregate, the impact can be devastating. Tossing a plastic bottle in the garbage doesn't seem like a big deal, but 35 billion plastic bottles in landfills each year presents an enormous headache! 
Recycling is a hassle. But your garbage added to all your neighbor's, amounts to tons and tons of waste that must be put somewhere! Plus the stuff we recycle gets put back to work! 
It is mind boggling how much reusable trash we throw into landfills every day! Consider this: The people of Sweden recycle 99 per cent of all their household waste! There most of their electricity is made by burning what we stash in landfills!
Consider a few examples: If every household in America replaced just ONE BOX of 175-count facial tissue with a 100% recycled product, we would save 385,000 trees, 140 million gallons of water and almost a million cubic feet of landfill space. From just one box of tissue! 
If every household substituted just ONE BOX of petroleum-based laundry detergent with a plant-derived detergent (which cleans just as well), we would save 165,000 barrels (that's almost 7 million gallons) of oil. That is enough oil to heat and cool 9,500 homes for a year! Plus there would be an immense reduction in the need for wastewater treatment! That's one box of detergent! The average family goes through a dozen or more boxes a year.
I could go on about buying sweatshop products at WalMart, or gas guzzling SUVs, but I think you get my point. No one is asking you to carry water in a bucket, use an outhouse or churn your own butter, but many of our convenience choices have a significant impact on the planet and really don't offer all that much in return. Your life would actually improve if you stopped doing some of them.
But, so long as you are unwilling to be "inconvenienced," the corporations have no real incentive to change. The thing is, at our present rate, by the time most people wake up to the magnitude of what is happening, it's going to be too late for the planet and the creatures we share it with and depend on for our own survival.
It is easy to throw the laundry in the drier rather than taking the time to hang it outside. But the fuel used to make the electricity that runs your drier, pollutes the atmosphere! Whereas God's sunlight and wind are free and they don't pollute! But that in a nutshell, is the dilemma. Hang out your laundry! It smells better, is better for your clothes and it reduces air pollution.
Avoid buying processed food. Cooking from scratch takes time and planning, but it is enormously healthier for you and your family. Packaged foods are convenient, but they are also loaded with chemicals and preservatives and then there is all that packaging waste. Avoid food ingredients you cannot pronounce or that your grandmother would not recognize. Yes, it means more cooking and planning time, but it is worth it on so many levels!
Eat organic as much as you can afford. It's much better for your health and is enormously better for the health of the planet. Plus, it takes power back from the corporations that literally force toxins on us through the food supply.
Be careful of restaurant food, especially franchise operations. The places that make prepackaged franchise restaurant meals are giant chemical factories. If possible, eat at restaurants that use healthy local ingredients and that cook from scratch.
Eating lots of meat is a part of our lifestyle, but eating as much meat as we do is not healthy. Eating less meat would lead to better health - and our lives are already filled with too many cancers, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, etc.
Plus, meat is an enormous (like 20%) contributor to global warming. Raising animals for food is incredibly inefficient. It requires more than one-third of all raw materials and fossil fuels used in the country. More than half of the U.S. water supply goes to livestock production. It takes 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of water and 15 pounds of grain to produce a single pound of beef. That's the monthly water use for a family of four. And fifteen pounds of grain would feed your entire neighborhood! Plus the meat we get is loaded with chemicals, growth hormones and antibiotics. 
Rather than just throwing a steak on the grill, make a casserole or stir fry - there are plenty of other ways to eat less meat that have no effect at all on your nutrition. Plus, it's cheaper! An alternative would be to go meatless one day a week. It is much healthier for your family and the benefit to the planet would be incredible!
Stay with me here, I'm not asking you to become a vegetarian! But without asking you to turn into an eco-freak, there are some other fairly simple things that everyone can (and should) be doing:
Use eco-friendly cleaners, dish soap, recycled paper products, etc. They clean just as well. They may be little more expensive, but this is the sort of sacrifice we all need to make in order to reduce the burden of chemical toxicity and deforestation on the planet while reducing the burden on our waste water system.
Make you own laundry detergent. It's not that hard to do, and reducing the toxicity of our waste water would be enormously kinder to the planet! There are many recipes on the internet, a good one is: 
Plastics do not degrade and almost none of it can be recycled. Even then, very little of what can be potentially recycled ever is. The truth is, the plastics and petroleum industries don't want you to recycle. They want to sell you new stuff.
Every piece of plastic that has ever been made - that you have ever seen - since you were a small child - presently sits in a landfill somewhere or is polluting the oceans. One thousand miles off the coasts of both California and New York are islands of plastic, each twice as large as the state of Texas! They foul the water and poison and strangle the fish and other wildlife. Cities used to simply dump their trash into the ocean. It was cheaper. 
You know those plastic bags you put your produce in at the store? We throw a trillion of them away every year. Reuse them. And use your own shopping bags. Europeans have done this since forever.
This next suggestion is big, and it will take some work, but it can make an enormous difference in so many ways: Create a vegetable garden! Either your own or a community one. Convert some of your lawn or unused land into something useful! 
It can be a significant undertaking, but it is one of the healthiest things you can do for your family and it's a money saver! And tending a garden is great exercise, it's fabulous for the planet, as I say, is MUCH healthier for your family and it reduces your carbon footprint significantly! Plus, it provides a wonderful learning opportunity for both you and your children!
The produce you buy in the mega-mart is not the same as it was when you were a kid. Today's produce has almost NO nutritional value and it is loaded with pesticides, herbicides and other agricultural chemicals. To get the same nutrition you used to get from a bowl of green beans, you'd have to eat 30 bowls today! The same thing is true for virtually everything from apples to zucchini.
Modern agriculture is not your friend. Do an internet search. The USDA (understandably) disagrees with these claims. Spray or soak the fruits and produce you do buy with a diluted solution of apple cider vinegar. It helps remove the leftover chemicals they carry.
Save your vegetable kitchen scraps (freeze them) for soup stock, or make a compost pile in your garden. It reduces the burden on landfills and is great for the soil!
Stop using chemicals to artificially treat your lawns! Runoff from lawn fertilizing and weed killing is a nightmare for our streams and lakes. Weed sprays like Roundup are absolutely horrible for people and the environment!
Shop at your local Farmer's Market. It's more nutritious, reduces industrial transportation and supports the local economy. It is sometimes more expensive, but consider eating organic as an investment in your family's health.
When your light bulbs burn out, swap them out for LED bulbs. LED's last longer, consume significantly less energy and run cooler.
Take a little time to learn about the products you buy and the companies who produce them. Is your coffee or chocolate produced under slave-like conditions? Was your cell phone or running shoes made in a sweat-shop? What about your jeans? There are a number of other things you can do, search the web for ideas and look for web sites that rank corporations on their social consciousness or lack of it.
The planet and your children thank you!
  • By Ross Bishop
  • November 13, 2017

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