During a long bath last night, I got to thinking:
Where the hell did this bath bomb come from?
Of course, I knew where it had just come from – the top drawer, in a red paper gift wrap that stained my hands something fierce – but I had no idea where had it been purchased. It was a holiday present, and when someone gives you a present you don’t respond by saying, “Thanks…and while you’re here: did you buy this from an ethical company?”
It got me thinking, as most things do, about how to be ethical about unethical things. How can we be environmentally conscious, and socially conscious, and just plain conscious, without punishing ourselves for it?
For example, lets say you have this awesome bamboo top you bought last year, but after you read about how bamboo has been a victim of greenwashing, you realized it’s chemically processed bamboo rayon top. Now what? Do you throw the evil shirt in the trash? Do you give it away and order a new shirt online? Do you have a giant bonfire condemning the shirt to a fiery chemical hell?
Trashing a shirt adds more waste to the dump, more crap to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And though giving the shirt away is commendable in a recycling sense, giving a shirt away that you’d otherwise wear in favor of having a new shirt shipped to you (which involves manufacturing pollutants, gasoline usage, and waste of both natural and chemical resources) cancels out the affect.
And though the giant bonfire is cool, it’s based in negativity when you get right down to it. Where’s the love?
Instead, I am giving you permission to use what you’ve got. I have no issue with occasionally wearing chemical nail polish or tossing on an old, gifted tee from Urban Outfitters, and you shouldn’t either.
One of the main goals of the green movement is to remind us to stop wasting the bounty of things we have, just so we can get more. The idea is to make less waste, and help other people make less waste by buying products that support the same sustainable ideals you do.
Which means that we don’t get a free pass to buy more chemical nail polish and Urban Outfitters t-shirts (or American Apparel, for some of you). Instead, we use what we have, then make a new choice to search out great companies to buy from. (We can’t live by the moniker that “every company has something wrong with it.” That excuse is just apathy, kids, and that’s cowardly. There are better companies, better choices, if you look for them. Hell, that’s what I do all day long.)
At the same time, don’t guilt yourself into throwing away every toxic cleaning product and unethical brand you own. Just know – know - that you’re not going to buy those products again. And stick to it.
If you do that, then you can use all those other products guilt-free…and still be making a difference.