Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

sustainability

I can’t claim to know that much about sustainability, but whenever I get an email from FARM, I think about sustainability. Does that sound strange? Well, I have heard Dawn of FARM mention that she came from the sustainability movement, originally, and I have often wanted to pick her brain and get a crash course on the issue. Not that I’ve ever had the chance, but the thought is often there.

I also know that a lot of folks in the sustainability movement see vegan outreach in many areas of the world as being…hm. I don’t know the term that would best describe it, but something along the lines of elitist, obtuse, or maybe even blind. And I can sort of see their point, even though I very strongly believe that the absolute most efficient and most sustainable thing to do in any environment is grow plants. I know, however, that I am basing this primarily on my biology knowledge, and ignoring any potential social issues.

And really, we can’t frame the argument for other people in situations we’ve never imagined, so we have to educate ourselves before we can think to offer anything.

There are small things I do in my own life with sustainability in mind. Growing a garden, of course, and shopping at the farmers market when I can. Not using plastic bottles, and avoiding as much plastic in general as possible. Composting (which I’m only just getting started on) and recycling, of course. This has a lot to do with avoiding putting things into the garbage stream. I also try to avoid taking from the earth, and so I avoid buying things new, when I can. Books, I have to be perfectly honest, are a big failure of mine here. I indulge myself at the bookstore way too often, even though I also use half.com to find used books, and I use the library quite a bit as well.

I also buy off craigslist when I can, rather than buying something new. Today, for instance, I bought a desk. It is a really nice desk, actually, and I’m lucky to be in an area with an active craigslist – I know not all areas have such an active list, and buying things used is much much easier when nice used things are easy to find.

The man I bought the desk from noticed right away the RAN shirt I was wearing. Turns out he works for a company that essentially does sustainability consulting for huge corporations. Like…Walmart. He saw the look on my face, and started laughing. He knew exactly what I was thinking, and we ended up having an interesting conversation. He talked about what his company does to get the big execs at places like Walmart to sit down and talk to the environmental groups, like RAN, and see what they can do to improve. He’s helping teach these big exploitative companies that the better they are from the start in protecting the environment, the better they are overall. Image, of course, but also from a cost perspective. It always comes down to that.

I’m not sure what I feel about it, overall. I think what he’s doing is important – he’s helping people to look at the environment in a way they might never have done on their own, and that’s important. I think there is a deeper more serious problem, and it has to do with exploitation. Of the earth, of the people. Is Walmart going to stop selling massive quantities of new cheap stuff?

No, of course they are not, they are only going to try to sell more. That’s what they do, that’s their business.

And I have a problem with that – if nothing else, the earth can not sustain that consumption indefinitely. The social aspects are legendary as well, of course.

Still, it was an interesting conversation, and an interesting business that this man works for.

I was also able to talk to him about SHAC and animal testing. He had a really hard time imagining how they were convicted of terrorism, without having ever committed a crime. It is indeed a mystery, right up until you realize they were driving HLS to bankruptcy and had their trial in that Land of BigPharm, which is also known as New Jersey.

It was amazing to find someone with whom I agreed on so many levels, just by buying a desk from craigslist.

tomato sprouting

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5 responses to “sustainability

  1. Elaine Vigneault June 16, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    You might like FreeCycle, too πŸ™‚ And BookCrossing for books πŸ™‚

  2. Deb June 16, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    The idea of freecycle is fantastic, but my experience with it has been horrible! It is different city to city, so I should probably give it a try here, but I know I’m not alone in being frustrated with it. Generally I find people or organizations to give stuff away to directly, and I find it less frustrating at this point.

    I haven’t tried bookcrossing or bookmooch yet, but they definitely sound like great ideas as well. And I’ve only heard positive things about people’s experiences with them. My problem with the books is impatience, really! Something for me to work on. πŸ™‚

  3. aditya June 17, 2008 at 6:17 am

    Recycling on a whole is a great idea but there is one major problem with it. The cost and resources involved with purifying recycled material is too high. We need to the methods we use to for recycling, like make it more specific to individual material. Take cars for example. Don’t you think it would be better if cars could be dismantled rather than crushing them into a single mass of metal.

  4. Pingback: Vegan Bites: Theory, Activism, & Recipes

  5. Deb June 17, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    aditya,
    Recycling should be our last resort. The majority of our efforts should be in “reduce” and “reuse”, in that order. Only when we’ve exhausted the reduce and reuse possibilities should we then turn to recycling, for precisely the reasons you mentioned – the cost is high.

    But the cost to the environment of not recycling is higher.

    And that just shows why we should put so much more effort into reducing and reusing. I am constantly frustrated by the companies pushing the over consumption of “green” goods. That’s green washing as far as I am concerned!

    As for cars, clearly we should get rid of them! πŸ™‚

    I am currently dependent on my car, so I’m a bit of a hypocrite there, but I do hope to be able to make some changes soon (dependent on an office location change, which I’ll find out about soon), and I think it is important that we all look at where we can make those changes.

    I don’t know much about the recycling of cars, and how it currently works, but it definitely seems like a better option to strip cars of all their reusable parts. It would also help us keep our existing older cars running, and that’s not a bad thing, despite the sometimes lower gas milage.

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