I was obsessed with Nickelodeon as a child. I don’t know if it was because I was obsessed with all television or because it was a channel specifically devoted to programming for kids or if I was just drawn to all of the aggressively orange branding, but I was in deep by the time I was in fourth grade.
I watched the shows non-stop, I asked for all of the Nickelodeon merch for every gift-giving occasion, I went to my friend’s house solely to play the computer game (sorry Stephanie), I subscribed to the magazine and my life goal was to visit the studios. I probably should have been outside playing or being with people somewhere instead of parked in front of the TV for who-knows-how-many hours a day, but something good did come out of it that I still have today: the idea that I personally could take action to help make the planet a better place.
A couple of decades ago, Nickelodeon ran some PSAs about not wasting electricity or water and picking up litter and the like. So, naturally, because Nickelodeon told me to, I turned off all of the lights in the house at all times. People who were trying to do things like read or finish homework or pretty much any other thing at night were not as enthusiastic as I was about “saving” energy.
I decided I couldn’t take showers anymore and decreed that no one was allowed to use any water in the house for any purpose. This did not last long for many reasons including the one about dying if you don’t drink water. I think that the fervor with which I carried out these mild suggestions had a lot to do with the mini-existential crisis I had as a result of learning about these situations. This was the first time I ever thought about how much water I used or how much trash I produced. I felt like someone should have told me about the effects of these things before and that my life up until then was sort of a waste. And being mega-against waste, this was a problem for me. Being aware of problems is the first step to solving them, and there are still plenty of things I am just becoming aware of that we could all probably stand to think a little more about, including some ways we can all pitch in to help.
One thing I never really thought about until recently is what we use on a regular basis. A lot of things I used almost every day in the past just made unnecessary waste. I was getting a new disposable coffee cup every time I bought coffee. I was using disposable water bottles which meant that, along with the rest of America, was wasting enough energy bottling water per year that 190,000 homes could have been powered. I was making a significant contribution to the 100 billion plastic grocery bags that are used each year in America.
These are crazy statistics, but we can make an impact by making the tiniest changes. Namely investing and using a reusable mug, bottle and bag. If you’re an average American, just making these changes can save 20 pounds of waste a year, 167 unnecessary pieces of plastic a year and future problems like The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In order to make your potential transition a little easier, we have several varieties of mug, several sizes of Hydroflask vacuum-insulated stainless steel water bottles and several styles of reusable shopping bag for your purchasing pleasure right at your favorite Co-op. Don’t have your bottle at our cafe? You can request a reusable cup to use while you’re there. If you bring a reusable bag to do your shopping (or forego a bag altogether) 10 cents will be donated to our Give Where You Live partner of the month. It’s that easy.
Another thing I never thought about until very recently is what we eat and how it could have an impact on the planet. Watching the documentary Cowspiracy (and by watching, I mean listening to my friend who shall remain nameless talk about it so much for such a long period of time that it seemed like I watched it at least once) was so eye-opening that it prompted me to change my eating habits almost immediately.
The premise is that “animal agriculture is the most destructive industry facing the planet today” which seems crazy, but the claim is backed up with facts like “a plant based diet cuts your carbon footprint by 50%.” It would be ridiculous to assume that everyone on earth would become vegan just because they know this, especially when ice cream and cheese and bacon cheeseburgers exist, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for us to think about how our eating habits affect things like water use and greenhouse gas emissions.
If you’re moderately into products that come from animals, you can think about cutting back some. Even just eating one less burger a week over the course of a year can have the same impact as taking your car off the road for 320 miles. If you have a Tyrannosaurus-Rex-style need for meat, maybe don’t eat lamb for every meal since it uses more carbon to produce than any other meat. Looking for sustainably-raised meat can be a huge help in preserving land and water. Buying any food, including meat, from local sources helps reduce carbon usage a bit since there are comparatively almost no transportation costs. Lucky for you, we have an extensive selection of local and sustainably-raised meats, dairy products and produce along with a boatload of vegetarian and vegan selections in our grocery department, grab & go and cafe.
A third thing I’ve been thinking about lately that never really crossed my mind is how much we eat. In the past, I would lose food in the back of my refrigerator constantly. When I realized how much food I was throwing away, I got an app to help me keep track of what I had, which helped a little when I kept up with it consistently but I was still wasting quite a bit (and periodically rage-quitting keeping track of it too.) Learning how to properly store things like produce and cheese was pretty helpful.
The thing that made the biggest difference for me though was figuring out how much food I could eat before it would go bad and planning accordingly. If I buy more bread or cook more chili than I need at the time, I can freeze it. No matter how good my intentions are, I will never eat an entire shopping cart worth of fruit or vegetables, so I just think about how much I can actually eat before I buy it. I plan what recipes I will make ahead of time based on how much I will actually eat. I utilize the bulk aisle of my Co-op on the regular because no one wants to play the “how old is this vat of honey” game. I just buy the amount I need, plus bringing back containers I’ve already used helps me cut back on packaging waste too.
There are countless things we can do to help “save the planet” as Nickelodeon says, but I think the most important thing we can do is just stop for a second and think about what consequences our actions have. Once we know, we can do something about it, because it turns out GI Joe was right: knowing really is half the battle.