The sad part about this exercise is that I thought I was doing well. My answers matched my ideal vision of “sustainable”. Sure, I sometimes forget to recycle, or I’m too tired to wake up to catch the early farmers market on the weekend; for sure I was making up my ecological footprint by turning off the water whilst I brush my teeth, working in silence rather than having the TV or radio playing… straining my eyes with one lamp on as I read before bed (ok, maybe that one was just because I’m too lazy to get out of bed to turn off a light once I am tired). But shouldn’t those things add up and help me save the planet? Why is it that I practically took out the solar system with my activities?
Here is my current destruction:
Above, I live in a studio basement apartment. Just me and my dog, Ollie. I try to cook as often as possible, I grocery shop every 2 weeks and I eat out occasionally. I pay my own bills, so I use what I consider minimal electricity and gas; and I only take public transportation. I do fly a lot though. I fly home from Christmas and summer (2 round trips minimum a year), and I usually visit a new place (add one more round trip).
Aghast at my results I decided to calculate my ecological footprint during my study abroad in Greece (I used Italy as my marker):
Here, I lived with a roommate in a small studio. We didn’t pay bills but the island we stayed on encouraged us to be very mindful of our electricity usage. On the island I was practically pescatarian and ONLY ate vegetables I got from the market (granted some were brought over by boat). I don’t think I ate one processed meal while I was there (unless a gyro is processed, then I’m screwed). I never drove, I rarely even had to use the bus as we walked/ rode bikes everywhere on the island. Life was simple, and I was saving the world.
Finally, I decided to look at my life in The Bahamas (another island, but COMPLETELY different from my lifestyle in Greece). I used the USA as my marker:
…… This proves exactly my frustration with living in The Bahamas. As an islander I feel like life should be more simple. We should use our ancestor agricultural skills, unfortunately we do not. Every house has at least a front/ backyard, but instead of using it to grow our own crops in our perfectly tropical climate, we leave it grow weeds. We instead busy our lives traveling from home to work via car (its this idea of status, taking the bus is practically a sin). And instead we spend almost HALF of our paycheck on groceries… Isn’t it funny that we can grow almost any vegetable/ fruit and yet we IMPORT them from the US? Sometimes we even export goods, only to REIMPORT them…. Something has got to change.
“…it is difficult to live a life of material moderation within a system that expects, exhorts, and rewards consumption.” (Young, R.D & Princen, T)
Young, R. D., & Princen, T. (2012). The localization reader: Adapting to the coming downshift. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.