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The Inequality of Eco-Friendly Expectations: A Series

It’s a tough topic, but it needs to be discussed. As much as we all care about the environment and want to make change and see change, sometimes, being eco-friendly is expensive! The ability to afford or even ACCESS the most basic “starter kit” for a greener life is a privilege. One many of us are fortunate to have (such a blessing). But, when we take what WE can do and try to force it on to others, it doesn’t always work. There’s good intentions, but they often go awry. Let’s talk about it.

What happens when you forget your reusable bags at home? For me, it can lead to a few different outcomes. Either, I try to carry as much as I can without a bag if I didn’t drive; or if I drove, I’ll just transport everything to my trunk from the cart (bare). If things are really, really not working out - I cough up the bag tax. It’s not a huge deal, but I hate to waste the plastic, of course.

But, what if I didn’t have a car? What if those $0.15 absolutely needed to go elsewhere? What would I do, or really what could I do? I’d be rather stuck - forced to meet seemingly unfair expectations imposed by people who don’t know, and often don’t respect, my theoretical situation. For many, the consequences are far more serious than minor annoyance or inconvenience.

I’m not saying bag taxes are bad or that all eco-friendly products are expensive. I’m not here to rage against the changes people are making to be better, to do better. I have the utmost respect for anyone doing anything to reduce their carbon footprint. I myself am doing the same. I try to budget in the most eco-friendly items I can; I use a free compost drop-off service, I use free scientific access sites, I buy biodegradable soaps and cleaners, I walk as much as possible, etc. But I certainly can’t afford to buy massive carbon offsets or install solar panels right now. I acknowledge my privilege and what it allows me to do. My economic situation lets me limit my emissions, give back to worthy organizations, spend time outside in nature, and get educated. But not everyone has those opportunities, and in some ways, they’re being punished for it.

As we move forward in our fight against climate change, wastefulness, materialism, we must remember that the policies we support or vote for will impact all of us. Not just those of us who already adhere to these “green standards” or those who don’t want to use reusable bags or drive hybrid cars, but also those of us who can’t. Those of us with privilege need to uplift and empower leaders to make positive change in a way that keeps all people in mind. That can be difficult, maybe it’s even impossible. But it’s really important that we try.

Before I delve too much into this series, I want to hear from y’all. What topic would you like me to discuss first?

  • The intersection between scientific literacy issues and eco-friendly expectations [EDIT: this will be my next piece as decided by a social media poll :)]

  • Bag taxes

  • Green products (and inexpensive or free alternatives)

  • Misconceptions about eco-friendliness

  • Food deserts

  • The science of being eco-friendly

  • Inclusive policy, or

  • The actual cost of “going green”

I will post polls on my social media accounts, or you can submit a vote through my contact form!

All of this said: going green doesn’t have to be expensive - and of course it has an unbelievable number of benefits - but when laws and rules put lower income individuals at a disadvantage, it needs to be discussed. I certainly don't mean to suggest I am anti-green-initiatives, but I believe in inclusive policy. Inequality is something that will drive a wedge in this movement if we don’t address it now. Just like low rates of scientific literacy related to inequality in income and access, reduced access to “green” products can create stigma within communities and can hinder efforts to unite and overcome the enormous issues facing our planet right now. So let’s dig into this together, and see what we can find. I will be analyzing scientific journal articles, newspaper articles, legal documents, and anecdotes to compile information for this series. If you would like to share your story or suggestions, please write to me below!

Disclaimer: all of these opinions or experiences are my own. If you would like more information about this topic please reach out, I would love to talk about it with anyone interested.

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