By: Jeanine Pfeiffer*
We all have choices. As we fill our lives with things or creatures or experiences, we have an astonishing array of options. Bling or plain? Doberman or Chihuahua? Whale watching or poolside tanning? Paper or plastic or bring your own gosh-darn bag?
We consumers are demi-gods of the Universal Supermarket of Life, setting off a cascade of repercussions with our choices, all the way up and back down the production-consumption-disposal chain. Do we recognize our extraordinary collective power?
Picture each dollar (or euro) you spend as a vote. Each time we hand over a piece of currency, we're deciding the fate of our farmlands, forests, rivers, oceans, and the air we breathe. Buy virgin white toilet paper, and listen to centuries-old trees going crash, thud, kaBOOM. Order swordfish for dinner now, and forget about ever serving that fish to your grandchildren. Don't recycle your plastics, and you just might be contributing to a floating island of garbage (twice the size of the continental USA) circulating the Pacific.Now picture those dollars (or euros) going in a different direction. Imagine making a purchase that actually saves a tree, increases fish populations, decreases waste. If you buy hemp, bamboo, organic cotton, or 100% post-consumer-waste recycled paper products, waa-hoo, you're on your way to protecting forests all around the world. Carry a seafood watch pocket guide and order farmed clams, striped bass, or rainbow trout and — voila! - you're increasing our seafood stocks. Stick a cloth shopping bag in your glove compartment and help shrink that crazy floating island of trash.
As more of us tree-hugging-types vote with our dollars, and make better consumer choices, we are not only "Walking the Talk," we can collectively change how our world works. We can reverse the destructive patterns that result in terrible, screaming-towards-disaster trends like the ozone hole, the oceanic dead zones, or the fact that 25% of all wild animals on earth are endangered.
Here at www.earthwatch.org">Earthwatch, we sponsor citizen science to inspire a new type of consumer action. Here's one example: in 2007, five Union Bank of Switzerland fellows participated in our Mexican Mangroves and Wildlife expedition. After they got back to their offices in New York City, they realized they weren't happy about all the disposable cups and water bottles they and their fellow employees were using at work. So they pooled their resources, met with groups of their coworkers, discussed alternatives, and distributed reusable mugs. What a lovely, simple solution.
Which brings me back to my dog (pictured) who is recycled. He's a "new" old dog. Inspired by all the terrific finds I've uncovered in New England consignment stores, I decided to acquire a "used" canine. Mito, a sleek, spirited, Italian greyhound, is a rescue dog. He's eight (or nine) years old, weighs 18.3 pounds, and is possibly the best thing that's happened to me all year.
And yes, his diet is 100% organic, his doggie parkas are made from fabric scraps, and his, um, doggy-doo makes excellent garden fertilizer. I'm also quite proud to announce that Mito was a terrific cultural ambassador during Earthwatch's tree-planting escapade at a housing development in Roxbury (south Boston) last weekend.
So walk the talk. Plant the trees. Save the fishies.
(And don't forget to walk the dog.)
* NOTE: The opinions expressed here are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Earthwatch.
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