I considered myself a pretty good human up until March 2020. I never littered, I didn’t put grease down the drain, and I would never throw a plastic bottle in the trash. I respected Mother Earth and thought I was being a good houseguest.
Until one evening, after unpacking a Costco haul, I looked at the pile of paper and plastic packaging that was left, and it hit me. What am I DOING? What is all this? Why do three cucumbers need to be individually wrapped in plastic? Why are the pierogis separated into three plastic containers and then held together with a roll of cardboard? Why are the tomatoes in a cardboard box and then wrapped in plastic? What am I DOING?
I don’t know why that day was any different, but I could never un-see what I’d done and I could never un-think what I’d thought. I started researching ways to minimize my waste, and with that, I started learning.
I soon stumbled upon Lauren Singer, a 20-something New Yorker who’s 3 years worth of trash fit into a mason jar. She catapulted me into thinking about not only what I throw away, but about what I intake, both into my apartment and into my body. What are all of the products that I use made out of? The shampoo that I put on my head, what’s in it? The kitchen utensils that my food comes into contact with, what are they made out of? Who made them? Where did they come from? How were they made?
I tumbled headfirst into actually seeing the life cycle of an item. Of seeing not only the environmental cost, but the sometimes human cost of producing that item.
I found my way to the Environmental Working Group, who made my head spin when I learned that cosmetics aren’t even tested before they’re put to market. That there are chemicals that are proven to cause cancer in almost everything I owned.
I watched Stink!, a documentary a regular dad made after his kid opened up a pair of pajamas that smelled like chemicals and he wondered why. I learned that “fragrance” is proprietarily protected and that your perfume could contain the same stuff used in a chemical toilet boil cleaner. My mind spun.
All of this new knowledge left me feeling suffocated and panicked, in the-world-is-ending kind of way. Where was my water from? Was it safe? What exactly happens when I flush the toilet? Where did this bunch of grapes really come from? Are there pesticides on them? Who is making my eyebrow pomade? Is it safe? How many toxins do I have in my body, just from eating, drinking and using all of these things over 31 years??
I slowly closed my 52 tabs and took a breath. I had survived this far in seemingly good health. The days, weeks and months it would take me to research and learn how to best proceed would not kill me.
One thing was clear. I had taken the red pill and I had seen the matrix. I knew there was a different way, a way that might be harder, but better. For me, for you, for Mother Nature. It was time to be a better guest. There was no going back.