Hopelessness

For pretty much the entirety of my life I’ve been extremely aware of the problems that plague my nation (try growing up as a queer lower-middle-class Asian woman in a society that believes wealthy white cis-hetero males are superior to everyone else). I’ve often felt hopeless in the face of all of these problems, all of these ways in which this society oppresses myself and others who are considered minorities. But I’ve kept picking myself back up, because I know what is right, and I know that’s what I want to keep fighting for.

In recent weeks, my feeling of hopelessness has increased exponentially. The US government’s extremely inept responses to a devastating earthquake, multiple category 4 and 5 hurricanes, and a mass shooting were extremely disheartening. Here are all of these wealthy white men wielding their unearned power to perpetuate ignorance and add to the destruction. Here is a media that perpetuates the status quo by continuing to blame my generation for everything from the increased use of a certain color of pink to our current economic crisis, dismissing us as “millennials,” ignoring our cries for change, and doing very little to advocate for actual solutions to the problems they report on. Here is a society where those with exorbitant privilege and wealth feel okay just sitting idly by, unwilling to fight for what’s right because that would mean giving up one of their many, many comforts. I feel overwhelmed by the injustices of our world.

But I won’t allow myself to be apathetic toward these problems and lose interest. I can’t allow myself to think of this as the new normal. Because these issues affect us all, whether we want to admit it. Although by no means am I in the highest echelons of society (not that I’d ever be allowed there anyway), I certainly have enough power and resources to do something. So I have to do something. I have a duty to my community, a community called humanity. I think we all have this duty, and those who can most afford to act on that duty should.

My heart goes out to all of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting. I will keep advocating for gun control, because no one should have to go through what you went through. When it is easier to buy a gun than it is to buy contraception in some states, there is something gravely wrong with our country.

And my heart goes out to all of the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and to the victims of the earthquake in Mexico. I’ll keep fighting to curb climate change, because I know that the poorest and most disenfranchised people of color are those who will be impacted first. I’ll keep advocating for a government that cares about all of its citizens, because Puerto Rico is a part of our country and Puerto Ricans deserve the same rights and care as those of us on the mainland.

I’m going to take action by upping my donations to organizations advocating for gun control and to organizations fighting climate change. I’m going to continue reducing my carbon footprint. I’m going to work with progressive activist organizations to elect candidates who actually care. And I’m going to pay  more attention to my representatives and hold them accountable. Even if my representatives are progressive and are already fighting for my values, they can always do more.

If you’re feeling hopeless too, I’d advise coming up with a game plan. Donate your time and/or money to help the victims of these climate change disasters. The Hispanic Federation is a great place to start, as they will distribute your donations to areas in need, like Mexico and Puerto Rico. Another good charity is Earthjustice, which uses the legal system to fight against climate change. If you would like to vet a charity before you donate to it, organizations like Charity Navigator provide comprehensive rundowns of various nonprofits’ efficiency and transparency. Call your senators and urge them to fight for gun control and fight for reducing carbon emissions. If they say they’re already working on that, urge them to work harder. And don’t stop thinking about these issues. Don’t let this wash over you and become just another blip in the timeline.

Listening to this podcast also helped me snap out of my feeling of hopelessness. The hosts have a really nuanced, caring, and important discussion about the current events of the past week, specifically the shooting in Las Vegas. They reminded me that, as overwhelming as all of this is, we can’t just stop in our tracks. We’ve got to keep talking about all of these issues. We’ve got to keep acting. Apathy is part of what got us further into this mess.

This blog will return to its usual programming of discussing sustainability and ethical fashion in the next post, but I thought I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge current events here. I know I do a post like this every couple of months, but with all that is going on, I’m surprised I don’t decide to do this every day. (Admittedly, that’d be exhausting for both you and me.)

Stay safe, keep resisting, and don’t give up. Movements are built through the power of many individuals working together toward justice.

❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

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Being My Best Self: Going “Zero Waste” for One Month

Summer is starting to fade, and as the seasons transition into one another I find myself wondering whether I am being my best self: whether I am working “smart” enough, whether I am doing enough to pursue my creative goals, whether I am being a good friend/daughter/partner/sister/person. (Yeah, I get really reflective during these moments of in-between weather. . . .) And I’ve always felt that my best self would do more to care for the environment than just composting and buying from sustainable brands. Ever since I learned about Lauren Singer’s blog Trash Is for Tossers and the zero-waste movement, I’ve been itching to go zero waste myself. But I kept making excuses not to try: I’m too busy, I’m too tired, I’m too dependent on plastic-wrapped X item. . . .

All of these excuses were tiring me out, because at the end of the day I was still wracked with guilt over how many pieces of nonrecyclable plastic I had contributed to the landfill. The disconnect between my morals, my knowledge about excessive consumption and climate change, and my actions wouldn’t stop nagging at me. And with recent events like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, which were both exacerbated by the recent, manmade rise in ocean temperatures, I’ve felt increasingly anxious about my carbon footprint, not to mention the ridiculous carbon footprint of this gas-guzzling, war-mongering country that I am a citizen of.

So this month, I’m being my best self. And M. is joining me by being his best self. We have made a pact with each other to, for the entirety of this month, behave as if we are the ideal versions of ourselves. We will be the kindest that we can be to ourselves, to others, and to the environment, as the best versions of ourselves would be. We will be proactive in trying to reduce our carbon footprint and trying to join larger organizations that are working to change the narrative of this country we call home.

M. and I have had this idea for a while, and September seemed to work out well with our respective schedules. We each have our separate goals for this month, in accordance with what our individual ideas of “best self” are, but they work well in unison. My overarching personal goal is to go as close to zero waste as possible, and M.’s overarching personal goal is to have a healthier diet and exercise more. So part of our pact involves taking a jog to the farmer’s market each Sunday and buying our vegetables and groceries using reusable mesh produce bags and mason jars. We’ll cook at home, which is healthier and less wasteful because we won’t use any single-use items and we will compost any trimmings from the vegetables we use. In addition, the majority of our meals will be vegetarian. Several birds, one stone.

I like lists, so M. and I made a comprehensive list of the specific actions we aim to take. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve agreed to do:

  • Refuse single-use plastic bags.
    • We will bring our own mesh produce bags and our own reusable shopping bags to the store.
  • Refuse single-use plastic straws.
    • We will bring our own reusable straws.
  • Refuse disposable plastic utensils and nonrecyclable takeout containers.
    • We will bring our own reusable containers and reusable utensils.
  • Refuse single-use coffee cups.
    • We will bring our own reusable coffee cups when we want a caffeine fix.
  • Buy in bulk and cook at home.
    • We will buy groceries from the farmer’s market.
    • We will buy organic, free-range eggs.
    • We will use reusable mesh bags for produce.
    • We will trade off cooking duties.
    • We will prepare vegetarian meals.
  • Bring and use reusable napkins.
  • Compost consistently.
  • Exercise 2 – 3 times a week.
    • We will take at least one jog a week.
  • Buy ethically.
    • We will boycott Amazon.
    • We will buy from sustainable brands or buy vintage/preowned items.
  • Become more politically involved.
    • We will attend meetings held by local activist organizations.
    • We will volunteer for events or for political organizing.

There are a few exceptions to the above list of rules. We’ll be going on a short vacation to Denver this weekend, so we’ve agreed that we won’t be as stringent about refusing single-use plastic during our getaway (although I still plan to hold myself to these standards, M. will not do the same). Additionally, while the meals that we prepare at home will be vegetarian, we are not sticking to a strictly vegetarian diet; I’m still allotting myself about 3 meat-inclusive meals a week. Additionally, the above rules will not apply to medical issues, such as when we experience allergies or use contraception. Although I’m open to finding non-plastic wrapped versions of allergy pills, for instance, if I have to decide between forsaking over-the-counter medicine for the sake of going zero waste or living a sniffle- and itch-free life, I’m choosing the latter.

Because a lot of these behaviors are new to us, we’ve set up a “punishment” system for when we make mistakes along the way. We’ve dubbed this system the “Jar of Atonement,” although our nickname for it has become the “Shame Jar.” 😂 For every unskilled decision that one of us makes, whether it is forgetting to refuse a single-use straw or slacking on our exercise goals for the week, that person will put a dollar in the jar. At the end of the month, we’ll choose one social justice organization and one environmental justice organization, and donate half of the total dollar amount in the jar to each.

We actually started following these rules on September 1, so it’s been two weeks now since we started attempting a healthier, zero-waste lifestyle. At the end of the month, I’ll write a detailed post about the entire experience and some lessons I’ve learned, so I won’t spill the beans yet on how it’s going. You’ll have to wait a couple more weeks! Okay, well, maybe I’ll spill one bean: so far, I really like doing this. 😊

❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)