OPINION: Put your money where your mouth is

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Ashley Junger is a junior
English literature and biology major
from St. Louis, Missouri.

The average student starts out their day with a shower. Then they will probably use a variety of products - cosmetics and otherwise - to make their appearance “class-ready.” Following this routine, a bowl of cornflakes isn’t out of the question.

Hidden between the lines of this seemingly average morning routine is a myriad of environmental taboos. The amount of clean water used for the shower is more than the amount of water some families use in a week. The manufacturing of the various products and their packaging generate an abundance of waste and pollution. Cornflakes are made from GMOs grown in crops that are drowned in pesticides, which leech into surrounding water sources.  

Breakfast is barely over, and the environmental impacts are already serious and global. How, then, is one supposed to maintain some sense of environmental efficacy when every choice seems to contribute toward some sort of environmental disaster?

It’s easy to fall into this trap of nihilism - to tell yourself that the cause is already lost and that there’s no point in fighting when the infrastructure and industry is (and has been) slowly creating a poisoned world. It’s easy to feel like the small things that can be done to help are pointless when faced with the scope of the big things that are hurting our environment.

Just remember: the big things don’t outweigh the small things. They’re built upon them. We live in a society in which our voices are heard most loudly through money.

The small things you can do (buying local and organic, choosing products with little packaging, buying free range antibiotic-free meats, etc.) spurs the changes that are needed to dismantle the big things. When we can show that we are invested in change toward a cleaner world, not just symbolically but with our dollars as well, then we will start to see change.

The question then becomes: At what point is the sum of your choices enough to make you considered “environmentally friendly”? Where is the line?

I’m not asking you to go out into the wilderness in a Thoreau- or McCandless-inspired quest for one-ness with nature. My humble solution is to merely make the environmental choice more often than not and to realize that you are making a decision.

Be aware that each purchase represents a vote for the way our products are manufactured and produced and that you, the consumer, have the power.