The arrival of Earth Month is definitely something that deserves to be celebrated, but also, it’s a period where self-reflection is endlessly important. Earth Month is a period of time where you get to think about the different ways in which you live your life, and see if you’re living well and sustainable. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen discuss the social and ecological significance of celebrating Earth Month. We live in times when the world needs the care of her people. In celebrating Earth Month, it’s time to find ways to become better stewards of the planet.
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Taking Action During Earth Month
It was Earth Hour day and April is Earth Month. We have Earth Day coming up on April 22nd but the entire month is technically Earth month. Throughout the month of April, we’ll be paying a lot of attention to the Earth. It’s such an important part of our well-being, mentally and sustainably, for us to reflect on how we can make a difference. There’s a lot of people that say that one day isn’t enough for Earth Day, especially right now. People have been saying that for years. A lot of times you’ll see that in social media like, “I celebrate Earth Day every day.” We shouldn’t be paying attention one day a year or even one month a year. I pulled up a few different articles about how people are celebrating and raising their awareness. A good article I found so far is on UC Davis’ website and they said that they’re celebrating Mother Earth. This is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day coming up too. Is that a fact, Jason?
Yes. Before a lot of large-scale events were being canceled, they asked me to come out to Washington, DC to do some culinary stuff.
It’s the planning council for whoever’s behind the Earth Day celebrations. I was doing a project with Switch4Good and they had tried to arrange that. It didn’t work out because things got canceled on that scale.
Even more reason to talk about it digitally right now. The UC Davis, they’re encouraging everybody to start observing earth month on April 1st. They’ll be going through May 10th, which is Mother’s Day which is neat.
Do they have any recommended guidelines for individuals to take part in certain activities during earth month?
That’s what I want to dig into for this episode. This is an example because I pulled it up. It was surprisingly not that many people talking about it yet. A lot of people don’t start talking about Earth Day until Earth Day. It’s important to discuss it as early as possible and think about all the different things that we can do. We’ll be doing an Earth Day episode in addition to this but we wanted to get a head start with it. NYU also had a good article about this for their month-long celebration. I love that a lot of colleges are doing that. It’s interesting that we’re recording this on March 16th, 2020 and a lot of these articles were written before these colleges started to close down. A lot of shifting and even more reason to discuss it is that unless you’re around other people who are talking about these things, you might not be aware. The sad thing is if you’re not on a college campus, you might not be aware of something like earth month. You might not be pushed to do things. Communication and raising awareness are important and even more important in times like these.
“In 1970, Earth Day was initiated to encourage education and action towards addressing global environmental degradation. That year, twenty million Americans which is about 10% of the US population mobilized in cities, towns and on university campuses to launch the Modern Environmental Movement. In the last 50 years, we have seen an immense political progress, innovation and public participation, but we continue to face global challenges, the threat of climate change, mounting concerns for the future of our planet and its inhabitants.” NYU was planning on doing events, lectures, panels, volunteer days and competitions. We don’t know if any of that is going to happen at this point. They have a great calendar of events. We can brainstorm about how we can do some of these things virtually. Social media is wonderful. They had special conferences going on, a climate change idea jam. I don’t know if I ever heard that.
It’s like a brainstorming session?
It says an ideation session where people and experts are going to have workshops. I don’t know if they’re doing any of this now. The calendar of events at NYU is impressive. I bet you that a lot of schools are planning on doing this. They were doing action challenges. This is going to happen on April 22nd which is Earth Day. A lot of these are very vague and this is also so important because a lot of people don’t know what to do since things are very vague. I thought Earth Day is on April 22nd, right?
I believe so.
I’m getting very confused because on their website, they’re celebrating on April 25th. This is what I mean. It’s confusing. They’re planning on celebrating over the weekend because people wouldn’t be available and not going to school.It's important to remind ourselves that we're all in this together. Click To Tweet
I’m always thinking about this of how can I reduce my carbon footprint or live more sustainably? Asking that question right now, as we have more and more awareness every single year of the carbon output and how human activity is contributing to this. We see in the science that is coming out. My thing is on an individual level, how do we share resources, ideas and strategies with each other to curb our carbon footprint. One of the biggest challenges that we have in Los Angeles for some people, because Los Angeles is such a spread-out metropolitan area, is the transportation part of the equation. Whereas we have a good metro system that is an underground and above-ground rail system for transportation. LA is still very much a car-focused city.
For all of the wonderful progress we’ve made since the 1970s in curbing the rampant air pollution, we still have air quality issues here in LA. It’s always this idea of reduction or elimination. On that tip, I know several people that are intentionally car-free here in LA. When people on the outside hear that, when someone who’s intentionally car-free, they’re like, “Why would you do that in LA? That’s crazy.” Their whole point is if you’re strategic about it, you plan your routes, you use things bicycles and walking in metro and buses, you don’t have to be beholden to having the car in LA. It requires more planning and preparation. The people I know that are willfully doing it car-free, they don’t seem to be bothered by it at all. In fact, they feel more in alignment with that choice because their ideas of reductionism and minimalism. I think minimalism and environmentalism philosophically are somehow tied together. There seems to be an overlap in those two things.
One thing that I have found over the years of studying sustainability with Eco Vegan Gal is there are a lot of different things that we can be doing.
Literally, there are hundreds of things that we could be doing. I don’t want to spend a whole episode listing out all of these things because sometimes they become very overwhelming. On the other hand, I pulled up a list of 30 simple ways to celebrate but since we are doing an Earth Day episode, we can spread this out over that. First, I wanted to talk about what Earth Hour is and was. You can still do things even after the official day. I also want to dive in and remind people that it is the whole month. April hasn’t begun yet, you do have a lot of time to reflect on what you can do this month and then what you can do for the rest of the year.
Earth Hour is an organized movement that unites people to take action on environmental issues and protect the planet. It’s very similar to Earth Day. Part of that is they’re hoping that instead of making it overwhelming like Earth Day or Earth Month, it’s what can you do as a global movement. People all across the world can do something simultaneously. It’s about a one-hour lights out event, which is also a symbol of a broader commitment towards the planet. This 2020, it happened on March 28th. The very first time that it was held was in 2007. It’s been going for quite some time. I remember learning about it in 2009 or 2010 when I was starting to get more active. Millions of people participate in this. It’s incredible. What they’re aiming to achieve is bring people together and deliver a strong global commitment to tackling the threat of climate change. They also feel the staggering loss of biodiversity in nature. It’s very important to spark conversations about all of this together.
Why is the event held in late March and all of that? The second to last and last weekend of March is around the time of the spring and autumn equinoxes in the northern and southern hemispheres which allows for near coincidental sunset times in both hemispheres, thereby ensuring the greatest visual impact of a global lights out event. That’s why they do it at that time which I thought was interesting. If you didn’t participate in 2020, you could certainly pick at any time to reduce your electricity. That was part of the thing. It’s not the symbolism of doing it all together but it’s being more aware of. I remember when I first did Earth Hour, I had to be conscious like, “What do I do when I turn out my lights for an hour?”
We use so much electricity. Human beings in general rely on lights to get a lot of things done. I’m curious now with the development of laptops and mobile devices. You could have your lights off, but you could technically be on your devices. That defeats the point but it depends on what you need to get done or what you want to do during that time. As long as your lights are off, it counts. You can also think about things that aren’t electronics. You can sit by candlelight which is lovely. You could have a candlelight dinner. You could meditate by candlelight. You could take a nap if you wanted for that hour. There are so many different things that you could do during that time.
Oil lamp if you want to get old school.
They even have starter kits on their website. If you go to EarthHour.org, they have a lot of information on how you can organize your own events. There are dedicated guides. What you can do to help event ideas going beyond the hour? There’s a lot of good information. This website is up year-round and you can come on here and stay very informed. Some of this information is a little late because the event has already happened in 2020 such as reminding your friends and family to turn off non-essential lights but you could do that beyond. A lot of people have more lights on than they need to. They’re turning them on out of force of habit. That save you money, but it can also save electricity and help you be more focused on why do you need all these lights turned on all the time.
Mindfulness is also a part of that whereas in my house in terms of turning off the lights or even pulling appliances out of the electrical socket because you can get a vampire drain effect on your electric bill. I’ve gone the extra mile to try to be more present and more mindful to my electricity consumption in terms of unplugging high drain devices. You’re not getting the vampiric effect. If I leave a room, shut the light off. You can employ a presence practice to this whole equation too which is great.
Beyond having dinner in the dark, you can go stargazing so you’d go outside. A lot of people don’t take the time to do that. Many people participated during Earth Hour, it’s a cool time because the light pollution is less. If you’re thinking of things to do beyond Earth Hour, Jason and I went to a national park which is also natural in Utah. One of our favorite elements of that trip was stargazing after the sun went down, sitting out in nature, far away from buildings and light pollution and observing the stars, which is special for us given that we live in Los Angeles. Some people go camping. Camping is another thing. You can plan a camping trip. You could have a night of board games and do that by candlelight.
People are saying to host a movie night. You can still watch movies. Most people watch movies with the lights out, but that’s still feels a little defeating the point. Glow in the dark scavenger hunt. You can get glow sticks. There’s a lot of fun things. It’s about raising your awareness. Thinking about the type of lights that you use, are you using LED lights? What type of candles are you burning? Some candles are made from very poor-quality materials or they might be more or less eco-friendly. You can pay attention to the type of wicks, wax and scents that are in the candles that you’re using. We’re big proponents for anything that raises your awareness and helps you be more mindful. Earth Hour is wonderful. That’s one of the biggest reasons to do it.
As a throwback to when I was in my late teens and I was first starting to learn about environmentalism and the human impact on the environment. I wanted to give a shout out to several books that are super amazing that I discovered that were helpful in terms of my education around what can I do in terms of my daily practices to alleviate the strain on the environment. The first one, and this is old school, but I feel this sparked a lot of people to examine this whole equation was Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. In fact, Marvin Gaye wrote Mercy Mercy Me, the song, about this book. It’s from I believe in 1970. I remember my mom told me about it when I was a teenager. That was one of the first environmental books that got me thinking about impact. The other one was The Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock. It is also another phenomenal book about environmentalism. It also posits a theory that the earth is a sentient living organism with consciousness.
The Gaia theory is interesting but he talks about the pact of anthropomorphizing the earth as a sentient living organism. The Revenge of Gaia is amazing. The third one is Living Healthy In A Toxic World. I remember at the very beginning, this was around 18 or 19 years old, I started diving into these and learning things. To me, that’s my holy trifecta of environmentalism. I’ve read other ones, but those three were pivotal in getting me to reconsider my relationship with the Earth and how my daily habits and choices, consumptive financial, what I consume, what I don’t consume, how all of that has a compounding effect, especially now that we have nearly eight billion humans on the earth. There’s still a mentality of like, “What I do doesn’t matter. My choices and little old me, what impact does that have?” It is truly the compounding effect of that many billions of humans on a planet over time. It’s got us some belief in and I believe in the predicament we’re in now environmentally is the compound effect of those actions.
That’s another important thing since we focus so much on mental well-being. A lot of people start to feel like, “I can’t make a difference. It’s too late to make a difference. We’re screwed. Why even bothering? I might as well enjoy it.” We have to remember it’s not about us. With girls like Greta who has stood up and said, “We’re children and we’re the ones that are going to be around when everything goes to crap.” The essence was that she felt very frustrated and betrayed by older generations that weren’t taking it seriously. It’s so important for us to remind ourselves that we’re all in this together. Everything does matter that we’re doing and not look at that from an overwhelming perspective because simultaneously we also are doing the best that we know how to right now. Not necessarily the best that we can, but the best that we know how. There’s a lot of ignorance. This time of year is a helpful way to grow awareness.
I pulled up some different articles. We can discuss some ideas here to get you thinking, but hopefully not to overwhelm you because these conversations can feel very overwhelming. I certainly want to have a lot of compassion. Even if you can do one thing like participating in Earth Hour, or if you didn’t, or doing some of the things that they suggest beyond Earth Hour can make a difference. It’s about the impact of everything collectively over time, the compounding effect. We would recommend for anything in your life, any changes, whether it’s your personal health or environmental health, every step does make a difference when you’re going in a positive direction.
Instead of throwing up your hands and saying it’s too late, why don’t you try to do something? Even if we could earn an extra hour on this Earth, an extra hour of health is worth it, in my opinion. To keep in mind that there are so many beings on this planet, human beings, animal beings, plants, all of these things that need our support. They need us to not give up on them. One of the articles I pulled up was How to Celebrate Earth Day at Work, which is interesting. One thing I liked about this was you can organize events such as a screening of a movie. One movie they recommended that I haven’t watched yet is called A Plastic Ocean.
There are many amazing documentaries out there and this one looks beautiful. There’s a ton of documentaries that you can watch. Sometimes those can be very depressing, so you have to make sure that you’re in the right state of mind because you’ll see all this information and you’ll think, “We’re screwed,” then you start to feel down on yourself. What was the other one, Jason? Was that Cowspiracy that dug into the environmental side of things which is wonderful. That movie I feel did not get nearly as much attention as What the Health did, which is by the same filmmaker.
Forks Over Knives is necessarily game-changing but environmentalism wasn’t right.
Those are all about food. Cowspiracy, that’s the one that did something to the environment. That’s one of the reasons that I feel compelled to stay vegan, to eat organic foods, to make a lot of my personal decisions, and also to do my best to avoid as much single-use plastic and other products as well. On that note, I’ve found over time especially because I’ve run a brand called Eco-Vegan Gal, a lot of people want to point fingers at you if they don’t feel you’re perfect. I remember this also as I was developing Eco-Vegan Gal, I was the most passionate I’ve ever been about sustainability back in 2008, 2009 when I was beginning and all of this. I was reading a lot of books and I remember Laurie David who produced An Inconvenient Truth, also another documentary. She’s done a lot of great work. She was married to Larry David, thus she has that last name. I remember she had written a book.
Before or after seeing An Inconvenient Truth, you read this book or you got to it because of An Inconvenient Truth?
I think it was after. Maybe it wasn’t a book. I always associate it with a book writing. I’m pretty sure it was her. She got a lot of people who were upset because she was flying on a plane. I typed in, “Laurie David plane” and people are like, “Hypocrite of the week.” There are all these lists of green hypocrites. People in this space saying like, “You say all of these things, you have a big home in Martha’s Vineyard and you travel on a private jet. That’s as much fuel as a transcontinental flight.” All of these are great points but I found it so bizarre to pick on somebody who is making such a big difference in the world. It is helpful to raise somebody’s awareness but to call them a hypocrite, to point fingers at them, and to highlight all of their mistakes and all of that I felt that it was extreme.
It’s like as if the cancel culture, we call it that now. This idea of shaming people online has been around since the internet started. It’s interesting because what is the motivation for someone doing that? Do they feel that they’re not taking enough action in their life and it’s easier to criticize others? I always wonder for people that are in that cancel culture mentality, what’s motivating that? Why do they feel the need to call someone out?Modify your behavior and do things that are 'less convenient,' but have greater impact and more compassion and mindfulness for the world. Click To Tweet
I remember making a YouTube video years ago and it was like, “How to be ecofriendly on a plane?” Someone was like, “Flying on a plane isn’t ecofriendly. It cancels all of this stuff out.” I’m thinking, “I’m personally not at a place in my life where I don’t want to fly in a plane to go see my family.” I’m not going to spend six days driving across the country once a year to go visit my family. I certainly could. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t or that you can’t, it’s just that the time involved is so extreme that it makes it much more challenging, if not more expensive. In that way, you have to start to think what again is the best that you can do given the circumstances and the best that you can do with the information and the resources that you have. A lot of times when we talk about environmental suggestions, some of them don’t take into account all of the ways that they make our lives more complicated. A lot of people will give up because they think, “I can’t do it perfectly. Why bother altogether?” This happens with veganism, health, wellness or fitness, you go on and on. “If I make a mistake, if I can’t do this perfectly, then why bother?” That is so upsetting.
I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be pointed out and brought to her attention. It is important to talk to her about it and say, “Why are you deciding to fly on a private jet?” Maybe she has a good reason. I don’t know what it is. I also haven’t looked this up in many years. I don’t know what she said to defend herself if she ever did. My point being that a lot of times we start to criticize somebody before we even understand their rationale behind it. For all we know, she could have been donating, buying carbon offset which was a big thing many years ago or she could’ve been doing something. There could have been some important reason to her that helped her justify it. My thought is someone as educated and passionate as Laurie David thought this through. I doubt that she was like, “I’m going to con the whole world and make them think I’m a big environmentalist and then I’m not going to walk my talk.” I highly doubt that.
On that note though, it also reminds me of back when I was starting Eco-Vegan Gal, there was a great book and movie that came out called No Impact Man. That was my first interview that I ever did for the Eco-Vegan Gal world. It was with Colin. This is back before I started a podcast. This was 2009 or 2010 and it would have been great as the podcast, but I didn’t know how to do a podcast back then. I recorded it and then put it up on YouTube. That’s where you can listen to it. It’s a two-part video of me on the phone and it makes me nervous to think about it because I was awkward. The quality might not have been that great because I had to rig up my computer in a certain way to record it. I was so determined and excited that he said yes to being interviewed by me. We had kept in touch for a little while after that and he’s gone on to do all sorts of amazing work.
He also did a great book. It’s another amazing book that came out a few years ago that I absolutely loved. His documentary No Impact Man is wonderful. It reminds me a lot of Super Size Me. That same style where he challenged himself to have the least amount of impact on the planet possible. That meant things not flying by plane. In the movie, he took a train instead of a plane or drove places and went to all of these big extremes. It was such a well-done documentary that still makes an impact now. His other book that I loved was called How To Be Alive. That’s one of those books that I was highlighting like crazy. He’s a very great writer. He also does coaching and speaking. He does great work. Shout out to him. That’s another one of my favorite documentaries.
Go back to this list that we started reading off of about things that you can do at work. A lot of people are wondering how can they make a difference in the environment that they’re in. The micro-environments that they’re in whether it’s work or school. Sometimes feeling like they don’t matter but collectively it can feel very powerful. If you can gather some people together to watch a documentary, even if this could be friends and family too. It doesn’t have to be at work. A lot of these things apply to each other. Doing social media together, volunteering together can be great. There are so many different ways you can volunteer to clean up beaches, local parks, beautifying the town square and planting trees. There are lots of fun ways to get involved. A lot of people are in quarantine because of the coronavirus, not seeing each other very much. The socializing has changed. I’m also curious to see how Earth Day and Earth Month are celebrated given where the state of the world may be. On that note, the self-quarantine might make things more eco-friendly in some way.
It already has. There was some interesting footage that I saw of China. One aspect of this quarantine protocol in certain countries has been to limit travel for only emergencies or food. China has had one of the most hardcore pollution problems because of the transportation and the industrial production sector. They were showing before and after side-by-side shots on the internet. The air has cleared up to such a degree in China. It’s unbelievable. It’s completely different. I was seeing shots of certain parts of Italy, big cities in Italy and already the air pollution specifically has taken a dramatic turn for the better as a result of these quarantine protocols. It’s fascinating.
That’ll happen in Los Angeles as well which is great for our health and the environment. That’s the other thing that’s important to know too is that a lot of the shifts that you’re making are giving you a direct personal benefit. If you’re ever feeling like, “I’m overwhelmed. I don’t want to spend the time or energy doing something,” think about how it will help you. Sometimes being selfish has a ripple effect that also makes you selfless.
The other thing too, in terms of this direct moment that we’re in, having a quarantine protocol where all restaurants at this moment in Los Angeles are take-out only. I’ve been reading stats that people are going out to eat less. It’s a perfect time to do something like get an imperfect produce box, which you can get fully organic, local produce. It helps cut down on food waste because they’re taking food that has physical imperfections that would normally get thrown out or composted in the grocery store. You can have it delivered to your house. You don’t have to go out to a lot of the madness that’s plaguing some of the grocery stores.
It’s a perfect time to not only get more local organic food and support CSA-like imperfect produce as an example, but you get to make food at home. It’s less driving out to restaurants. You’re financially conserving, but you’re also having the art of making a home-cooked meal and using sustainable local produce. This is a cool opportunity as much as people can get freaked out by the loneliness or isolation of a quarantine protocol. The air is cleaning up. We can use this time to make more sustainable food at home and home-cooked meals. There are some cool silver linings in all this, environmentally speaking.
There are but then on the other side, one thing that’s been sad is to protect people’s health, you’re not able to use a reusable cup at coffee shops. For me, I would always bring my own mug as a way to be eco-friendly, but now you’re not allowed to do that because they’re afraid that it’ll be contaminated. I wonder, especially with getting delivery from restaurants. A lot of restaurants put their food and plastic bags. They give you plastic utensils. They use Styrofoam. They give you too many napkins. My blood boils when I go to a restaurant. This happened to be a few times. I went to a new vegan restaurant that had opened in Los Angeles. It was like a fast-food environment and I was excited about it. I brought my own straw. I try to remember to do this for eco reasons. When I know I’m going to go to a restaurant, I’ll bring in a few things. I’ll bring a straw especially if it’s like a fast food place and then I’ll ask for no straw. I’ll bring utensils so I don’t have to use their utensils. I’ll bring a cloth or something so I don’t need to use their napkins. I’ll even bring a container to put my leftovers in.
That’s me when I’m at my best. I don’t always do that because I’m not perfect. Sometimes I forget or you have a last-minute decision to go out to eat or something. At this restaurant, it was one thing after another. They brought over a drink and I said, “No straw.” They had had the straw in their hand or something and turned around and threw it in the trash right in front of me. I thought to myself, “I wonder why they can’t reuse that straw.” They didn’t put it in my drink. It touched their hand which it does no matter who they give it to. People are so paranoid. This is before the paranoia set in about corona and all that stuff. The same thing happened with forks and naps. They’d hand me a fork and I’d say, “I brought my own.” They immediately throw it out. I feel so conflicted in those moments. A lot of times, I’ll end up taking them and take them home or put them in the car just in case I forget my reusable utensils. I’ve noticed how a lot of restaurants will give you a stack of napkins.
I’m somebody who barely uses napkins. I try not to get food on my face or my fingers. In certain meals, you can’t help it but a lot of times, I don’t need a napkin. I’ll bring my handkerchief or something with me and I dab my face and I’m fine. Some people use napkin after napkin. A lot of restaurants will give you ten napkins. If you don’t use them, they have to throw them out for sanitary reasons. That drives me crazy. I tried to learn my lesson and tell them ahead of time, multiple times. As soon as I placed an order for something, “I brought my own straw to be clear.” Before they even have a chance to reach for the straw. As soon as an employee touches a straw, utensil or napkins, they can’t reuse it which also defeats a lot of logic in my head because I’m thinking you probably touched so many things in this restaurant. It’s interesting because right now because of coronavirus we’re in this time where everybody has hyper-vigilance.
It’s very important to our health but it can also be so extreme at times. Before we had this big health issue in the world, it was way too extreme to the point where it was causing so much waste. A lot of restaurants are very ignorant. Going back to your point, Jason, you can get delivery but delivery is something I tend to avoid simply because of the amount of waste and even take out. With take out, I ask for no bag. I give things back to them if I’m not going to use them and hope that they’ll reuse them. Who knows if they do? I’ll write in the notes, when I place an online order, please no napkin or utensils. Some restaurants are good about that, some restaurants give it to me anyways. We still have a long way to go with things like that.
The process of habituation and automated tasks on a business level is that humans get into such a mode. Speaking to what you’re talking about with special requests to reduce waste. They’re in their mode of doing things the way they’ve always done that they’ll see the request to read it, but their body is conditioned to go through the motions that they do it anyway. It’s muscle memory. They repeated it many times.
It’s a management thing though. The other thing that you notice is that a lot of employees are doing what they’re told and they don’t want to get in trouble or they’re not doing what they’re not told. They’re not thinking about the impact of those things. How many napkins do I give somebody? There’s not a lot of awareness around that. I don’t know what the managerial structure is and we shouldn’t make those assumptions, but I almost feel asking like, “Do you need a napkin?” You start to see this happen in some restaurants. Some restaurants will ask you if you want water before assuming you want water. Asking do you want a straw before assuming that you’re going to be given one. Asking these things is important so we have to take initiative on both sides of it and then encourage businesses to have more eco-friendly practices.
I want to talk about an interesting report that came out several years ago from the UN talking about the sectors of life that have the highest global impact on environmentalism. The two biggest ones were food and transportation. I always think about in terms of our food supply of how our food is produced, how animals are treated. The impact of what you’re saying, Whitney, of these external factors of eating out, getting food from take-out, how we’re preparing food or are we supporting organic, are we getting local food? The transportation thing has been something that’s been on my mind a lot. Not only because we live in Los Angeles but because there are more sustainable options out there. You’ve had two electric cars now, which is very cool. I want to make that transition to my next vehicle as well for a litany of reasons. I’ve heard a lot of debate because how obsessed I am with cars. I’ve been a car guy my entire life growing up in Detroit, having two parents that were obsessed with cars in a family that worked for the big three. Cars have been in my blood since birth.
One of the things that I’m interested in is having and making more green choices when it comes to my transportation. We’re at a point now where there are a lot more options out there to drive electric vehicles. It’s not in the luxury segment of Tesla, Mercedes Benz or BMW and some of the other luxury automakers, but companies like Chevrolet and Ford has the Mach-E coming out. Mini has their electric coming out which is very cool that are at a more affordable price point. They’re not in that luxury category. That is for some people not an obtainable thing depending on their income source. I’m bolstered by the fact that there are more choices now, whether you want to eat greener, eat more sustainably, reduce packaging, eat more plant-based and eat more local. In the transportation sector, I’m looking to that for my next car because I’ve had my current car for years now. As Whitney said, it’s not about perfection, it’s about progress. What small steps or big steps can we all take to move that needle a little bit more to more conscientious sustainable living?
When you’re ready to get a new car, perhaps it’s time to check out what more sustainable or electric options are out there because the prices are going down as the price of battery technology is getting better. I’m on a little bit of a rant because I want to talk about this really quick because I want to get it all out. There’s been a lot of debate between the environmental practices when it comes to mining these rare earth minerals. Things like cobalt and nickel. Producing things like lithium and those things that go into these electric vehicle batteries. I’ve seen a lot of interesting debates online, is that eco-friendly or is the damage that’s being caused by these rare Earth minerals being harvested? How bad is that? There’s some interesting research online about the life cycle of the production and the life of an electric car versus a gas car.
If you look at a long-form life cycle from what I’ve seen is if you keep a car 10 to 12 years, over the long run, electric vehicles are more sustainable over a long-term ownership period. If you’re going to invest in a Mini or a Tesla or whatever you can afford at that time, if you’re keeping it 10, 12, 15 years and you can have a car that long, from the research I’ve seen, that the long-term ownership, it is more sustainable to have an electric vehicle. That’s what I’m focused on in terms of me taking steps of how I can optimize things. I want to keep eating more local foods supporting more local farmers, keeping a green, keeping it slow food. I do drive a gas car right now. To be honest with you, I feel a little guilty sometimes for that because I know I could have a different choice. As my car is getting older, I want to make a more sustainable choice and go electric for my next one. You’ve done that and I admire you for doing that.
It was an easy decision because my first electric car was affordable. I leased it. On one end though, I haven’t done a lot of research on this, but I don’t know if leasing is the most eco-friendly option. A lot of those cars are sold as used cars, I hope. To your point, Jason, for having a car a long time and for me to keep my Tesla Model 3 affordable, I bought it and a long loan. It is forcing me in a way to have the car for a long time. You can get out of loans and refinance or sell or whatever else you decide to do. It’s because I knew that this is a car I could see myself having for a long time. Previous to that, I had my last gas car for at least six years. I had paid it off so it was 7 or 8 years and that felt a long time.
I hadn’t realized before that all the trade-ins I was doing before and the impact that that was having because a lot of these car businesses make all this money if you trade your car in for the newer model and all that stuff. It is important and not always thinking like, “How can I get something new and exciting?” Getting a car that you feel like you’re going to want for a long time. I afeel that way about my Tesla. I’ve had it for years now and it feels it’s brand new to me every single day because I’m excited about it and it’s a wonderful car. Tesla is trying to be the most eco-friendly car on the planet and committed to that. That was also important for me. My first electric car was a Fiat and they only made that car because they had to.
It was a compliance car.
It was a great car. I love the size. It was very affordable. It was cute. It was a great first electric car for me but I don’t think the company was in alignment with my outlook, ethics and all that stuff, whereas Tesla is 100%. When I got that Fiat, I knew it was my tide over car until the Tesla Model 3 came out. As soon as I ran out of my lease and the Tesla Model 3 was available, I made it work financially. It is a financial stretch for me, but it’s so worth it because I know the impact is much greater than myself or at least I hope it is. We’re still learning. That’s the thing. Some people have come to me and said things like, “You think you’re so eco-friendly. Electric cars have an impact too. People get up on their high horse.” I was like, “I’m aware.” A lot of people make misconceptions about cars like Tesla. If you go onto their website, they have a phenomenal, very detailed report on the company and the cars, why things are done a certain way and what they’re working on in the future. A lot of people want to point fingers because your decisions can trigger inadequacy within themselves.
It stops because I’ve heard this argument around electric cars that are like, “Would you know where your electricity is coming from? Coal-fired power plants.” It’s like, “You do have a point but you stating that fact doesn’t negate the fact that I’m trying to make steps towards that more sustainable option.” For some people, if they can afford it, my mentor, Michael, put solar panels on his house. If you have solar panels, you can charge your car from the solar energy rather than the electricity that comes from the grid that is in most municipalities powered by coal. Its progress and choices that are leading us toward a more sustainable future, not just for us, for our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren like Greta Thunberg masterfully highlighted. We want to make generational choices. It’s not just like, “What can I do before I croak and leave this Earth?” It’s how are our daily actions compounding and affecting the generations that hopefully can live in a peaceful, sustainable and healthy way long after we’re gone?Use Earth Month as an opportunity to examine your life, find a pain point or a place of ignorance, and examine that within yourself. Click To Tweet
It’s like going vegan. Some people say, “You’re eating processed foods.” My feeling is if processed foods help you eat less animal products and you’re doing them as a transition or having them in moderation, having them as a treat, I don’t see anything wrong with that. Yes, they have packaging and the ingredients might not be in perfect alignment. You can go on and on, but you can also pick apart anything. Unless you’re willing to grow your own food, use the solar panels, completely live off the earth, and never use packaging. You can go to those extremes if you would like, but not everybody is willing to do that. We live in a very modern world. It comes down to your choices, being prepared to back up your choices, and make choices out of what feels right for your heart, for your current situation and continuing to educate yourself. The other end of it is that I try not to get defensive about these things. I try to listen to the points that people make.
Whenever anybody has brought up issues with Tesla, for example, I try to go do research and learn as much as I can to understand why do they think those things and are those things true? If they are true, is this something that I can change or not? I already decided to purchase the car, so what am I going to go do, trade-in the car and get a different one? That negates what I was talking. Once you make a decision, you have to try to do the best you can, given the circumstance that you’re in at that time. Try not to defend yourself just because it’s for your ego’s sake but can you become informed and say, “I made this choice and I found out later that it had some cons that I wasn’t aware of but here are the pros of the situation. Here’s what I’m doing and here’s what I’m being an advocate for now that I’m more educated.”
I want to give a random example of how I feel and the audience feels motivated in terms of behavioral change by this story. I have a gaggle of animals in my house. I have four cats and a French bulldog. You guys can see their adventures on my Instagram page. I post often about them. When I first adopted Lynx and Clawdia, who are now going to be six years old, I remember when I was setting up the litter box, I first had them and they were kittens. I was taking their litter and flushing it down the toilet because it was convenient. I didn’t want to waste the bags. The litter box was in the bathroom. It was right there, the poop and the pee goes right in the toilet. I read an article couple of months after I adopted them that that was not a good thing to do. I’d never heard this before, and the reason was, as an example, is there’s apparently a bacterium like cryptosporidium or something in bacteria in cat feces that as it goes through the water and the waste treatment plant, some of it can get released back into the ocean or the water supply.
In this particular protozoa are bacteria in cat feces can be fatal to sea lions, even large sea mammals. That’s horrible. Once I learned that, I was willing to sacrifice my convenience. This is a big thing. Sacrifice my convenience of scoop, litter, into the toilet, done. I’m going to take the extra time and steps to get compostable bags, put the cat poop and the pee in the bags, and take it out to my trash. Does it take more time? Yes. Was it more money? Yes. Did it cut more time out of my day? Yes, but I’m not going to do something out of convenience if it’s literally putting sea life at risk. In our sense of values and ethics, can we modify our behavior and do things that are “less convenient” but have a greater impact and allow more compassion and mindfulness into the world. That was one example of a choice and adjustment. Once I learned it was bad, I’m changing this in a heartbeat.
It reminds me of something that I want to talk about since you had mentioned something that you’re working on, which is the car thing. Your future change that you want to make. Something I’ve become aware of is that I tend to wish-cycle. Meaning that you are putting things in the recycling bin because you’re hoping that they will be recycled without knowing that they will be recycled. When you were talking about using compostable pet bags, the truth is a lot of those bags aren’t fully compostable. They’ll say biodegradable on them or they need to be put in a certain bin or something that. You might be using and spending your money on something and it might be a little bit of greenwashing or it might require you to be doing things differently.
You can’t put something compostable in the trash. It won’t necessarily compost because it depends on how that trash is thrown away. There are so many other factors. A lot of times, there is that greenwashing. The companies want us to buy their products as they say that they’re eco-friendly. The compost thing is a big issue. A lot of people want convenience and they want to feel better. I’m guilty of that myself. The same thing with dog waste bags. I haven’t researched it in years because it feels so overwhelming and complicated. I’m sure there is a better solution now than there was ten years ago when I got my dog. I remember getting frustrated like, “Here I am, trying my best and yet my best doesn’t feel good enough.” The same thing is true with wish-cycling. I recycle everything unless it’s soiled enough or it’s very clear. Somehow, I know it’s not recyclable, I put pretty much everything in the recycling bin.
I do wish-cycling too because we live in Southern California. I’ve looked at our “recycling policies,” it doesn’t mean they’re forced but they seem to be much more comprehensive than Detroit where I’m from. As an example, in a tangent, my mom very specifically in the Detroit Metro Area. She can only put 1s and 2s in her recycling bin. Here, I’ve read that certain municipality, you can put 3s, 4s, 5s and 6s. As an example, when you look over at a piece of plastic, there’s generally a code that has a number assigned to it on the bottom of the plastic packaging. At least years ago, when I looked at it, it’s been a long time that it felt to me that our recycling policies in Southern Cal were more liberal and broad than Detroit which they’re very specifically like, “Do not put anything other than 1s and 2s in the bin because we won’t recycle them.”
This is the thing is that I pulled up some articles about wish-cycling. It’s the practice of putting something in the recycling bin hoping that it’ll be recycled, but it can end up creating more waste. Some of the reasons that’s the case is it can waste time because recycling plants rely on complex machinery to sort and process recyclables. If you put something in there that is not meant to go in the recycling, it can jam up the machines and then the workers have to spend hours fixing it. It can waste a lot of money because of the whole issue with the machines and the people that have to get involved with fixing all of these issues. It can create more waste. What happens is that they can’t risk putting in the recycling and if it’s going to need to have all this sorting and so they’ll end up throwing it out. When paper products are recycled, apparently, they get mixed with water and that turns into a slurry. If there’s oil on it like grease from pizza boxes, it causes a whole issue and contamination can cause the entire batch of recyclables to be ruined.
These are the things I honestly had no idea about. The term wish-cycling has been around for several years. It wasn’t within my awareness. One thing that I’ve been meaning to do and I can commit to for Earth Month 2020 is to learn more about the specifics of what can be recycled in the areas of Los Angeles. Different parts of each city could have different rules. There are so many factors. I would encourage anybody to go and make sure they understand what can be recycled and what can’t. Once you have that awareness, it also may change your relationship to products in general and realizing that you shouldn’t be purchasing the things that can’t be recycled or you’ll purchase them a lot less. In my head, I’ve used it to justify like, “I’m recycling. I can buy this.” I’ve made efforts to buy less single-use plastic but I still go through phases of my life where honestly, I care less than I do other times.
It’s very important to pay attention to these things and to learn the rules about composting. For both of us, I’m thinking about what bags are we buying. Does it even matter which waste bags that we use and all of that? This is what I mean and said at the beginning. There’s a lot to consider. It’s certainly not to overwhelm but if you can do what Jason and I did and pick one or a few things that you can focus on this month and commit to them. Use this Earth Month as an opportunity to examine your life, find a pain point, find a place of ignorance, find something that somebody questions you on before and you got defensive about but would like to examine it within yourself. Think about major things like recycling, transportation, and food and reflect in how you can do a little bit better. How can you tweak it? How can you become more informed and then how can you lead by example and educate other people around you kindly so that they can do those shifts too?
I have a tangential question because it’s something that I’m curious about and I’m going to do when the time comes for me to shop for an electric car. It’s taking an EMF meter. This is one thing that Luke Storey talks about on his Life Stylist Podcast.
Ron and Lisa Beres talk a lot about EMFs.
Shout out to both of them. For me, it’s one curiosity. First of all, Whitney, is that a concern for you? Have you ever taken an EMF meter in the car? What’s your feelings on all that?
I have not done that. I did that in my house and I made a whole YouTube video about EMF readings in my home, but I did not do that for the Tesla. Didn’t we find out though that they have some protective measure in the car?
I’ve heard that there’s a certain level of shielding that they put in. I’ve never confirmed that with Tesla directly but I heard that from people that they purportedly in the cabin in which you sit inside the car have a higher level of shielding than others. I’ve not seen any literature directly from Tesla about that.
I pulled up an article from August 2019. It’s an article, Top 3 Reasons Not to Worry About EMF in Tesla. They did have some grammatical issues that are making me wonder. It looks like a pretty in-depth article. They did some testing. They brought a meter in there. It says that there’s no big problem of it. This is one of those things you want to read a bunch of different articles and then do your own testing.
It’s even buying EMF. What I intend on doing is when I go shopping, I’m more curious than anything.
You could do it in my car.
I’m saying when I cross-shop, if I go to different electric cars, I’m curious to see what the electromagnetic field frequency is and how much it’s emitting because in terms of human health, we don’t yet know the long-term potentially deleterious effects of being bombarded by that level of EMF. I don’t want to go down the road of necessarily 5G or microwave radiation. When we have Luke on the podcast or we can certainly dive in Luke because he has more information than we do. It’s something that I think about a lot when I think about buying an electric car. Exposing myself to that level of EMF and what are the emissions in terms of being inside a cabin and driving an electric car that much.
There’s a good article written by DefenderShield and they make a lot of those different products.
For cellphones, they mitigate EMFs.
I want that because it’s very in-depth. It seems like they’re saying it’s a bit of a pick your poison thing because you could buy a Tesla and reduce your carbon emissions or you could buy a traditional gas-powered car and reduce your EMFs. Which one do you want to reduce more? Both electric and gas-powered cars, according to them, come with their fair share of carbon and EMF emissions. This article is detailed. They also ended the article on a positive note with a list of ways to reduce EMF exposure while driving in any car. One of their big tips was to put your phone on airplane mode which has interesting given that the amount of usage we get from our phones, whether it’s directions, listening to music, or podcasts perhaps. It’s pretty tough. They do say, if you want to listen to music or podcasts, you can download them ahead of time and then turn off your phone while you’re driving. That can reduce a lot of the EMFs.
They say driving less often is one of the better options. That’s something we didn’t talk about too much, but to throw this in there at the end is taking public transportation, biking and walking. Considering when it’s important to drive a car, fly a plane or take any transportation that does have an impact. Thinking about all of the different affects that those things are having on your life. Not to get paranoid and overwhelmed but reflect on it. Use this upcoming month as a way to be more informed to grow your awareness and to spread awareness to other people in your life. That’s our aim here. We appreciate you reading this. We’d love to hear from you. If you have some good suggestions. If you want to talk about anything related to this episode, you can reach out to us on social media. We’re @Wellevatr.
You can email us privately at [email protected]. You can comment on our podcast episode and you can search for the episode. At the very bottom of every page on our website, you can leave a comment and continue the conversation. We would love to hear from you, hear your insight, your feedback, your situations, your questions, the things that you’re working on, whatever it may be. We’d love to be in touch so we can feel more connected to you and we look forward to that. Thank you so much. We have an upcoming Earth Day Episode, which will come out on Earth Day. Lots of episodes coming to you three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Until next time. Wishing you all the very best with your well-being and the well-being of the planet.
- Article – UC Davis’ 1 Day Isn’t Enough for Earth Day in 2020
- Article – NYU Earth Month 2020
- Calendar of events – NYU Earth Month 2020
- Silent Spring
- Mercy Mercy Me
- The Revenge of Gaia
- Living Healthy in a Toxic World
- How to Celebrate Earth Day at work – article
- Life Stylist Podcast with Luke Storey
- Ron and Lisa Beres
- Top 3 Reasons Not to Worry About EMF in Tesla – article
- @Wellevatr – Facebook
- [email protected]
- DefenderShield EMF-Blocking Products
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