Working with charity, this summer I learned is that many so-called “environmentalists” — who preached recycling, veganism and metal straws — don’t actually care that much.
I will preface this by saying I myself am not the perfect environmentalist. I've bought from brands who fail to employ the best practices, but having the opportunity to work as a fundraiser for environmental charities this summer has opened my eyes to the hypocrisy that sometimes follows environmental activists.
In an attempt to reduce ocean waste, Canada has promised to ban harmful single-use plastics by 2021. An initiative modelled after the European Union and other countries, we are finally seeing our country take positive steps to tackle climate change.
And while reusable straw owners, vegans and zero-waste activists shout hurrah, think — how much did you really help?
You may have bought a reusable straw, bamboo forks and wooden hangers; maybe you side-eyed someone using a plastic bag. Ignorantly, you could have thrown out your perfectly intact plastic hangers and metal cutlery to enter some landfill to make room for your new “eco-friendly,” packaged in plastic, fuel-transported products so you feel like you’re making a difference.
And while I understand the need to buy reusable products to become eco-friendly, instead of falling prey to that consumerist angle, we should be recycling what we already have. Rather than buying that new “totally cute” tote bag from Aritzia, make it yourself from old cloth. Get your reusable water bottle from a thrift store. Source your glass jars from garage sales.
And honestly, yelling at someone for printing out their notes and claiming they’re single-handedly ruining our planet while you avidly recycle is still not enough.
Individually adopting a zero-waste lifestyle will not make a difference. It would take billions of people and a whole lot of time that our planet does not have. While many of you tell yourselves you’re making a tangible difference, your support should be going to the groups that are experts at inciting action.
The Environmental Defense has been fighting this battle long before "saving the turtles" became the new rave. Made up of over 25 lawyers, scientists and community members, the Environmental Defense is a group with the power to spur change on a large scale — but they have their work cut out for them. Currently, they work with government boards across Canada to develop sustainable policies that keep plastic out of the environment, establish environmental protocols and push our country to become an international leader in eco-friendly policy.
And they’re not the only one. Organizations like GreenPeace, Stand, and the Council of Canadians are working to protect our environment by actively demanding change from politicians and creating eco-friendly legislation.
If the bulk of you metal straw owners are genuinely passionate about saving the earth — donate. Sign up to be a monthly donor: even pledging $5 a month makes a difference. It allows organizations that do make large scale differences, like delaying the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline, to sustainably continue their work and gain political recognition.
And of course you have excuses not to. Having worked in charitable fundraising and having talked to students, the common reasons you just can’t donate are ”I’m broke,” “rent is too high,” and “I really care but I just bought my textbooks.”
If many you can spend $12 on shots, beer or a joint, then you can spend $5 to save the orcas.
So buy your reusable merch. Get a shirt that says “stop the pipeline.” Act like you care. Maybe you do. But if you can’t support the cause in a way that actually helps, you just don’t care enough.