The first week as an intern of the UIC heritage garden, we were asked to bring in an object the represented environmental sustainability. Because environmental sustainability includes so many things, it was challenging for me to choose one object. I sat on my living room couch and looked around at the objects in the room. The space is filled with objects collected from the woods and the thrift store. I realized that the items that were purchased new could be counted on one hand. Any of the items could work, so none of them did. I got up from the couch and walked over to my kitchen, thinking about collecting some of my red wigglers from my worm bin. On the table was my water bottle, an object with true environmental significance.
Aside from holding the environmental significance that any reusable water bottle does, it held extra weight for me. The first day of the internship I made a mental list of things that I would need. This list included a water bottle. Purchasing a water bottle was added to my to-do list for the week.
The following day the heritage garden interns attended Re-thinking Soup at the Jane Addams Hull House. Re-thinking Soup offers speeches a discussion the surrounding how food impacts social justice. The ideas of this month’s Soup centralized around the potential impending doom humanity is bringing upon itself be destroying the planet. One of the speeches that day started with this earth-shattering statistic: half of earth’s natural habitats have been destroyed in the last forty years. This blew my mind. Forty years is less time then my parents have been alive for. I scratched purchasing a new water bottle off of my list.
A thought that often comes into my mind is this: enough items exist in the world that no objects should have to be purchased new. In the case of the water bottle, I had plenty of items in my house that were capable of holding liquid. The United States embraces consumerism. This impulse to consume is engrained in the society, and myself. However, we live in a world of sweatshops, climate change, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is important to keep these issues in mind before purchasing a new object, because often times the desired item might already be in your home. Environmental sustainability is cutting consumption to a minimum.