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earth day is christmas for crunchies
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Moving forward, ‘Black Ecologie’ will appear as ‘Bad Environmentalist.’ I remain inspired by academics like Nicole Seymour who coined the term ‘bad environmentalism.’ Stay tuned for a forthcoming Bad Environmentalist manifesto.
There was a time when I prayed to the altar of Patagonia. I thought a co-op membership made me better than everyone else. I exclusively purchased organic groceries even though I couldn’t afford it. I lived in fear that someone would discover my Amazon shopping history and call me a fraud. I ended up with metal straws I never use and a drawer of promotional ‘Earth Day’ t-shirts I spill oatmeal on.
There was a time when I truly believed we could solve the climate crisis with our wallets. So much so that I got a graduate degree in it. I’ll save my grad student woes for another time, but the cringiest thing I did back then was write a paper about sustainable sex toys.
Mostly it was an excuse to make dildo puns. But really I was fascinated by this cultural push to remake earth-friendly versions of every consumer good imaginable.
Every industry — either due to consumer pressure or regulation — must now reckon with its environmental impact, and that’s a good thing. There are now plastic-free toothbrushes made from bamboo, entire fashion collections made with organic textiles, and rechargeable devices where battery-operation once reigned supreme.
But I worry we overshot it, and that becomes clearer with each passing Earth Day. The cultural messages we receive on April 22nd boil down to: vote, go outside, and buy something. It’s the day that companies, big and small, make us believe that we can shop our way to sustainability.
And I get why this strand of environmentalism — “green” consumption — has taken hold. Our purchasing decisions are one of few places we feel like we have agency. We all need shortcuts, and swapping out a few conventional products with “greener” alternatives feels like an easy win. “We make candles from your upcycled earwax. Click to save!”
Earth Day has become Christmas for crunchy people, and it feels like companies exploit our respect for the environment for #dealsdealsdeals. Eventually Earth Day will go the way of Thanksgiving, and we’ll start to see crunchies shove each other for the new low-carbon robot vacuum on ‘Green Friday.’
I now proudly identify as an Earth Day curmudgeon. I’m jaded, exhausted, and resentful of the burden placed on individual consumers for the climate crisis. But as Alicia Kennedy says in her forthcoming book, No Meat Required, “our ways of eating” — and by extension, shopping — “will have to change if corporations are held to account for [greenhouse gas] emissions.”
I’ll always have a soft spot for those who believe that business can be a force for good, because there are companies out there trying their best to exist while respecting people and the Earth.
So after you sift through ads for compostable underwear and panic-read the latest IPCC report, spend some time with your favorite green consumer brand. If corporations are people too, here are the ones we love to hate.
Green consumer brands as the people in your life
Girlfriend Collective: Knows which plastic takeout containers can and can’t be recycled. Eats a balanced diet and has a morning routine. Judgy about how you organize your fridge.
Dr. Bronner’s: Rarely showers. Smells like the Earth. The kindest person you know. Has kept their sourdough starter alive for 678 days.
Reformation: Always late to meet up, but impeccably dressed. Ignores your Venmo requests. No one knows what they do for a living.
Allbirds: Gave you an ergonomic keyboard you never use. Saved up to retire at 30 and wants you to know about it.
Seventh Generation: That hippie elder in your life who knows how to calk a tub with buckwheat flour. Wears the same tattered Grateful Dead t-shirt to the climate rally.
Toms: Constantly talking about their gap year in Ecuador. Dabbles in many languages, but fluent in none. Spells ‘color’ like ‘colour’ to seem worldly.
Things I Like
If you like bangers about the land, water, and Indigeneity, listen to Black Belt Eagle Scout, who I recently saw live.
None of youSome of you are asking to see that paper I wrote about recycling your dildo: feast your eyes.
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