My experiment with excess continues, and I realized these past two weeks that I have more excess in my life than I thought. When asked if I thought I was environmentally friendly, I’d always say “Yes!”, and I (somewhat) pride myself in not being addicted to social media. But I found out this week that there’s still a lot more excess in those two areas than I originally thought.
If you remember from earlier this year during My Happiness Project, I experimented with how social media impacts my happiness. I limited myself to no more than thirty minutes a day on social media. And I actually really enjoyed it. I found myself thinking more about how I spend my time and if knowing what every single person is doing is really worth it.
This time around, the rules of the game were to “remove seven screens and shut down the chatter”. It sounds very reasonable, but because I’m already conscious of how much time I spend on social media and just on my screens in general, it was a little more difficult to find seven things to remove.
So as a spin-off I decided to just limit the time I spend with my technology. I figured this would be similar to the first time, but I found it was slightly different. Instead of finishing with my day, going home, pulling up the internet and doing whatever for half an hour, I found myself thinking on the way home, What could I do instead?. I started figuring out activities I could do instead of using my half hour on the internet, and I was usually more immediately productive. I read books, colored in my coloring book, talked with my friends, made an effort to get dinner with others, and got my homework done earlier. All because I waited off on those thirty minutes.
By saving my screen time until the very end of the day, it was sort of a closure for the day. I’d check to make sure all my friends and family were alive, scroll through some Pinterest or Instagram, and then turn it off and go to bed. Instead of me feeling guilty for procrastinating for an hour, it became an enjoyable end-of-the-day activity.
One last note about media is that yesterday (the day after the US election results), I stayed off media all day (except for my quick opinion post). I knew that online there was a raging battle of opinions and accusations and blaming, but I was able to enjoy the day, not worrying about any of that. It was refreshing to just live my life, not caring about anyone else saying stuff. So yeah, maybe I’ll be taking a few more hiatus from my screens. We could use some time apart.
I like to say I’m environmentally friendly, and when I compare myself to non-recycling, car-driving, food-throwing-awayers, then yeah, I’m more environmentally friendly than them. But when I took another look at my life, I quickly saw a few areas where I produce a lot of waste.
The first area of waste happens in the shower. When I came to college and realized I could take the longest and hottest showers I want (because it’s all included in tuition!), I’m pretty sure I jumped for joy. There’s nothing better than standing under steaming water for half an hour after a long, hard day as a student. This week of using less waste reminded me of my time in Haiti, where we took “showers” out of buckets, and we learned that drinking-water in the country is scarce. I realized that the amount of water I waste each day is not only environmentally-harmful, but also a little disrespectful. I’m ungraciously using up a precious resource that I shouldn’t be taking for granted.
The second area of waste came in the form of plastic bags. Now, I don’t throw away plastic bags if I can help it. I have a small box under my bed where I store my bags. But it is overflowing. Every time I take food to-go (which is pretty often), I’ll put my food box, napkins, and utensils in a plastic bag and carry it home. I decided that I would no longer do that, opting to carry everything instead. And you know what? It was not a single bit harder. It would be shameful if I couldn’t carry my box and accessories without a bag. And when I do need a bag (such as if I buy twenty granola bars, which has happened before), I’ll make sure to recycle it (it’s possible to recycle them, right?).
A third area of waste is electricity. If you enter my dorm room after sundown, you’ll be met with the coziest glow of twinkle lights and dim lamps. I love twinkle lights. They create such an area of relaxation and happiness, and I have two long strands in my room. But they’ve gotten less use this past week because I decided that having them on for six hours a day was a pretty big waste of electricity. Since I’m not really doing much late at night when I usually have them on, I opted for a lamp or two instead of all the little lights. That cozy glow is still there, and I feel better about myself.Win-win!
I focused on these three aspects this week, and I definitely feel like I helped the environment. They’re habits that I’ve continued because they’re simple. Taking shorter showers, opting to leave behind the plastic bags, and using less lights do not make my life any worse off. It’s my duty (and everyone’s duty!) to protect the earth we’ve been given or else it will go away.
Something that goes along with protecting the earth is the (somewhat) recent dispute over the North Dakota Oil Pipeline. Hopefully you’ve heard of it, but if not, here’s an article explaining the battle happening. I haven’t formed a complete opinion yet (and it’s not completely informed, so don’t get fussy if I say something wrong), but I do know I’m not a supporter of using up all our nonrenewable resources, the construction jobs being created mostly aren’t permanent, and the Native American tribes are right that there need to be some serious considerations about the environmental impact.
Are media and waste an excess in your life? Are you a little too attached to your screens? What is your opinion on environmental consciousness?