Welcome to My Eco Legacy, a place for people to get inspiration about simple steps that they can take to live a more eco-friendly and sustainable life!
The word legacy is used often to describe a gift or something transmitted from the past that continues onto the present day. Sometimes a legacy is used to describe a bequest, or donation of money made, to a cause or organization. These legacies are intentional and tend to be positive. Whether or not you realize it, you will leave behind a legacy. All seven billion of us living on the earth leave behind the legacy of the things that we have consumed during our time on the planet. With more people on our planet than ever consuming more than ever because we can, it becomes essential for individuals in wealthy nations who consume the most and who have the luxury of choice to take a hard look about what we want our ecological legacy to be and to put intention around it. It is time to take a pause and consider what is it that we want to leave behind after we are gone, because unlike past generations who lived before the creation of plastic, much of what we leave behind does not compost and is not going anywhere after we ourselves disappear.
I started to became aware of the environmental impact of they way that we live in the United States about a decade ago, and over the years have worked towards lessening my personal eco-footprint though small changes like carrying a metal water bottle with me whenever I leave the house, buying foods in bulk, etc. I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with different ways of cutting out plastics and reducing the trash that I generate, and have a lot of lessons learned through trial and error that I will share with you in this blog. The way that I live is still constantly changing and is heavily influenced by my travels outside of the United States. I’m currently three months into traveling through Asia and I hope to share trends that I see abroad of how people live, the challenges they face and what we can learn from it. I am posting a lot of this to Instagram, so be sure to follow me there.
So what inspired me to start this blog? First off, I have been shocked by the things that I have seen during my travels and deeply saddened to realize how polluted our planet has become. I have smelled more burning plastic in the past few months than I have in my entire life, and let me tell you, it’s not a good smell and it cannot be healthy for you. I have been focusing on how to reduce the amount of waste I generate for years and have inspired many of my friends and family to make small changes to their lifestyles. I’d like to use this blog as a platform to reach a larger audience of people who are searching for easy ways that they can lead a more sustainable life and make it easy for them to take control of their eco-legacy. Second, I’m about to become a first-time aunt in March and I selfishly would like for my niece or nephew to have the ability to go to a beach to dig around for seashells without having to pick through pieces of plastic. Sadly, almost every beach that I have gone to the past few years has been polluted with plastic or styrofoam in various degrees. I’m not sure when this became the norm, but I don’t remember seeing this kind of plastic pollution on beaches as a child. In my thirty-four years of life, I have personally consumed a lot of plastic and in spite of many of our best efforts to recycle, a shocking amount of plastic does end up in our oceans, breaking into little pieces and washing up onto beaches, floating around in our oceans, and entering the stomachs of sea life, which billions of people depend on for protein globally. This is not the legacy that I want to leave behind for the next generation.
So, from a more data-driven perspective, why does it matter how much waste we generate? To put it simply, there are more people on the planet consuming more resources than ever before and that trend is expected to continue. According to an EPA report from 2013, each person in the United States generates about 4.4 pounds of trash per day; of that, only 1.51 pounds is composted or recycled, which means 2.89 pounds of trash is going into landfills. That is 1,606 pounds of trash generated per per year and if you live until age 78 (the average life expectancy in the United States), you’d generate 125,268 pounds of trash, of which 82,278 pounds is going into landfills, assuming that trash generation stays constant. I’d guess that based upon the increasing use of online shopping, delivery services and other innovations that make modern life easier, yet generate a ton more waste, that the trash we generate on a daily basis will only increase unless we make a conscious effort to change our behaviors.
Currently, no one else in the world generates as much trash as the United States does, although several developed nations are not that far behind us. People in lower income countries currently cannot afford to consume at the levels that we do. If everyone did consume as much as we did, based upon the seven billion people on the planet, we’d generate an unthinkable amount of trash per year, 11.2 trillion pounds. I love the short essay Land by University of Texas at Austin professor Eric Pianka that breaks down into simple math why the way we are living is not sustainable by taking the habitable land on the planet and dividing it by the seven billion people living there today. According to Pianka, you end up with 2.3 acres of land per person; however, with how Americans live today, it takes almost 24 acres of land for each person to maintain our lifestyle, so by his math, we need earth to grow by a factor of ten in order to enable everyone to enjoy the lifestyle that we now lead. Obviously, this is not possible and as poor countries who use very few resources today gain more wealth and increase their consumption, it is inevitable that our planet’s limited resources will become further constrained, likely leading to conflicts as countries battle over access to clean water, arable land and natural resources like sand, petroleum, wood, metals, minerals, etc.
Someone said to me recently, if you can see a problem, you can see its solution. I hope that through my blog, you are able to learn more about the ecological challenges that face our generation and experiment with how you can leave behind a legacy that you are proud of through the personal choices that you have control over, such as the lifestyle that you live and the items that you consume. Remember, you are not just one person making a change; you are part of a greater movement to live a more sustainable life and your actions define who you are and ultimately will influence those around you to reconsider how they are living. For the record, I do think that the best way that change can be brought about is by a top-down approach, through public policy changes, but with corporate interests having such strong lobbying power in congress, it will be very hard to enact the kind of legislation that is needed quickly, if ever, so this blog will advocate for a grassroots, bottoms-up approach to sustainability. Please join me on this journey to make small changes to your life for big results and together, let us try to leave our world better than we found it for the next generation!