Bystander: “one who is present but not taking part in a situation or event : a chance spectator”

I learned from an early age to not be a bystander. As a toddler, the exciting days that we took the metro to daycare were punctuated by semi-audible announcements and colorful signs: “If you see something, say something.” In elementary and middle school the message continued. If you saw someone being bullied and did not act (whether that be taking action in the moment or reporting it after the fact), you were part of the problem. Black and white. You’re part of the problem if you’re not part of the solution.

What about being in both groups? As an ADHD-er, I tend to think in terms of “this or that;” finding stark contrasts that I use to sort a multitude of objects, people, situations, into two buckets for further analysis. As with many (arguably most) areas, environmentalism doesn’t lend itself well to this type of analysis.

No one is a bystander in global warming. We are all present and taking part in increasing carbon emissions, over-consumption, excessive waste, and destruction of entire ecosystems all over the world. So we can plop nine billion people in the “bad” bucket? No? Maybe? IDK dude? All of the above? I think we can point fingers, as long as we remember to point them at ourselves too. No one is perfect, and every existing being impacts their environment. That’s just the way life goes. As long as we remember to look critically at our own choices in addition to those of larger looming entities like lobbying groups, corporations, and governments, we can go in the “good” bucket as well. *Imagine masses of people trying to play twister in order to simultaneously fit into both buckets*

Yesterday I took two showers: one after pulling english ivy for hours and the second to calm down after having a cry. Hot water is resource intensive, not only using our minuscule supply of ~clean~ freshwater, but using energy (mostly made from burning natural gas, trash, and coal) to heat that water. Does this put me in the “bad” bucket? If you’d asked me last night while I was upset, I would have said yes. Does this negate the fact that a large amount of my waking time is spent trying to figure out how I (and others) can lessen our impact on the environment? Using the good/bad buckets to categorize people and their actions leaves more questions than answers. People do both helpful and harmful things to the planet. Who am I to place value judgement on or rank the impact of each and every action?

Everyone is taking part in global warming. Nevertheless, everyone can and should take part in stopping it as well. All actions, no matter how small, do have an impact. Bringing reusable bags? Some argue that they are worse for the environment because it takes more resources to produce a reusable bag than a thin plastic one. I think that the impact isn’t just about reducing single-use plastics in bringing a reusable bag, it is the thought process in remembering you have reusable bags, making the conscious choice to bring them into the store, and putting them somewhere you’ll remember for next time, that has the larger impact. When we take time to examine the impacts of our actions and choices, we can more accurately weigh their pros and cons.

Want to know where you’re resources are going? Check out these cool calculators to see where small changes in your life can have the largest impact!

Carbon footprint

Water use

Plastic consumption

Ecological footprint

Just remember: everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days. Nobody’s perfect

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Don’t just think outside the box,

live outside of it*

*unless you’re a cat in which case go and play in as many boxes as your little heart desires