Do Less

I’m sitting at my internship and reading the confusing and therefore tediously boring EPA Proposed Rule on Effluent Limitations Guidelines (The most exciting part of the rule is it’s repeated use of “sluice”).

I began playing with my hair, wiggling my fingers through the knots that accumulate at the dead ends. I realized that I have not cut my hair in a year and have not dyed it in a year and half. This got me on a train of thought that lead to all the anniversaries I celebrate (mentally) that have to do with my effort to reduce my environmental impact. I have not eaten meat in two and a half years, have not painted my nails for nine months, have not bought bottled water or fast food in three, and the list continues, “I have not, I have not, I have not.”

When I was on a phone interview for my position as a Sustainability Ambassador this past year, I was asked what I do to live more sustainably. This question, in retrospect, seems miss-worded. I would suggest rewording it to, “What do you do, or refrain from doing, in the name of sustainability?”

I’ve taken writing and argument classes, and I understand that emphasizing the positive is more effective than the negative in “calls to action”. In this case though, I would argue that phrasing it in this way acknowledges the wastefulness of average U.S. citizens lifestyles. We can be more sustainable by simply abstaining from certain frivolous activities/habits/purchases.

Not doing sounds a whole lot easier than doing.

To paraphrase Nike: “Just don’t do it.”


The millennials are the people who’ve inherited the hangover from the baby boomers’ party: a warming planet, a dysfunctional global financial system that rewards the rich and screws the poor, a polarized political class that’s moved so far to the right that a centrist like Barack Obama can be described with a straight face as “a socialist.” Millennials may be “narcissistic, materialistic and addicted to technology,” as Stein alleges early in his article; they’re also drowning in college debt, slaves to an internship “system” that demands ever-increasing work for no pay, and entrants into a job market that’s replaced employment rights with the “flexibility” of never being able to afford health insurance.

There are non-dietary reasons to eat fewer animal products. Even if their nutritional profile were unambivalently beneficial, they use too many resources: land, water, energy and — not the least important — food that could nourish people. (To the often-asked question, “How will we feed the 9 billion?” — used to defend a host of objectionable agricultural practices — many of us say, “Focus more on feeding people plants and less on feeding them animals.”)

And there are two other factors to consider: the industrial production of livestock is a major (if not the leading) contributor to greenhouse gases, and the rampant and nearly unregulated use of antibiotics in that production is making those drugs less effective while encouraging the development of hardier disease-causing germs.

Mark Bittman, “Why I’m Not a Vegan”