man so I just got back from my grandparents’ place
(it was pretty awesome to just talk in mandarin for like three hours ‘cause I never do that)
my grandma made these pork chops that my brother likes, and she was packing up a couple for me to take home for him
and I was thinking about the whole ~*environmentalism*~ thing
because yes—of course we should conserve resources—of course it’s vital for us to be doing all we can to save our environment
but then I was thinking about how on all those DIY websites and on etsy and in like Real Simple and those other magazines, like—I’ve seen DIY patterns for how to make plastic bag holders and stuff, ‘cause apparently you can reuse plastic bags! what a novel idea!
and then I realized
if you’re white and you take your old t-shirts and make a plastic bag holder to hang in your kitchen, then omfg you’re so environmentally friendly how cool A+ 4u!!! u so hip & trendy omg I wish I could be like you!!!
but if you’re an 82-year-old chinese woman
who pulls a couple of scratched but clean styrofoam plates from the cabinet
and your 82-year-old chinese husband hands you a clean plastic grocery bag from your last shopping trip
and your 21-year-old chinese-american granddaughter slips the pork chops covered in those plates into the plastic bag and ties it off to take home
being cheap-ass asians.
no one’s gonna write up a piece for a magazine about how environmentally friendly you’re being.
%www.tumblr.come’s gonna look at the meticulously washed containers (jars from condiments—plastic tubs that used to hold various other foods) and the drawers stuffed full of plastic bags and think, “damn these are some role models for small things you can do around the house to cut down on waste.”
no one’s gonna look at the dinner table and see plates piled high with chicken feet and pig ear and tripe and think, “wow look at that, no part of the animal goes to waste; what role models—if we’re gonna eat meat, we might as well make sure that animal is fully consumed instead of just eating choice cuts and throwing away the rest.”
no one’s gonna see the tiny garden of tomatoes in our backyard, the little apple trees and peach trees that once a year bear fruit that’s not that sweet ‘cause we don’t bother to hardcore garden—no one’s gonna look at that and think, “wow look at that, farming in your own backyard!”
they’re gonna see my aunt and uncle, who have trouble speaking english, who dress in old t-shirts and cheap patterned pants, who take care of the house while my parents are out, and they’re gonna think—
“wow look at these immigrants and their backwater ways”
you know what, we’ve been ~*environmentally friendly*~ our whole lives, and it’s only when we get more and more americanized that we start wasting more. my dad’s recently been developing this giant hard-on for costco, and costco is like—you buy ginormo quantities of everything, ‘cause it’s cheaper, only do you actually ever use that much?
we buy more and we go through electronics faster and all of that because that’s what america’s consumerism has taught us to do.
so you know what—while I may adhere to many principles that environmentally friendly people do (reduce, reuse, recycle, all that good stuff)—I will never identify as environmentalist.
it’s a very white movement. it also like—it gives off imperialist/colonialist vibes to me too, what with people going overseas to ~*preserve the environment*~ elsewhere.
and it’s like—dude if y’all white ppl didn’t have such a boner for environment-destroying industrialization, if y’all white ppl never set that as the standard for ~*progress*~
half these places
wouldn’t even be struggling with their environment in the first place.
and then white ppl are all like ~*oh we have to have renewable energy*~, oh what about biofuel!!
iirc indonesia’s been struggling with its forests and such because people decide to replace the forests with crops that they can grow for ~*environmentally friendly renewable fuel sources*~
“environmentalism” just so often feels like a way for white ppl with extra money to circlejerk themselves into feeling better about the destruction they’ve wreaked.
until you look at my family and see environmentalism instead of cheap-ass asianness
until you look at PoC who ride their bikes to work as environmentalism instead of ~*oh well it’s probably because they have to*~
until you stop being gross about being ~*environmentally friendly*~
I will not identify as environmentalist.
I’m going to attempt to reply without overshadowing anything you’ve said (because I found it 100% right on point esp. with what I’ve seen in the diy/crafts reuse movement); I want to share two photos, and maybe a small story.
[Images: two photos of a collection of shopping bags.]
This is my mom’s bag collection. She has more in my dad’s workroom and in her car. I used to be embarrassed by it when my friends came over, laughing about things like, “omg, your mom is such a bag lady ololo” and I’d just sort of awkwardly stand there… “yeah, sure she is! crazy bag lady, haha”
she’s never bought a plastic bag for any of the garbage cans in the house, nor for the recycling. Her crazy old lady bag collection is precisely for that- to be used later as garbage bags. Sometimes, if she has an exceptionally pretty bag, she’ll use it to hand a gift over to someone, instead of going to Hallmark and shelling over 5 bucks for a decorated paper bag.
My favorite thing is, the shifty looks I’ve gotten from friends and co-workers when I bring lunch in the same styrofoam container, in the same plastic CVS bag that I keep in my desk drawer, drinking tea/coffee from the same plastic cup, and eat with the same disposable utensils for weeks on end (sometimes, I use the same napkin for weeks). Oh, and when I talk about buying things using coupons? OH MAN, THE LOOKS I GET THEN. Hilarious.
I don’t get why all that stuff can’t be considered environmentally friendly either. It’s seen as cheap, or it’s seen as disgusting. In a roundabout way, here’s the story I wanted to tell- several years ago, when I was interviewing my mom about her time living in civil-war-infested Lebanon, she told me the most important thing I think I could have ever learned- “when you have nothing, you learn how to save everything”. You learn how to save oil from cooking and how to clean paper plates. On one hand, the above statement explains why my mom hoards all the free swag she can get (pens, toilet paper, toiletries, napkins, notepads, cups, tea bags, straws), and why she’s reluctant to throw things away. On the other hand, it also explains why she’s been accused of being cheap and tacky. I mean, how dare she reuse shit that you can just throw out, amiright?!?!
When you have nothing, you save everything.
When you have everything, you save nothing.
I grew up using old margarine containers as Tupperware for sending food home with people. No one called that environmentally friendly until white people started doing it too.