Perspective Piece: “The Power of Refusal”

In an effort to build a community of environmentally conscious citizens we’ve created Community Leeks as a platform for people to share thoughts, stories, recipes and resources. Our second edition brings you a powerful perspective piece that helps us all reexamine how we consume. Thank you Daniela for sharing a simple mindset that could have a significant impact in healing our Earth. 

The Power of Refusal 

By Daniela Colannino 

There’s a moment when it just hits you. That moment when you realize that you can no longer just consume the way you’ve been consuming. That moment when using the “well, one person out of 7 billion can’t make a difference” excuse just doesn’t work anymore. For me, that moment came about four years ago. I picked up a book on the fast-fashion industry which got me hooked on other books about waste; the statistics I read were jaw-dropping. That’s what pushed me to make some serious changes to the way I consume.

It was Edward Humes’ (2013) Garbology that really gave me something to think about. In it he explains that “Recycling in particular has long served as a balm and a penance –a way of making it okay to waste, the assumption being that if something is recycled, then the energy and materials are not being lost, and our disposable economy of abundance doesn’t really seem so wasteful after all” (p. 154). We all think we’re doing a good deed and saving the planet by throwing that item in the green bin, but where is it really going? Will it eventually be used to create something new or just end up in a landfill? Out of those famous 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, and recycle), recycling, I think the one we rely on the most, is not the most effective. Humes adds on that we should focus on another R: refusing.

And that is what I’ve been making a conscious effort to do: flat out refuse to use things I don’t need. On the odd occasion when I forget to bring a reusable bag with me, I still refuse one from the store and just carry the item in my hand or stick it in my purse. I refuse to use my car to get to work unless it’s absolutely necessary. At the pharmacy, the woman at the cosmetics counter always seems shocked that for the same price as the single pod of cream, I don’t want the special bonus offer. I guess I would be getting more bang for my buck, but I just don’t need or want that bonus offer and the big box it comes in. I always refuse promotional items in their tiny plastic cups while at the grocery store. I also refuse to use plastic bags for my produce. Sometimes I notice other customers do a double-take when they see me stuffing apples in my bright green mesh produce bags and nine times out of ten I think the cashiers secretly curse me because it takes a little extra effort to properly scan whatever I’m buying. I used to apologize for this, but now I just don’t care. In my opinion, a single use produce bag is as wasteful as it gets and I refuse to use them.

In the moment it’s not always easy to put that lovely sweater that just caught my eye back on the rack. However, when I ask myself “do I really need this?” and the honest answer is “no”, I simply walk away. I’m not sure what impact my practices will have, but even if they inspire just one person to think about reducing their waste, then that’s a start. I look forward to the day when reusable produce bags don’t cause such a stir…for the sake of our planet, I hope that day is sooner, rather than later.

A few good reads to get you thinking:

Garbology, by Edward Humes

Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth L. Cline

Straphanger, by Taras Grescoe

A Short History of Progress, Ronald Wright

 

About the Author:

Daniela is a secondary school English teacher with many interests. From knitting to sewing to canning to cooking and, of course, snuggling up with a hot tea and her latest book, she finds joy in her passions. True to her Italian roots, Daniela’s culinary talent draws on the simplicity and abundance of life in rural Italy, a place she visits annually to connect with family. Her wholesome approach extends beyond the walls of her home into her everyday life as she continues to live in an environmentally responsible way.

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