Earth Day, Every Day

A Helpful Guide to keeping the momentum up one week after Earth Day

Earth Day began in 1970 and celebrated its 50th anniversary last Wednesday. You probably took part, at least in some small way. Maybe Instagrammed a lovely nature photo and professed your love for Mother Gaia? We were all probably a little more aware of recycling, turning lights off, and maybe not eating commercial meat. That’s what Earth Day is for; to remind us of what’s at stake and help change our habits for the better. But how long does this altruism for the environment last? Not long.

Let’s be honest. The constant vigilance in being earthy is hard, damnit, and it often feels like our day to day doesn’t do much. Plus, add in the barrage of disinformation out there regarding a sustainable lifestyle (from both sides of the political divide) and we are often left confused about how to make an impact when it comes to keeping this big blue marble cool and clean.

So, with great humility and hearty acknowledgment that I do not have the answers to all—or even most of—the questions, I want to offer a few pieces of advice on how to be a better citizen of the globe when the afterglow of Earth Day has faded. Know this: it’s not sexy advice. It’s difficult, and takes work, and diligence. Solving problems is not meant to be fun; it’s meant to create real lasting change. That is the goal. No quick fixes. No easy answers. With that (super un-fun, boring) caveat, here are a few profanity-strewn thoughts on how you can keep the Earth Day momentum moving forward.

Vote the Assholes Out. I can’t take credit for these words. They belong to the richest environmentalist curmudgeon to ever walk the earth: billionaire Yvon “Get off my damn lawn” Chouinard. I proudly worked for Patagonia in California and, while the company—against the advice of its founder—pushes its mid-layers in 300 colour skews, YC and Pata are the de facto environmental leaders in the apparel business, and they do a great job. Check out this fantastic guide to staying activist during COVID times, by Patagonia editor Mădălina Preda. It’s mostly U.S. focused but still helpful.

So, when Chouinard says vote the assholes out, he means policy change is the number one thing you can do to enact environmental change. Marching against corruption doesn’t mean shit when the corrupt are still in charge. Oh, and YC wears old shirts and dirty flip flops to work every day he works, which leads me to the next point…

Stop Buying Shit. Another paraphrased Patagonia staple message that has been a bit left in the dust by the company, but it stands the test of time. In this case, we are using a double entendre. The first is to say don’t buy terrible quality gear. Do your research to find products meant to last a lifetime. With proper care and regular maintenance, good gear, furniture, or vehicles can last a long, long time. And during that product’s lifespan, multitudes of other similar items don’t get bought. Simply put, buy better to last longer. Don’t feed the landfill. If you’re gonna buy a fancy waterproof jacket, make sure it’s recycled GORE TEX, and make sure you get it in a colour that will look cool ten years from now. Solid black works well. No trendy patterns. Less is more. Anian is a good local(ish) manufacturer of natural fibre, sustainably-focused clothing. So is ecologyst.

Stop Buying Shit Part II. This follow up is even easier. What’s better than recycling? Answer: Not buying anything at all. Unless you eat it or need it, don’t buy it. Or buy it secondhand. Get one pair of quality boots and a pair of top-shelf flip flops. Dress like the legendary Ralph Tieleman of Long Beach Surf Shop: simple tee, simple jeans, and the same damn shoes or boots every day. Save money and take all the power out of fast fashion bullshit. Because following trends is for sheep. Want a cool design on that logo-less shirt? Ask a talented friend to create it. Draw it on yourself. Resist becoming a billboard.

Ride Bikes. That’s it. Just ride bikes. All the time. They’re so fun.

Volunteer Time Before Money…sometimes. When it comes to supporting the do-gooders out there, I am 100% behind it. There are so many great organizations that need our help in safeguarding the environment and wildlife. But don’t just throw money at a big sexy organization halfway around the world making wild promises. Make sure the money is getting spent well. Even better, find out what’s wrong in your own backyard, seek out the people who are doing something about it, and buy them the exact tools, fuel or services they require. Even better, volunteer your time. Can’t find any worthy organizations? Start one. Here are a few we love in Tofino:

Toilets. While we are it, let’s talk about the ridiculousness of toilets. Peeing and pooping straight into fresh drinking water 6-10 times a day is purely idiotic. One day our children will laugh at us for the insanity of the modern toilet. No advice here…just flabbergasted that we literally piss all over fresh drinking water. Sigh. Please bring this point up in your next social post or at the next post-COVID dinner party. Freshwater toilets need to become the next plastic bottle or drinking straw movement. Surely, we can invent something better…we shot a stupid Tesla into space.

Stay Positive. Yes, recycling isn’t perfect. And isn’t buying a new electric car made of extruded aluminum and steel and silica and rubber still worse than fixing up an old one? We can debate all day about the “right” way to help, but as the ol’ saying goes, “perfect is the enemy of good.” Don’t find the faults in the way forward. Find the opportunities to be better. The most important thing we can do is change policies, habits and messaging, in that order.

Earth day, every day. Believe it.  – Mike Berard

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