How my passion for science lead to ethical consumerism


Inspiration can be found anywhere, but nowadays there’s a high chance it’ll be found in the vast world called the internet. When I started seeing a seemingly large movement of misinformed anti-vaccinators, climate change deniers, and flat earthers, it brought out immense frustration as a scientist. The way certain populations nit-pick which part of science they will accept because it benefits them is the exact opposite of how a scientist thinks. I found this especially true in the realm of climate change. Witnessing the destruction of resources is heartbreaking. As I learned more, I started to see the impact I have. This past year I found myself deciding to become an ethical consumer. I began to do more in my daily life to ease my conscience and frustration.

I started by looking at my habits that may unknowingly be helping or harming the environment. I found that I already had some good ecological habits. Since middle school, I had a strict habit of filtering my paper waste. I do more than simply toss paper into the recycling bin. I sift through all my used paper from the school year or whatever I have at the time, before tossing them into the recycling bin. If there’s a blank side, I save it to use for my personal notes and papers. If there’s any white spot, I either fold it or cut that part out, to use as scratch paper at my desk. Once every part is used up, then I toss my paper into the recycling bin.

I realized this habit of mine not only saves trees, but is also cost effective. It saves the need to buy scratch paper, lessens the amount of clean paper needed, and delays the time when I’ll need to buy clean paper. When I do need to buy new paper, I buy recycled paper. I do not use virgin (newly made paper from trees) paper because the process of making paper involves chemicals and petroleum that is harmful to the environment. Because of this, I only use virgin paper when I have no access to recycled paper and I am forced to use virgin paper.

In addition to my home paper system, I found other eco-conscious habits, such as not using straws and donating clothes. This was a good start, but I looked for where I could improve to be a more ethical consumer. I started questioning all my purchases; ‘Is this available in a sustainable manner?’ and the age old ‘Do I need this?’. Answering these questions helped me learn many new facts and find new products. I found that instead of using disposable cotton rounds, or biodegradable cotton rounds, there are reusable cotton/hemp rounds that can be washed along with clothes. There’s also reusable plastic food wraps as an alternative to plastic saran wrap. Both these products are reusable, washable, and compostable.

Although I found many new options to live more eco-friendly, I have come across gray areas. As a cat owner, I wondered if there was an alternative to common cat litter, because many are hazardous to our health and the environment. The usual practice of disposing cat litter involves placing the litter in a plastic bag. Some municipal districts even require it to be double bagged, and this takes years to decompose. I thought that there must be a biodegradable alternative. The good news is that biodegradable cat litter does exist. However, there is legally no such thing as biodegradable poop bags. I stumbled upon the brand Earth Rated. Their website disclosed that biodegradable poop bags don’t guarantee that the litter will go to the right type of landfill. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the litter will decompose. On top of that, animal waste contains bacteria that is a health risk to humans so it is illegal to place them in the compost bin.

The litter situation was a downer; as I’d hoped it would be compostable. But I found that sometimes the best you can do is keep an eye out. So, I will continue searching for an ecological way of getting rid of cat waste. On the other hand, I have already found many ways to be more eco-friendly. I’ve phased out my old skincare to eco-friendly brands. I use refillable eco-friendly hygiene products. Although I personally don’t use straws, I have metal straws on hand for my guests. These are much better for the environment as they are reusable and not made from petroleum. I was pleased to find it so easy to phase into a sustainable lifestyle. The core of it is to simply be thoughtful when making purchases. As well as to really think about the everyday items you use and the impact they may have on the environment. If I was unsure or found that an item was harmful, a simple search on the internet usually gave me an ecological alternative. With everything I’ve learned this past year, I have found being an ethical consumer extremely satisfying. My advice to those who would like to try being a more ethical consumer, is to start somewhere small. Such as, donating clothes you don’t need instead of throwing them in the waste bin; where it’ll take years to decompose. Switch to using items that are reusable, this simple act will also save you money. Those stubborn ads about not using or banning plastic straws may be annoying but it’s a real easy first step to decrease your ecological footprint. The key is to not feel make yourself feel overwhelmed by the need to switch every aspect of your life immediately and to just start with baby steps. These baby steps of mine helped me transform my anger and frustration into something positive that really doesn’t just benefit me, but the place everyone calls home.