“Green” Living: YouCan’t Always Buy Your Way In

Environmental justice is the movement to ensure that no community suffers disproportionate environmental burdens or goes without enjoying fair environmental benefits – Van Jones

What does it mean to live a “green” lifestyle in California?

CalRecycle promotes a California society that wastes less, recycles more, and emphasizes responsible and sustainable resource management. This ambitious objective aims to protect California’s environment and strengthen its economy by turning the waste stream into a supply stream.

This vision can be in direct competition with mainstream “environmentally friendly” or “green” lifestyles that emphasize consumerist solutions to environmental problems. Buy a luxury electric vehicle, shop at expensive organic grocery stores, buy solar panels for your home, buy, buy, buy.  But we also can’t ignore the fact that sometimes the “green option” is the pricier option.

While these purchasing choices benefit the environment and can contribute to a sustainable lifestyle,  defining a green lifestyle exclusively as engaging in these behaviors can marginalize low-income Californians and millennials. These populations are financially excluded from these options because of their lack of purchasing power and tendency to rent rather than own their housing.

The solution to the waste disposal problem is not about buying more products, or buying more expensive products. The solution is buying smarter, more efficient products and diversifying the image of the green movement to include sustainable behaviors that are accessible and meaningful to all Californians regardless of socioeconomic status, age, or geographic location.

For Californians who don’t have financial access to many retail establishments, green consumption is about how you shop rather than where you shop. For smart and sustainable consumption regardless of the price tag, ask yourself these questions before purchasing:

  • Is this product made from recycled materials?
  • Do I know how to recycle or safely dispose of this product when I’m done with it?
  • Does buying this product create less waste than if I had bought a different product?
  • Does this product use less energy than other products?
  • Is this product packaged sustainably?

CalRecycle acknowledges the variety in which Californians live green lifestyles and contribute to the green movement and recognizes the state’s diversity of cultures, incomes, and ages. CalRecycle’s recycling programs are equally accessible to all Californians because everyone (although in varying degrees) generates discards and needs to put them in their proper place.

By embracing an inclusive, varied, and far-reaching green movement, California can build a sustainable future that isn’t dependent on landfills to manage the waste stream. 

Everybody deserves beauty as well as bread, places to play in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul – John Muir

–Jessica Sankus is an alumna of Mills College and an Executive Fellow at CalRecycle, class of 2015-2016.

Interested in learning more about the Executive Fellowship Program? Contact Brian Aguilar, Director of the Executive Fellowship program, at brian.aguilar@csus.edu

— CalRecycle Staff
Posted on Aug 25, 2016

Summary: Environmental justice is the movement to ensure that no community suffers disproportionate environmental burdens or goes without enjoying fair environmental benefits – Van Jones What does it mean to live a “green” lifestyle in California?