I went shopping the other day and forgot my cloth bag, because there hasn’t been a need to remember it for years.
Then I get to the counter and the new thicker plastic bags (very reusable) cost me more than the usual branded ones and I remembered: Tanzania is finally enforcing a law/regulation/whatever that we had discussed over a decade ago.
No more thin plastic bags! I took my hit to the wallet with glee and a note to remember to bring my bags and baskets next time.
As much as I talk about environmentalism and try to come across as homemade as granola, the recent truth is that I am a terrible consumer and probably one of the worst offenders in our household.
Totally awesome at water conservation, very bad at everything else. And I grew up in the era of Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.
Consumerism is a very insidious thing, it can make you a victim of convenience and thus a culprit of many, many crimes against Mother Earth.
Growing up in poor African states is a wonderful way to grow up green, and that was the 1980s and ‘90s for the record.
You will conserve water if you have to depend on a rain retaining dam for your needs. You will eat everything on your plate or face consequences.
You will be grateful for everything you have and also know perfectly well that beyond the basics, money is a bit of a distraction really. It can mess you up if you are not careful; it will not buy you love or immortality, it will not fill that void in your heart.
For the majority of my life this has translated into a disinterest in popular fashion and an appreciation for secondhand clothing, a tendency towards frugality except when it comes to electronics and chocolate, and a general chill attitude towards material goods.
But something happened; societal expectations, laziness, three introduction to economics classes that I barely passed. I shifted a little, became a “consumer.”
Now shifting back has become a mission. Every choice matters. On my deathbed, I hope to close my eyes and “beam up” to a Star Trek Union Starship as a xenoanthropologist and enjoy the afterlife in a non-monetary, diverse and pacific utopia.
But if I hope for an Eyakuze living 100 years from now to become a Captain of a Starship of said dream, I have to play my part. And my part is solidly here, on Earth, doing better.
It isn’t all that hard actually to reduce, reuse and recycle. We all just need a bit of tutoring and refreshment classes from time to time.
Since Tanzania has banned plastic bags, I would like to humbly request my government to address the other major culprit: Plastic bottles for soft drinks and water. We don’t need as much bottled water or soda as we get sold, especially soda.
And since we are at this junction, I have a public query: What do we do to dispose of the plastics that we already have? A recycling centre or a few thousand might be good. But, in the meantime, what do we do?
Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report. E-mail: [email protected]