The Sunglasses Dilemma

I am constantly amazed and at times overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information needed to be absorbed in order to live a more ethical lifestyle.  All these seemingly small, inconsequential items, things really, that take up space on our planet but often not in our consciousness. Things that we often don’t think twice about using.  But if you reflect it kind of makes you wonder how much of a landfill is filled with plastic straws that really don’t serve a purpose-I mean we can all drink our water from the cup when we go out right? Or sugar packets, little creamers, pens and pencils. Gum. That one gets to me the most. I used to chew a lot of gum and it really makes me ponder, yes really sit and ponder, the amount I consumed and how much gum waste I contribute to landfills annually. Not only from the packaging and the gum itself, but the energy used to produce the gum and to transport it to where it will inevitably be purchased. From the beginning of our life, how many pens and pencils have we used, and where have they gone? The list goes on and on and on. It is enough to make one go crazy. Ignorance is bliss perhaps? At times it seems so….

Trying to think about it all consciously without becoming over zealous, and unbearable to be around can be a slight struggle, just ask my Dad:) But like Ezra Braves said in our recent interview with him, it is important to balance life with the practical. Take note of what we can change in our lifestyle patterns, while recognizing what will take more time to generate change.

It’s easy to overlook the simple things in life, like the pair of sunglasses purchased in Kensington for $5.oo. Yes they are cute, and cheap and bought from a local shop in Toronto but where were they made and under what conditions? To be conscious of this is great, but how do we make the first steps to correcting our purchasing habits and how we interact with our surroundings? What if all you can afford is a cheap pair of sunglasses? Do you sacrifice the production method to protect your eyes, or sacrifice your retinas until you can save enough to buy an ethically sound pair. Luckily enough cheaper versions of eco-friendly sunglasses are being made.

You can purchase a pair from Blue Planet Eyewear at Modrobes on Queen West. They range around $20 and Blue Planet offers 100 per cent post-industrial recycled or reclaimed frames with nickel-free metals and lead-free dyes and paints.  A cheap way to feel like you’re saving the planet:)

Last week NOW magazine published an article suggesting where ‘ethical/sustainable’ sunglasses can be purchased. Logically I realize it should have been obvious that my sunglass purchases  over the years have not been ethical yet it somehow slipped my mind, or rather did not enter my conscious thoughts.  It’s easy to see now that billions of sunglasses are produced each year, and most are lost only to end up in dump yards. Above and beyond that most sunglasses are made from virgin petroleum nylon, acrylic and polycarbonate, ie not so environmentally ethical.

Recently, a friend of mine informed me of how inefficient our energy consumption really is and suggested I read an article titled ‘Asymmetry Principle: Shifting Focus From Energy Supply to End Uses Consumption’ by Peter Tertzakian: ARC Financial Corp. It is a short paper and quite interesting, I highly suggest it. Tertzakian informs on how to lower energy consumption and production without lowering GDP-finally something even economists cannot argue with now!

In the article he states that commercially, many more times the actual amount of energy used is needed to produce the energy itself. For example the amount of energy saved by not using your car essentially translates into a savings of 6 times the amount of energy needed to get the oil to the well head. So in essence, in order to create on barrel of oil, approximately 6 or 7 barrels of oil are needed from production to transportation before that barrel is finally sold and consumed to be used in a car.

When it’s put in such simple terms it seems obvious that we should reduce our consumption. I mean if turning off all the lights in your house or building when not using them can be thought of reducing your energy consumption by exponential amounts (it’s a 50 to 1 ratio-energy needed compared to energy produced by lightbulbs) how can you not want to turn off the light?

Taking it back to sunglasses, maybe it can be thought of like this: by not purchasing that pair of cheap sunglasses that will inevitably be lost or broken, and instead purchasing a pair of eco-friendly shades, it’s like you are NOT buying six pairs of not so ethical glasses…

It’s almost like feeling like a planet superhero. Captain Planet would be so proud! The Power is Yours as he would say.

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