Brittany Campbell

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Sustainably Convenient

It's no secret to those who know me that I want to live in Europe. I've been trying to find ways to move there. I've been feeling frustrated with the amount of laws, taxes, and other rules that make moving there really hard. It's still one of my goals but I've decided to be a bit more patient and wait until I get a few years working in the industry.

In the mean time I have been thinking about why I want to move their so bad and not just stay in the states. I made a mental list of all the things Europe is better at than the US.

  • Tougher rules on chemicals in food
  • People rely more on bikes, public transit, and walking instead of cars
  • There is a greater appreciation for history, architecture, and art
  • Smaller living spaces = fewer material possessions
  • Easy access to travel
  • Exposure to so many different languages and cultures
After a little bit of self reflection, I realized that all of these things can happen in the United States. It's still a little frustrating because these things aren't recognized as the norm. Our country doesn't have a wide population living this way because we have established habits that are convenient. We all acknowledge that driving is bad for our environment. We all know that our foods have incredibly high amounts of hormones. But this is the way we've been living for so long.

Right after World War II, Americans started getting accustom to this easy, care free life style. For the first time families had washing machines, dryers, dish washers, cars and televisions. Drive-Ins started the fast food craze that lead to quick meals, disposable food containers, and less than nutritious food options.

When our country started recognizing problems like obesity, ocean garbage patches and global warming, experts came out and told us that we needed to exercise, recycle and stop driving our cars. Instead of stopping our bad habits, we just pat each other on the back when we do something good. There have been talks of punishing people for driving, smoking, not recycling. This is called the annoyance tax. I think this is a phenomenal idea. If you do something that is bothersome and has a negative effect on those around you, you should have to pay for it.

But I think the reason people aren't changing their habits is because this country has made it very easy to make up excuses. Let's reference my list of why I love Europe and how Americans are making up excuses as to why we can't do these things.

  • Tougher rules on chemicals in food
    • Chemicals make foods cheaper to produce therefore more affordable
  • People rely more on bikes, public transit, and walking instead of cars
    • Unless you live in a metro city, there is very little public transit. Many small American cities are so spread out that it would take an unbarable amount of time to trek on foot or bike. Cars are also good for groceries, chauffering kids, etc.
  • There is a greater appreciation for history, architecture, and art
    • America is very young. A majority of buildings in Europe are older than our country. However, Americans are very proud about their film and music industry. Our history is so short compared to other histories of the world.
  • Smaller living spaces = fewer material possessions
    • But we have all this space! We also live in a culture that always wants more.
  • Easy access to travel
    • America is huge. A majority of our states are larger than most countries in Europe. Airfare is extremely expensive compared to Europe. I bought a one-way flight from Berlin to Paris for $40. From Chicago to NYC it would be about $100. And they are about the same distance. Our national train system is inefficient and more expensive than flying.
  • Exposure to so many different languages and cultures
    • While we may be the melting pot, we shun those who are different. We aren't very accepting of other cultures. People believe that if you come to America you should become American. 

Last year I decided that I don't have to live the habits of everyone else. I can try to live sustainably in Chicago. I've always thought about being more conscious about the way I live but have always used the above excuses. I started changing a few things here and there. At first, I thought it would be really hard but I knew that it would eventually become a habit. But what I found was that not only did these new ideas become habits, these ideas made it easier to live. Here are a few examples:

Commute by bike
At first I thought the cold/hot weather made my commutes unbearable. I couldn't get groceries on my way home from work. But then I started fixing these problems. I wore more appropriate clothing for the weather. I got a basket on my bike. Then biking became way more convenient than taking the bus. I cut my commute from 30 minutes to 7 minutes!!! I no longer had to wait forever for a crowded bus. I wasn't getting annoyed by the other sardines that had to squish onto the subway. I started loosing weight. I was getting into better shape. I became a part of the bikers club at work and got to make new friends. I zoom past all the traffic during rush hour. I get to be outside riding a bike. It's seriously one of the most therapeutic experiences.

Reusable Grocery Bags
It took me a while to hop onto this trend. It's just so much more convenient to use the plastic bags at the store instead of hauling fabric bags everywhere. But then I started to realized that plastic bags were actually the worst! Remember, I don't have a car. I have to walk or use public transit. So if I bought a few things at the store, I'd have to shove them into as few bags as possible and carry the heavy bags home. The bags tear into your poor fingers or the bags can even rip. Fabric bags don't do any of this. They aren't as rough on the hands and they can even sit on your shoulder. In addition, they can fit twice as much stuff as a plastic bag can.

Eating Local 
I am fortunate enough to live in an amazing city that have so many local restaurants. I use to be that person who would hit up McDonalds or other cheap fast food places. Yes, local restaurants are a bit more expensive but they are so much better for you and the local economy. They bring character to your neighborhood and they are usually ran by a family that relies on that business for income. They typically use better, healthier ingredients than Chili's or TGIF. You also get better customer service because these businesses rely on repeat customers. They are also real people who just want to serve great food to real people.

Less is More
In my last post you can read about the weekend I went crazy and purged my house of everything I don't use anymore. Not only did I get rid of things I don't need but I made a commitment to not buy things I don't need. It's also made me think about the gifts I give to people. Should I really get them that humorous gag gift that costs like $40? Or would it be more beneficial to take my friend out to dinner. It's that time of year again where we start making Christmas wish lists. I was talking with a friend at work and we were discussing how Christmas wish lists are terrible in your twenties. If you want something, you go get it. If it's something you can't afford or don't want to spend that much money on, we don't feel right asking our parents or loved ones for it. So instead every year we get gifts that end up cluttering our house like the newest scent collection from Bath and Body Works, a new tie and cuff links that we will never wear, some gadget that was from the "as seen on TV" aisle.

It's tradition in my house to draw names of family members and get them a gift. Last year, my mom decided that we all had enough presents and that we should just stop this tradition. Instead we put the money into buying presents for a family who needed it. Not only did we make some young kids very happy but we also made ourselves feel the Christmas spirit.

These are just a few examples of how I'm trying to live more sustainably. Living sustainably has always been seen as an inconvenience but I'm learning that changing our habits can not only make life more convenient but it can preserve our world and it's resources.















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