By Anna Tingley
Every morning, only moments after awakening from a deep sleep, the first thing I do is pop a pod in my Keurig machine, a Starbucks Hazelnut Blend pod to be exact.
No matter the day, it isn’t rare for me to consistently snooze my alarm, successfully leaving myself exactly fifteen minutes to get myself out of the house for whatever the day has in store for me, which means that all the pre-reqs for leaving the house (i.e: washing my face, brushing my teeth, making myself look presentable, getting myself caffeinated) have to all be done with extreme efficiency.
Brushing my hair and teeth can be done simultaneously if done correctly, makeup can always be finished in the car, but coffee? No matter what, coffee needs to be freshly brewed in the morning to be consumed while steam is still swirling around the rim of the cup. And no matter what, popping a plastic pod of prepared grounds in an expensive but reliable Keurig machine is the fastest way to make that happen. But “K-cups” which fuel the day for up to 20 million households in the U.S, are neither biodegradable nor recyclable, posing significant environmental threats that should be taken just as seriously as the danger of plastic bags and straws.
In a woke revamp of Carrie Bradshaw’s rhetorical trademark: I can’t help but wonder … is convenience the enemy of environmentalism?
I think an obvious answer to that question is a resounding yes. Technology progresses to make our modern lives more efficient and convenient, even if only a few seconds is spared. Venmo takes the hassle away from tediously counting change; Postmates allows us to wait for our food in the comfort of our bed; ApplePay makes it so we can conduct transactions with a device we already have in our hand; Uber is successful because it rarely takes more than ten minutes for a driver to arrive at our door. The list goes on. In fact, in an old New Yorker essay, the economist John Maynard Keynes, predicted that by the mid-21st century, citizens of advanced economies would scarcely have to work, thanks to technological advancements.
These genius apps feed the exact thing modern Americans seem to value more than almost anything else: time. Pragmatically, anything that saves us time is embraced, while anything that does the opposite is immediately heralded an inconvenience.
With that in mind, it makes sense that even for those who claim to care about the environment, taking the careful consideration and time that goes into making pro-environmental choices seems too overbearing a task. Recycling has been universally adopted (for the most part) because the bin is usually just a few inches away from the regular trash, and littering is finally considered taboo because at that point, you’re not just being complacent in the slow destruction of our Earth, you’re being! an! asshole! And you were probably raised by wolves if you’re the type of the person who’s ever thrown a disposable cup out of a car window.
My point being, environmentally-friendly behavior, the kind that goes further than simply having a compost in your kitchen, does take time. It takes time, after having already started the ignition of your car, to walk back up to the house because you’ve forgotten your reusable bags for grocery shopping. It takes time to walk to class when you have to juggle a filled-up beverage in your hand with no straw. It takes time to brew coffee when it’s not as simple as popping a pod in a Keurig machine.
But as we continue to blame a lack of time in making sustainable choices, many of us do have a lot more time than we claim. As Derek Thompson writes in an Atlantic article titled “The Myth That Americans Are Busier Than Ever,” Americans feel like they’re working more than ever when in fact, we’re working less than we did in the 1960s and 80s, and considerably less than the agrarian culture that came decades before.
While the bigger picture of Thompson’s article points to what he coins the “leisure-gap” (the idea that the least educated have the most time), what I take away is that with modernity has come the pressure to make the most of the time we do have, which for most people means being productive (think advancing one’s career, studying, going to the gym, even watching that one book or T.V show that’s been on your list forever).
The mantra that one simply has to re-prioritize their responsibilities in order to make time for the things they really don’t want to do is noval piece of verbal motivation, but is exactly the set of advice we need to swallow to live a more sustainable life.
Schedule sustainability into your calendar, and maybe you’ll see that living a pro-environmental lifestyle doesn’t have to eat up your time -- and that, in fact, you really have more than you think. Maybe trekking back up to your apartment to get your reusable bag before grocery shopping is worth the added time. Maybe you’ll get into a habit of asking the waiter to not bring a straw with your drink.
Maybe it will be hard to make my morning wake-up call fifteen minutes earlier than what I’m used to in order to brew my coffee, and I definitely will miss the ease of popping a Starbucks Hazelnut blend pod into my Keurig. But maybe if I value time so much, I should use what I have of it to preserve the Earth I value just as much.
Anna Tingley is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tough to Tame, and an advocate for all things feminist, politics, or ramen-related. Her writing can be found at Billboard Magazine, Her Agenda, The Daily Bruin, and The Richmond Pulse. But for all the dirt, check her out on Instagram @annatationz and Twitter @annatingley.